AI tells govt to ensure safe housing for all people

Nearly half the population isliving in substandard homes; 10 pc people are homeless

Kathmandu, June 12

Nepal chapter of Amnesty International has said that Nepal must strengthen its new legislation on the right to housing to prevent homelessness and ensure safe and adequate housing for all.

AI says right to safe housing is a universal human right that everyone is entitled to without discrimination, yet this remains a challenge in Nepal, where 49 per cent of its population lives in substandard houses and only less than 30 per cent of people’s houses are considered structurally safe.

Amnesty International’s briefing, Nepal:Adequate Housing for all: Analysis of the Right to Housing Act 2018,  calls on the Nepal government to bring the right to housing law, in line with the country’s international human rights obligations concerning right to adequate housing. It also urges the government to rectify the present law through amendments.

Four years on, 50 per cent of the 2015 earthquake victims, who were rendered homeless are still waiting for a housing grant from the government to help rebuild their homes.

“With less than a third of all homes structurally unsafe, nearly half the population living in substandard homes, and one in ten people homeless, legal protections are urgently needed to ensure that people live in safe, humane and durable conditions,”said Raju Chapagai a researcher at Amnesty International.

He said the government must review the act in consultation with the civil society organisations and the human rights institutions, and address its shortcomings by amending the Right to Housing Act, immediately.

As pointed out by Amnesty International’s briefing, the right to housing law needs to be amended to address the underlying causes of homelessness and to create a conducive environment for all to enjoy the right to housing.

The law should avoid confusion and misinterpretation, which could weaken its effectiveness.

AI reports says, at present the law is ambiguous on fundamental issues like who is deemed as homeless and what constitutes safe and adequate housing. The amendment of the current law is also necessary to ensure safeguards against forced evictions of people from their homes and the land they occupy.

“Right to Housing Act only protected those residing in a house built on ‘the land that they own. This is contrary to international human rights law and standards,”according to Chapagai.

Amnesty International calls for amendments to the right to housing law, to clearly lay down specific duties for each level of governments, requiring authorities to conduct periodic assessments of homelessness in the country, and identification of homeless people. It urges the authorities to put in place an effective mechanism to respond to the situations of an individual, a household or a community level homelessness.

The scope of the legal protection should be extended to non-citizens as per the provisions of international law that Nepal is a party to, he said. Chapagai told THT that both the  constitution and the Right to Housing Act granted protection from  homelessness only to the citizens, which was against the provisions of  international law.

AI said the government must ensure that the law supports marginalised communities, such as people living in poverty, those living in informal settlements, Dalits and indigenous people, including Tharu.

“Growing number of people living in deplorable conditions including slums, highlights the government’s failure to uphold its human rights obligations to ensure adequate housing to people. If the government is serious about fixing the country’s housing and homelessness crisis, it must anchor its housing strategies on principles of human rights. It should also reach out to marginalised communities,” said  Chapagai.

He also said that the new act failed to stipulate which level of government had what kind of responsibility in terms of ensuring people’s right to housing.

“Housing rights should not be confined to people’s own land but also in rental places as well,” Chapagai said. As per international law, everybody should be protected from forced eviction, whether one is living in a house that stands in his/her land or in a house built in someone else’s land, he added.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Urban Development Krishna Prasad Dawadi said his ministry was yet to enact by-laws to implement the Right to Housing Act.

He said that the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation, was yet to identify poor people.