Remarks by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito AUZA
Head of the Delegation of the Holy See
United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III)
High Level Roundtable Session on “Adequate and Affordable Housing”
Quito, 18 October 2016
International human rights law recognizes everyone’s right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate housing. The right to housing is not only part of the right to an adequate standard of living, as mentioned in article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but, more generally, it is part of the right to life and, more specifically, the right to live with dignity.
Despite of the central place of this right in the global legal system, too many people are still not adequately housed, living in unsanitary slums or in dangerous tenements: today there are so many homeless families, either because they have never had a home or because, for different reasons, they have lost it. Indeed, family and housing go hand in hand.
All efforts have to be done by governments together with the intermediate bodies - in respect of the principle of subsidiarity - to foster the fulfillment of the fundamental right to housing. Often state budgets cover only a small portion of the demand for housing. Thus public and private sectors, state and social organizations must join their efforts to ensure the realization of the three pillars of integral human development that Pope Francis often speaks of: namely, the three “Ls” in English - land, lodging and labor – or the three “Ts” in Spanish – tierra, techo y trabajo. The principles of subsidiarity and solidarity must come into play to allow the common good to be achieved in a full and participatory democracy.
The full and progressive realization of the right to adequate and affordable housing has much to do with the respect for the intrinsic and inviolable dignity of the human person. Indeed, having a home is much more than having a roof over one´s head; it has much to do with a sense of personal dignity and the growth of families.
Moreover, in facing the housing problem at the international, national and local level, preference must be given to the more vulnerable categories of society in compliance with the preferential option for the poor. Housing is not accessible to so many people, including the disabled, the elderly, the refugees, the migrants and, very often, children. The Holy See hopes strongly that this gathering in Quito will respond to the very concrete desire of any father and of any mother who wants a house, or better, a home, for their children!
Pope Francis urges us all to keep people first in all housing projects and project implementation, so that all families have a place to call home and neighborhoods have adequate infrastructure and basic services, enabling them to live with dignity.