UN Special Rapporteur on Housing

This week, Gender Minorities Aotearoa met with the UN Spacial Rapporteur who is currently conducting an independent report on Housing in New Zealand.

Our key points included that one in five trans people experiences homelessness at some point during their lifetime, 19% overall, or 25% of non-European trans people. Of course the rates are higher for Maori trans people, disabled trans people, etc.

Primarily this looks like attempting to rent through private landlords or property managers and being declined (though it is not usually stated that being trans is the reason for this, the statistics speak for themselves).

Part of the issue is that the housing market is unregulated – meaning that property investors can own as many properties as they like and charge as much as they like in rent fees. This creates undue competition for low income housing, as there are very few decent houses which are rented at affordable rates for those with low income.

As trans people experience high rates of discrimination across all areas of life, including education and employment, the median income of trans people is half the median income of the general population., so a lack of low income housing affects trans people disproportionately, even before we factor in housing discrimination toward trans people.

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Trans people simply don’t have a chance.

– Ahi Wi-Hongi, National Coordinator
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The other key issue we raised was that temporary emergency accommodation is severely lacking, and for trans people it is almost non-existent. Most emergency housing services are either for women or for men, and often this means that trans people are either unsafe and uncomfortable, or are simply not allowed.

One of the possible solutions we raised is to ensure that the government legislates a requirement that property investors who own more than a few properties are required to rent the remaining properties out as low income housing. This would still allow home ownership, batches, and a handful of high income rentals, but investors would need to rent out all other properties as affordable housing, thus bringing rents down and ensuring that housing takes a step toward being seen as infrastructure rather than a commercial commodity.

The take home message overall was that it is a Human Right to have decent housing, and that the government needs to take responsibility for ensuring that everyone has a decent home to live in.

Please contact your local MP and tell them what you think and why, write a letter to a newspaper, an article online, and talk with your friends and whanau. Change can only come if we push for it.

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Ms Leilani Farha is the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. She took up her mandate in June 2014. Farha is the Executive Director of the NGO Canada without Poverty, based in Ottawa. A lawyer by training, for the past 20 years Ms. Farha has worked both internationally and domestically on the implementation of the right to adequate housing for the most marginalized groups, and on the situation of people living in poverty. Her most recent report to the Human Rights Council focusses on access to justice for the right to housing.

– New Zealand Human Rights Commission
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Transgender housing data from Counting Ourselves (2019) national transgender health report