More about the Right to Housing

Article 11 of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights
Article 16 of European Social Charter
The Law on Assistance in Handling Housing Matters
The Law on Social Apartments and Social Houses
The Law on Rent of Residential Premises
Section 10, Part Three; Section 66, Part Two, Paragraph 1 et seq. of the Law on Protection of the Rights of the Child

The right to housing means the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity. International documents on human rights prescribe the minimum standard of such right that has to be provided by the State to the extent of resources available to it.

The right to housing may not be narrowly interpreted as merely the right to “dwelling”. It includes a number of aspects to be taken into account by the State. According to General Comments No 4 on the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights, the minimum standard of the right to housing comprises the following:

  • legal security of tenure: secured enjoyment of tenure, legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats;
  • Availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure: sustainable access to natural and common resources, safe drinking water, energy for cooking, heating and lighting, sanitation and washing facilities, means of food storage, and refuse disposal;
  • Affordability from the view of financial costs – commensurability of housing costs and the level of income; the State has the duty to provide support for those unable to obtain affordable housing (provide residential premises for use, establish benefits for rent and utility payments related to the use of residential premises, and other forms of assistance;
  • Habitability – adequate housing must protect the inhabitants from cold, damp, heat, rain, wind or other threats to health, structural hazards, and disease vectors. The physical safety of occupants must be guaranteed;
  • Accessibility – adequate housing must be accessible to those entitled to it. Disadvantaged groups (physically disabled, the terminally ill, HIV-positive individuals, victims of natural disasters) must be accorded full and sustainable access to adequate housing resources on priority basis;
  • Location – housing must be in a location which allows access to employment options, health-care services, schools, child-care centers, etc.;
  • Cultural adequacy – the way housing is constructed, the building materials used and the policies supporting these must appropriately enable the expression of cultural identity and diversity of housing.

The right to housing stipulated in the international human right documents and the regulatory acts applicable in the Republic of Latvia should not be understood as the duty of the State to provide housing to each individual according to their demands and wishes; it means instead that the State has the duty to ensure compliance with the minimum standards of this right.