Five things to know about the new National Right to Housing Network
Canada’s historic right to housing legislation, which came into effect in June 2019, has the potential to provide meaningful access to justice for the right to housing and create long-term solutions to our homelessness crisis. But as with the drafting of the legislation, its implementation will require a sustained effort from civil society to engage with policymakers.
Launched on February 6, the new National Right to Housing Network has been created for that very purpose — to bring together a network of key leaders, thinkers, subject matter experts and people with lived experience of homelessness and inadequate housing to ensure the successful implementation of the National Housing Strategy Act.
Here are five things you need to know about the new network.
What is the National Right to Housing Network?
The National Right to Housing Network is a group of over 150 civil society actors — including community organizations, policy thinkers, people with lived experience of homelessness and inadequate housing, and human rights experts — dedicated to the meaningful implementation of the right to housing in Canada.
Why does it exist?
After decades of lobbying efforts by housing advocates, people with lived experience of homelessness and inadequate housing, researchers, lawyers, and community organizations, the right to housing was officially recognized in Canadian law in June 2019. Under the National Housing Strategy Act, the Canadian government is committed to progressively realizing the right to housing as it is understood under international human rights law.
But several mechanisms and institutions need to exist and function well for the government to fully realize the right to housing. These include key accountability mechanisms like the office of the Housing Advocate and the National Housing Council, as well as community initiatives that can build a culture of human rights. The National Right to Housing Network will work with the government to ensure that these elements are in place and working as they should be.
What is the network working toward?
There are four elements in particular that are crucial to the implementation of the right to housing and form the focus of the network’s efforts.
- Building the housing rights architecture: The National Housing Council and the office of the Housing Advocate are key mechanisms through which to address systemic rights violations and monitor the government’s progress on its commitment. Without these bodies, Canada’s right to housing legislation lacks the accountability mechanisms that monitor how and if housing need is being addressed. The network will also be conducting research on identifying opportunities for Canada to be in step with international human rights law.
- Engaging the public: Creating broad public support for the right to housing and building a culture of human rights (including human rights education) are crucial to the full realization of the right to housing in Canada. The network will work to support community initiatives that can foster such a culture of human rights.
- Testing the right to housing: A pipeline of cases reflecting systemic rights violations will need to be developed and brought before the Housing Advocate and the National Housing Council in order to test the right to housing and set precedent (through adoption of recommendations by the government). This will also help identify gaps in the National Housing Strategy.
- Expanding the right to housing to other jurisdictions: Successful realization of the right to housing will require effective collaboration between different orders of government. Moreover, under international law, all levels of government have obligations to fulfill the right to housing.
The network will be establishing working groups to form coalition strategies and work plans for each of these areas.
Where can I learn more about the right to housing?
The National Right to Housing Network offers a comprehensive set of FAQs about the right to housing in Canada, as well as a set of resources on implementation. Whether you’re looking for a quick overview, detailed legal commentary, or specific documents from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, the National Right to Housing Network has a range of resources that can answer your questions.
How can I support the network’s efforts?
You can join the network to stay informed and learn about the latest opportunities to become engaged. You can also support the network on Facebook and Twitter, or share its resources through your newsletters and other communications. You can find shareable images on the network’s website.