There are two working definitions of human rights in this country:
- The human rights articulated in human rights treaties over the past century to which the United States is signatory.
- A narrow and largely unarticulated concept of human rights grounded in 18th-century upper-class European philosophy, upon which this nation was founded.
But unless we adopt the latter, narrower concept of human rights, we're bound to say that housing is a right, not a privilege. As Article 25(a) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), a founding U.N. document signed by the United States, clearly acknowledges (emphasis mine):
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.Housing as a human right has been reaffirmed in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966), to which the United States was also signatory, and in many other international human rights documents since then. In order to take the position that housing is not a human right, the U.S. government would need to violate international human rights law and renege on existing agreements.