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D.C. Right to Housing Campaign Background

D.C. Human Rights People's Movement gathering
D.C. Human Rights People's Movement gathering Photo: AFSC

In 1944, Franklin Roosevelt pushed for the adoption of a "second Bill of Rights," for all to be free from fear and free from want. This included the right to a decent home.  In 1948, the United States signed on to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognizes housing as a human right. Article 25 specifies, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”  AFSC is part of the D.C. Right to Housing Campaign. 

The concept of the human right to housing has been further articulated and rarified by more than 150 countries through The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). France, Scotland, South Africa and Ecuador have adopted the right to housing in their constitutions or legislation, leading to improved housing conditions. Recent polling indicates that over 50% of Americans strongly believe that adequate housing is a human right, and 2/3 believe that government programs may need to be expanded to ensure this human right. However, the U.S. has fallen behind the rest of the world in making this human right a reality. Government policies have not traditionally treated housing as a human right, thus, the housing needs of the most vulnerable Americans have gone unfulfilled.

It is time for housing advocates to reframe public debate in the United States, craft and support legislative proposals, supplement legal claims in court, and advocate in international arenas for this essential human right.

Claiming the human right to housing is an integral part of realizing Washington D.C. as a human rights city. The PDHRE-Human Rights City project and the American Friends Service Committee in Washington D.C. are working to help a coalition of 50 organizations frame the issue from a human rights perspective guided by a human rights framework. A campaign for the human right to housing is now underway.