Jessie Hohmann, THE RIGHT TO HOUSING: LAW, CONCEPTS, POSSIBILITIES. Oxford: Hart Publishing (, 2013. x + 276 pp. ISBN 9781849461535. £50.

AuthorAdrian Stalker
Date01 January 2015
Published date01 January 2015

Ours is a world in which events such as war, natural disaster, city regeneration, repossession, and international sport and rural development schemes render millions homeless every year, in which even the most prosperous states have homeless populations in the hundreds of thousands and where more than one billion people are crowded into informal settlements on the margins of economic and political life. However, the meaning, content, scope and even existence of a right to housing raise vexed questions. On the one hand, the right appears in major international and regional human rights covenants, yet its status as a human right is often treated with skepticism. The right to housing remains marginal or underdeveloped in our study of human rights. In such a harsh world, what role can a human right as nebulous and contested as the right to housing play? Thus the author frames the question that motivates this work. As the title suggests, her answer is given in three parts.

Part I (“Law”) offers an analysis of the right to housing (“the right”) as found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 25(1)), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 11(1)); consideration of the role of the right in certain subject specific international conventions (e.g. the Convention on the Rights of the Child); the right in Regional Covenants, such the Revised European Social Charter; and finally the right's recognition as a constitutional right (explicitly or by implication) in South Africa and India. In this part the author draws out the various reasons why the status of the right is in doubt. For example, as with other rights under the ICESCR, the right to housing is subject to the limitations imposed by article 2 of that Covenant, which obliges states “to take steps…to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realisation of the rights…by all appropriate means…” Naturally, this formulation has led to the economic aspect of the right being at the forefront of discussions, with the social and cultural aspects being somewhat neglected. Whilst perhaps inevitable, this is also unfortunate, for as the author argues, it is only with the social and cultural norms of the right to housing sufficiently defined that we can properly assess the economic implications.

Another significant problem is enforcement. Until recently, the function of the UN's Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights...

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