UN rights expert finds violations of right to housing in France News
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UN rights expert finds violations of right to housing in France

UN Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha on Friday highlighted an extreme lack of adequate housing in France, as detailed in her preliminary findings.

According to international human rights law, adequate housing is defined as sufficient affordable housing. Farha’s report breaks down France’s housing issues, detailing the government’s lack of response to housing needs, the poor conditions of the existing housing supply, and the continued increase in extreme poverty and homelessness. Farha also identified harsh conditions experienced by the refugees sheltered in makeshift camps on its northern coast.

These conditions and developments are contrary to the right to adequate housing that exists in France’s Constitution. In 2007, “France adopted a law aimed at rendering the right to housing enforceable (Droit au Logement Opposable), known as the DALO law.” This law prioritizes vulnerable groups, including people “living in homelessness, under threat of eviction, living in temporary emergency accommodation, in dangerous, uninhabitable, unhealthy, indecent or overcrowded units,” for social housing.

The execution of adequate housing services, though, has been subpar, Farha found. Among the 950,000 applicants for housing in 2008, 270,000 qualified for priority access, and 62,900 of these applicants are still waiting for assistance.

Furthermore, of the private and public housing options available, some 2 million residents are living in conditions that fall below habitability criteria. In one anecdote, Farha described how:

On 5 November, 2018, two buildings collapsed in the Noailles neighbourhood of Marseille killing 8 people and displacing over 100 residents. This incident triggered a wave of emergency evacuations affecting more than 2,400 residents living in over 300 buildings. Five months after the disaster the majority of evacuated households are living in hotel rooms. Of particular note and concern is that local authorities disregarded calls from the residents of Noailles who for many years tried to alert them to the risk of disaster posed by the dilapidated state of their homes.

Furthermore, the issue of homelessness has worsened in recent years. There has been an 8 percent jump in homelessness between 2018 and 2019 and the poverty rate is stagnate at 14 percent. Current methods of addressing this housing crisis are not effective enough and are violating the right to housing.

In a special note, Farha also explained the fallout of the Calais closure that resulted in approximately 600-700 homeless migrants. These refugees have been granted minimal access to emergency shelter in the winter, and they endure forceable and repeated evictions from their temporary structures. These displacements have used methods including tear gas and have also resulted in the confiscation and destruction of personal property, including tents and sleeping bags.

Farha provided various recommendations to France to address the housing crisis. Among these measures is a recommendation to move away from temporary fixes to counter homelessness and to increase its focus on “long term stability and dignity.” The report also recommends a six-month timeline for rehousing services, as well as a moratorium on forced evictions that do not comply with international human rights law.