FOR THE RIGHT TO ACCESSIBLE, AFFORDABLE AND INCLUSIVE HOUSING FOR PERSONS WITH DISSABILITIES
The environments where people live and reside, housing, must be inclusive and welcoming spaces, of freedom and safety, of privacy and relationship, of communication and interaction with the community. The human diversity that disability entails must be taken into account in the planning and securing of the right to housing. Housing is on itself a personal and social good, but also is an unavoidable requirement to achieve inclusion that, in the case of persons with disabilities, means full participation in the social mainstream, being able to choose where, how and whom to live with, without impositions, and without being forced to live in specific and separated environments, on the edge of community life.
Persons with disabilities -women and men- enjoy the human right to choose where, how and whom to live with. The inclusion in the community and leading an independent life is for persons with disabilities to have a decent and suitable housing. This is laid down in articles 28, 19 and 9 of the United Nations International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, signed and ratified by Spain, fully in force and enforceable in our legal system. Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution also proclaims the right of all citizens to enjoy housing, which covers persons with disabilities. For its part, United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is very mindful of the right to housing. SDG 11, dedicated to “Sustainable Cities and Communities for resilient and sustainable urban centres”, proclaims the need to move towards the creation of more humane and inclusive environments. Target 11.1 is on track to 2023, to ensure the access for all people to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and improve slums. For a housing or living environment, which has the status of basic social good, to be decent and suitable for persons with disabilities, it must be accessible, affordable and inclusive.
In view of the importance of housing for the process of inclusion and community participation of persons with disabilities, on the occasion of May 3rd 2021, National Day in Spain of the international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the disability social movement calls for the guarantee by the public authorities of an
ACCESIBLE, AFFORDABLE AND INCLUSIVE HOUSING
Preliminary assumption: As in any other area, related to housing right, the person with disabilities must be placed at the centre of all decisions that affect them, recognising that they are full rights holders, which generates as a counterpart the responsibility of the State, the administrations, the market and the different operators in their respect, application and guarantee.
Diversity and plurality of persons with disabilities must also be reflected in the mechanisms to implement the right to housing, considering and addressing intersectional discrimination. Women and girls with disabilities, due to their structural situation of greater exclusion in all spheres, must receive a priority attention that is adapted to their reality in all official housing policy responses.
The right to community housing is for all people regardless of their support requirements, also and above all for the people with greatest needs. The percentage of institutionalised persons increases significantly when the person has a more extensive and complex support profile. Everyone has the right to live at their home with the support they need and to belong and participate in their community.
The right to a decent and adequate housing of persons with disabilities should be addressed as part of the legislation and general public policies of housing, of which it is one more element. In this broad area, which encompasses all public action on housing, it is necessary to carry out two important measures, on the one hand, the approval of a General Law to Guarantee the Social Right to Housing, as well as to increase the public housing stock, dedicating at least 2% of the Gross Domestic Product to this end.
For an accessible housing: Universal accessibility must be the rule that guides each and every one of the principles, mandates and actions of public policies and regulations associated with housing, otherwise persons with disabilities will be excluded and, therefore, will be discriminated. In addition, extending life expectancy of large sections of population reinforces the demand/need to adapt the built/building stock to ensure that no one is isolated in their home, confined by the absence of universal accessibility and design conditions. Accessibility, which should be based on three pillars: accessibility measures themselves (architectural, communicative and cognitive), the design for all, the accommodations, reasonable adjustments to pre-existing environments.
The accessibility of the basic good of housing depends, here and now, on the political agenda assuming with conviction and urgently resolving these demands: ¿?
- Horizontal Property Act Reform:
From CERMI’s movement, we reiterate the historic demand for the reform of the Horizontal Property Law, to make accessibility constructions and actions mandatory for the owners’ association when they are requested by people with disabilities residents or residents over 70 years, irrespective of the cost; universal accessibility is a community responsibility and it should not know any exceptions, reductions or rebates based on the amount of the action.
- Information on universal accessibility in the building file in the Property Register and in the building administration channels and supports.
CERMI advocates the thrust of normative reforms in registry and building legislation, so that the Property Register collects data on the accessibility conditions of properties, buildings and housings, so potential buyers and users with disabilities or in whose family unit includes a person with disability, may know previously this relevant information and facilitate their buying or renting decision, in a similar way to the assessment of energy efficiency.
