The IHR Clinic began its International Housing Rights Project in the Fall of 2013, in partnership with Nazdeek—a legal capacity building organization based in New Delhi, India. The project aims to promote the realization of housing rights globally, with a focus on India.
Comparative Research on Housing Rights
During the first stage of the project, in the Fall of 2013, IHR Clinic students condcuted comparative research and drafted memos on housing laws and policy in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil and Chicago. Students interviewed prominent scholars and activists, reviewed legal and socio-economic literature, and conducted caselaw research. The memos identify best practices, relevant housing rights jurisprudence, and common problems and solutions associated with housing and homelessness in each of the jurisdictions.
Housing Law and Policy in New Delhi, India
During the Winter 2014, the team conducted preliminary research on housing policy in New Delhi, India with a view toward identifying and addressing the major problems and challenges faced by slum-dwellers and homeless people in the city. At present, there are 150,000 homeless people in Delhi and, according to the Census from 2011, over 1.8 million people living in slums (however, independent studies typically report much higher numbers, up to 3.6 million).
In March 2014, students traveled to New Delhi to continue their research and conduct a fact-finding trip. During the two weeks spent in the city, the team met with and interviewed government officials, including judges and heads of land-owning agencies, policy researchers, local activists, urban planners, and human rights lawyers. The team also visited several communities of slum-dwellers that are either at risk of eviction, recently re-located by the government, or in temporary housing. The field trip included visits to several night shelters for homeless people and in-depth interviews with local community leaders and stakeholders.
Presentation to the Law Commission of India
While in New Delhi, IHR Clinic students were invited by Justice A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and current Chairman of the Law Commission of India, to present the results of its comparative research on the UK, South Africa, Brazil and Chicago to the Law Commission. At the time, the Law Commission was considering developing a framework for a national housing rights bill for India. The team successfully presented its research and was asked to make a further contribution in the form of a report on housing law and policy in New Delhi, including the findings from the trip and a review of applicable international law. The memo was submitted to Justice Shah and the Law Commission of India in October 2014. The report identified gaps and problems within current housing policy in Delhi and focused on the right to housing under international law and the Constitution of India. The report may also serve as a resource for strategic litigation
Human Rights Obligations of Subnational Governments in the Area of Housing
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha
The IHR Clinic is working with UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Leilani Faraha, to develop a user-friendly version of her recent report on the role of subnational governments in realizing the right to adequate housing. In the report, the Special Rapporteur emphasizes the importance of extending international human rights obligations to local and subnational governments and to encouraing UN human righst monitoring mechanisms to engage directly with local and subnational governments on issues related to housing. The synopsis will be used by the Special Rapporteur to promote a better understanding the obligations of local and subnational governments in the area of housing and to promote a better integration of these governments into the UN human rights regime.
India Advocacy Handbook
The IHR Clinic is currently working with Nazdeek to develop a handbook outlining a policy framework on the human rights obligations of subnational governments in the area of housing in India, with a focus on the obligation to meaningfully engage. The handbook is intended to serve as an advocacy tool and the basis for public interest litigation, to encourage government entities to meaningfully engage with members of vulnerable and marginalized communities in India on housing issues. The handbook will be based in part on the norms and standards developed in the Special Rapporteur's recent report on subnational governments, discussed above.
Students will determine what constitutes meaningful engagement on the part of local and subnational governments. They will compare the practices of developing and developed countries, as well as those of three different cities in India. In developing the handbook, they will look to Indian Supreme Court and relevant High court jurisprudence, international human rights decision on meaningful engagement, and binding international treaties and covenants.
Research began in January and February 2015. In March, students will travel to India to interview and work with housing experts and with Nazdeek’s civil society partners in three Indian cities, in order to document the policies, experiences, and challenges concerning housing issues and meaningful engagement in these cities.
The handbook will help meet the urgent need for the development of a comprehensive policy framework to facilitate meaningful engagement between government agencies and communities in need of adequate housing in India. The final report will be shared with various stakeholders, including civil society partners, affected communities, and government officials.