Australia Human Right to Housing: A Practical Step Forward? Or Lipstick On A Pig?

Canadian Museum for Human Rights photo by Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Canada has a human rights museum in Winnipeg, Manitoba celebrating rights that haven't really been exercised yet. Australia ponders whether they're worth exercising at all.

If to no one else in the world, Australia’s struggle with the notion of a Human Right To Housing should be of interest to Americans. Alas, the well-housed authors of the U.S. Constitution didn’t capture this right to housing in their famous document (unlike truly vital ones, like the right to bear arms). So Americans may be debating the benefits of such a right nigh on forever, given the difficulties in amending that august document to include it.

Australia is a johnny-come-lately to this debate, but with a political system more suited than some to adjusting citizen rights. The country is mulling over a recent report claiming that there are practical, not just symbolic, reasons for joining the crowd of countries that have signed on to a United Nations sponsored initiative.

Are there?

Practical reasons for enshrining a human right within a constitutional framework?

Consider Canadian progress in this human rights arena. After years of prodding, it finally agreed to the idea of a Human Right To Adequate Housing in 2019. Canada is another bastion of free-market thought that, from a business perspective, might well have preferred to proceed under the assumption that the only people worthy of housing rights are “corporation-people.”

Nevertheless, Canada has jumped in at the deep end, five years after opening its shiny new and appropriately towering Museum of Human Rights.

As to practical results: are Canadians now witnessing the dream of ending homelessness and affordable-housing-for-all lifting majestically above a distant horizon?

Not so much as you’d notice.

Are citizens free of life-threatening fear as their pandemic-triggered rent tragedies push them closer day by day towards what was once but no longer an inevitable eviction or mortgage foreclosure?

No, although it’s not for lack of trying. An optimist might chime in, “not yet.”

It is possible to go on for some time in this question-and-answer vein with similar conclusions.

There would seem indeed to be reasonable grounds to wonder whether a declaration of human right to adequate housing is largely an empty vessel. Or, if you like, lipstick on a pig.

Please let us know how the debate works out for you, Australia. For word on how it’s going so far, read more at THE NEW DAILY:  Calls for legislated human right to housing as rental market fails low-income Australians

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