the situation prevailing in many parts of the world. While the problems are often
particularly acute in some developing countries which confront major resource and
other constraints, the Committee observes that significant problems of homelessness
and inadequate housing also exist in some of the most economically developed
societies. The United Nations estimates that there are over 100 million persons
homeless worldwide and over 1 billion inadequately housed. 4 There is no indication
that this number is decreasing. It seems clear that no State party is free of significant
problems of one kind or another in relation to the right to housing.
In some instances, the reports of States parties examined by the Committee
have acknowledged and described difficulties in ensuring the right to adequate
housing. For the most part, however, the information provided has been insufficient to
enable the Committee to obtain an adequate picture of the situation prevailing in the
State concerned. This general comment thus aims to identify some of the principal
issues which the Committee considers to be important in relation to this right.
The right to adequate housing applies to everyone. While the reference to
“himself and his family” reflects assumptions as to gender roles and economic activity
patterns commonly accepted in 1966 when the Covenant was adopted, the phrase
cannot be read today as implying any limitations upon the applicability of the right to
individuals or to female-headed households or other such groups. Thus, the concept of
“family” must be understood in a wide sense. Further, individuals, as well as families,
are entitled to adequate housing regardless of age, economic status, group or other
affiliation or status and other such factors. In particular, enjoyment of this right must,
in accordance with article 2 (2) of the Covenant, not be subject to any form of
In the Committee’s view, the right to housing should not be interpreted in a
narrow or restrictive sense which equates it with, for example, the shelter provided by
merely having a roof over one’s head or views shelter exclusively as a commodity.
Rather it should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity.
This is appropriate for at least two reasons. In the first place, the right to housing is
integrally linked to other human rights and to the fundamental principles upon which
the Covenant is premised. This “the inherent dignity of the human person” from
which the rights in the Covenant are said to derive requires that the term “housing” be
interpreted so as to take account of a variety of other considerations, most importantly
that the right to housing should be ensured to all persons irrespective of income or
access to economic resources. Secondly, the reference in article 11 (1) must be read as
referring not just to housing but to adequate housing. As both the Commission on
Human Settlements and the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000 have stated:
“Adequate shelter means ... adequate privacy, adequate space, adequate security,
adequate lighting and ventilation, adequate basic infrastructure and adequate location
with regard to work and basic facilities - all at a reasonable cost”.
Thus the concept of adequacy is particularly significant in relation to the right
to housing since it serves to underline a number of factors which must be taken into

See note 1.

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