The Right to Adequate Housing in New Delhi, India

IHR Clinic students, in partnership with Nazdeek, a legal capacity building organization based in India, are conducting comparative research on housing rights and 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).

During the Fall Quarter 2013, the IHR Clinic housing team interviewed prominent scholars and activists, reviewed legal and socio-economic literature, and wrote four memos comparing housing policies in the UK, South Africa, Brazil and Chicago. The memos identify best practices, common problems and solutions for low-income affordable housing and homelessness.

During the Winter Quarter 2014, the team conducted preliminary research on housing policy in New Delhi, in preparation for a fact-finding field trip, which eventually took place during Spring break 2014.

The team spent two weeks in Delhi meeting with 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 also included visits to several night shelters for homeless people and in-depth interviews with local community leaders and stakeholders.

Finally, the team was 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. The Law Commission is 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 Delhi, including the findings from the trip and a review of applicable international law. The memo, which will be submitted to Justice Shah and the Law Commission of India, will identify gaps and problems within current housing law and policy in Delhi, possibly serving both as a specific recommendation for new housing legislation and a resource for strategic litigation in the housing sector.