Likewise, at the administration level, the technical inspection reports for buildings must necessarily contain an accessibility evaluation document, with any possible public aid will be conditional on the resolution of the deficiencies detected in this matter in the reports.
- Creation of Public Funds of Rehabilitation of the building stock and pre-existing buildings that do not meet accessibility and usability conditions.
Public authorities should create funds and financial lines for the rehabilitation of the existing housing stock and buildings for residential use, that do not meet architectural quality and energy efficiency conditions and criteria (included the universal accessibility in a broad sense, including not only physical accessibility, but even sensory, access to information and communication, and cognitive) and energy efficiency.
In particular, new resources from European Union -recovery, transformation and resilience funds- to deal with the crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic should be directed in significant part to the housing rehabilitation to make them accessible and sustainable, with all aid for energy efficiency and sustainability conditional on actions to ensure universal accessibility.
- Creation of a State Fund for the Promotion of Universal Accessibility
Each administration-state, autonomous and local- must create a Public Fund for Promotion of Universal Accessibility with 1,5% of the Budget allocated to infrastructures, urban agenda, mobility and transport, as well as digital transformation and telecommunications, to finance universal accessibility initiatives, programs and projects, similar or analogous to the 1,5% for culture (already regulated), destined to the protection and enhancement of Spanish artistic and cultural heritage.
- Establishment by public authorities and Administrations of a living, updating, transparent and sufficient supply of accessible housing.
Competent Administrations should develop official policies and adopt measures that provide and maintain a public supply of accessible housing available for people with disabilities who may need them, which respond to demands and profiles of the different disability situations.
For an affordable housing: Persons with disabilities, in general, they present a high dependence on external actors, their family environment or on public benefits or resources or civil society. Mainly, because they earn less and both they and their families bear more expenses due to disability -called economic disadvantage-, which places them in situation of objective difficulty in order to exercise their personal autonomy and their right to lead an independent life. No one, because of their disability, what exacerbates the lack of economic resources, should be excluded from decent and adequate housing. Persons with disabilities and the families who have a member with disability should be, then, a priority group in public housing policies, which must compensate for the initial deficits they suffer and provide decent, adequate and freely chosen housing solutions as a right.
For an inclusive housing as a basis for independent living in the community environment: People with disability need new forms of habitability and coexistence, with an inclusive and innovative approach, that allows the independent live in the community of belonging and the social participation of traditional excluded groups which have been subjected to separate and secluded ways of life. Social and housing policies must be brought together so, through a vigorous public strategy, a transition to inclusive and independent way of life can take place, making effective for people with disabilities their right to choose where, how and whom to live with, ensuring the support that makes this possible. For this, is precisely to generalise social benefits as personal assistance, which must be available to all the people with disabilities who need support for their autonomy and community participation.
Innovation should be part also of a reinforced right on housing. Public authorities must regulate and stimulate through efficient public policies innovative ways of living as the collaborative housing, understood as a housing solution promoted and participated by the people themselves or groups who generate independent live environment and in common, cooperative, sustainable and inclusive.
Civil dialogue in housing policy: Housing public policies, in all their dimension, must be governed and permeated by the principle of civil dialogue, by virtue of which the representative organisations of persons with disabilities and their families participate, under the terms stablished by laws, in the elaboration, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of public affairs that concern them. A permanent dialogue, through an active practice, with organizations of disability in shaping public policies must be strengthened otherwise they will be exclusive.
The organised disability social movement must be part of consultations, channels, forums and participatory bodies in housing matter. Organised disability and the Third Sector of Social Action must be considered as civic agents/operators of reference in co-creation and co-governance of official public housing policies, in all their levels.
Judicial protection of the right to housing: Persons with disability keep finding barriers of entity in the access to Justice, what jeopardises the defence and guarantee of their human right to a decent and adequate housing. Forced eviction cases of the main residence or the reclamations to include accessibility measures in the owners’ community have particular relevance.
In this regard, accessible and inclusive complaint and accountabilities mechanism must be established, an adequate coordination with the public social services system must be established generating a socio-housing action space, and ensuring that courts are authorised and adequately resourced to process and resolve claims related to the right on housing for persons with disability, protecting the person from any reprisals or undue pressure. Also, out-of-court mediation services to accelerate and facilitate the resolution of disputes in which persons with disabilities may be involved in the exercise of their right to accessible, affordable and inclusive housing should be promoted by the competent Administration.
May 3rd 2021.
Spanish Committee of Representatives of People with Disabilities (CERMI)
CERMI Women Foundation