Emergency & transitional housing

Our emergency housing system should uplift the dignity and human rights of the people it seeks to help. In September 2022, the Human Rights Commission invited those living in emergency and transitional accommodation to share their experiences with us to inform our Housing Inquiry. Many people came forward, including residents of such housing and service providers. Their experiences, outlined in a report by the Human Rights Commission, paint a sobering picture of a system that is failing to meet human rights standards, particularly in emergency accommodation.

The report provides, for the first time, an outline of the human rights obligations of government for the emergency housing system, alongside findings and recommendations for change. We are very grateful to everyone who shared their experiences and ideas with us. Alongside the failings, we heard of many innovative and deeply compassionate efforts to lift people out of homelessness. That’s how, in the future, our emergency housing system can and should be defined.

Download the report: Homelessness and human rights: A review of the emergency housing system in Aotearoa New Zealand

Accessible formats of the report’s executive summary will be available in March-April 2023.

Please email [email protected] if you would like to be sent a copy when it is ready.

Press release: Emergency housing system in breach of human rights, but not beyond repair

Accountability & participation in the housing system

Accountability is a crucial feature of good governance, democracy, and human rights. Without accountability, these can easily become window-dressing. Weak accountability undermines housing laws, policies, strategies, plans, and initiatives.

In December 2021, the Human Rights Commission released a report on accountability and public participation in the housing system. Constructive accountability in the housing system should consist of three elements: monitoring, independent review in relation to agreed standards and promises, and remedial action.

The report finds that effective and accessible accountability arrangements in relation to the right to a decent home grounded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi do not yet exist in the kāwanatanga (government) sphere.

The report also focuses on public participation. The right to a decent home, and other human rights, requires as much public participation and democratic engagement as possible. Communities are calling for more public participation and democratic engagement in the housing system. Active, informed, inclusive, and meaningful public participation is not easy. However, strengthening public participation and democratic engagement is a way to enhance social cohesion and inclusion. The report finds that, although community participation and democratic engagement already have a place in the country’s housing system, they need strengthening, and the report explores how this can be achieved in the kāwanatanga space.

This report makes the following key recommendations:

1. An Act of Parliament which sets out key principles and Tiriti obligations to guide all housing initiatives.

2. An independent constructive accountability mechanism for the housing system.

3. An independent advisory and advocacy group grounded in te Tiriti with responsibilities to:

  • a. Advise
  • b. Commission research
  • c. Draft housing charters/codes
  • d. Enable the voices of those with lived experience of the housing system.

The recommendations will reinforce the direction of travel set out by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. Moreover, they are mandated by the right to a decent home grounded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Cultural Adequacy

A decent home meets cultural needs.

Housing has a very important cultural dimension. In Aotearoa New Zealand, which aspires to a dynamic inclusive multiculturalism grounded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, housing and housing policies must guarantee the expression of cultural identity and diversity. For example, Māori, Pacific people and numerous culturally diverse communities, including refugees and migrants, have models of living that include the extended family (whānau or aiga).   
The national housing system is required to reflect our cultural diversity and Te Tiriti o Waitangi foundations: one model does not suit all. Also, regeneration and other development projects must not sacrifice places of special cultural significance.