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Housing Rights on the World Stage: United Nations Review Tomorrow!

Tomorrow, Friday, November 5, the United States will undergo its first-ever Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the UN Human Rights Council. The U.S. will answer direct questions from the Council and other UN member nations about its human rights policy.

One of the most glaring issues identified by the Human Rights Council was the failure of the U.S. to ensure the human right to housing. This comes as no surprise. Last spring, in preparation for the UPR, the U.S. State Department held consultations with advocates and experts across the country. At a May training on the UPR process in DC, David Sullivan, Attorney-Adviser at the U.S. State Department, was asked what human rights issue he thought was most urgent based on the consultations. He said, “We have heard more about housing than you would believe in these sessions. If I had to pick the number one issue brought to the U.S. it would be housing.” As millions of Americans are sliding into poverty and homelessness, advocates continue to assert that federal intervention is necessary to ensure housing rights.

Housing rights violations at both the local and national level have already brought international scrutiny. In her March report to the Human Rights Council, the UN’s top expert on housing rights, Raquel Rolnik, observed that the U.S. has been cutting public housing funding for years. Still, the report issued for the UPR by the U.S. State Department fails to acknowledge the severity of this problem or the voices of those affected by it.

In response, a coalition of national and local housing organizations, coordinated by NLCHP, delivered concrete recommendations for ensuring Americans’ housing rights, including: 1) expanding federal programs making vacant properties available for use as housing; 2) placing a moratorium on demolitions of public housing; and 3) ending policies, such as lifetime bans for minor arrests, that prevent people from accessing public housing.

The Universal Periodic Review process holds all UN member nations accountable to international human rights standards. Each country is reviewed every four years. This morning, representatives from the U.S. expounded on its report and answered direct questions from the Human Rights Council and other UN member nations. Based on this testimony, the Council will prepare an outcomes report identifying areas of concern in U.S. human rights policy and recommendations for how it can better comply with international standards.

“There’s clearly a long way to go before Americans’ housing rights are ensured,” said Maria Foscarinis, the National Law Center's executive director. “We and our partners are committed to holding the federal government accountable to the Human Rights Council’s recommendations.”

Want to learn more? Check out to see daily video updates from Geneva.

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