Homeless Advocates



The housing gap is growing everyday.  While there are many factors that contribute to the existence of this housing gap, one of the most direct proponents of the housing gap is the rapidly increasing cost of rents when compared to household wages.

Renters Rights and Homelessness

Access to Counsel Can Reduce Homelessness

Questions About "Renter's Rights"

The United States signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1979, recognizing the human right to housing, but the Senate has not yet ratified that treaty.257 Under international law, countries that sign a treaty are obligated to refrain from actions that would defeat the “object and purpose” of that treaty, even before ratification.258

The U.N. Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, made up of leading global experts mandated to implement the ICESCR, defines the human right to housing to include seven elements.

  1. Security of Tenure: Everyone needs legal protection against forced eviction and harassment—including renters, homeowners, and persons in emergency circumstances (experiencing homelessness)—as well as for access to legal counsel.260
  2. Availability of Services, Materials, and Infrastructure: adequate housing includes access to sanitation and emergency services, plumbing and electricity, etc.
  3. Affordability: Housing costs should not force people to choose between paying rent and paying for other basic needs (food, health, etc.).
  4. Habitability: Housing must provide adequate space to protect against internal dangers (overcrowding) and external ones (weather, insects, hazards like lead, etc.).
  5. Accessibility: Accessibility of housing means physically accessible (for those facing disabilities, for example) and practically accessible (no discriminatory barriers for marginalized groups).
  6. Location: Housing is more than four walls and a roof, but must exist in an environment with access to jobs, medical care, schools, etc., as well as not be threatened by pollution.
  7. Cultural Adequacy: Housing and land use must respect the cultural traditions of inhabitants.

In Roper v. Simmons, Justice Kennedy dedicated a full quarter of the decision to the discussion of human rights law and how it confirms our own evolving standards of decency under the Eighth Amendment.

The Department of Justice signaled their approval of a proposed Seattle ordinance regulating evictions from homeless encampments by noting it was consistent with both our constitutional and human rights obligations.

HUD has recognized the relevance of human rights law in interpreting its obligations both with respect to the criminalization of homelessness and in interpreting the Violence Against Women Act.

State courts have cited international human rights law in expansive interpretations of their own constitutional obligations as well.