Housing justice

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Housing justice can be described as "that everyone deserves safe, affordable, and health-promoting housing regardless of race, income, gender, ethnicity, ability, and more. Initiatives like rent control, tenant organizing, public housing, fair housing laws, and inclusionary zoning help ensure housing justice." -Human Rights Careers

An article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the right to adequate housing. It reads:

“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  '(emphasis added) 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.” -United Nations

Housing justice is climate justice

Both the climate and housing crisis have capitalist roots

  • For example, Blackstone, a private equity firm worth $153 billion, bought a real estate firm which owns 5000 units in Toronto. The company has a history of abusive tenants with high fees, rent hikes and aggressive eviction practices in mostly black, brown and low-income neighbourhoods. They also lobbied against rent control in California. -Climate Justice Toronto
      • Blackstone has invested in a company building private highways through the Amazon.
      • The firm set up an office in Israel. A previous Israeli minister of defense was hired to run it. -Climate Justice Toronto
Both the climate and housing crisis have colonial roots
  • Both housing and climate injustice are deeply rooted in the forced displacement and removal of Indigenous Peoples from their territories, and continued oppression of Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island. The intentional removal of Indigenous Peoples from their language, food systems, land and overall way of life, make them significant targets of houselessness.
    • Wet'suwet'en Nation have built homes to assert their sovereign right to live on their territory. Militarized police routinely disrupt and kick them out of their homes to make way for an oil pipeline.
  • In Toronto, Indigenous Peoples constitute around 23% of those experiencing homelessness/houselessness in the city, even though they make up only around 0.8% of the total population. Urban Indigenous Peoples are 8 times more likely to experience houselessness than non-Indigenous Peoples. [1]
Those without access to safe housing will be most affected by the climate crisis
  • Several marginalized groups are at greater risk of heat-related death and illness (e.g. people who are houseless, the elderly, disabled people, low-income populations etc).
  • Extreme cold and extreme heat-related deaths are a significant risk for those without access to housing.
  • Access to housing is also significantly more difficult for migrants, such as climate migrants.
  • The Global South, exploited by the same systems that caused the climate crisis, has fewer resources to develop safe housing structures. These homes are being destroyed disproportionately from climate crisis-induced natural disasters.
      • For example, increased rain has led to increased flooding in many parts of Africa. Floods in Kenya in May of 2024 wiped out entire communities, and there are no plans to restore their homes or provide relocation plans. The effects of climate change leave entire communities houseless and displaced.
The working class pays for climate adaptation; the right to air conditioning
  • As temperatures rise, so does the need for cooling solutions in the home.
  • In the Global North, central air conditioning is typically only accessible in higher priced rental units. The upfront price of a portable air conditioner falls on individuals. In both instances, higher electricity costs to stay cool in the summer fall on individuals. 
  • Air conditioning is projected to account for a peak load of energy needs in countries where there is a greater access and need (e.g. India). In communities that have been exploited by the same system that privileges certain groups with access to air conditioning, a lack of such will also lead to heat-related death and illness. [2]
      • E.g. in 2021, citizens of the capital of Niger located on the edge of the Sahara Desert, suffered through 100-degree-F heat for 174 days. In Basra, Iraq, the number of 100-degree-F days was 168.
      • At a temperature of about 90 degrees F, labor becomes unsafe, and if it climbs past 95 degrees F, the body can no longer cool itself, leading to illness and death. [3]
      • If global temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.5 degrees F), South Asia could experience more than twice as many unsafe-labor and life-threatening temperatures than it does today [4]
    • There are presently maximum temperature bylaws for renters in many communities in so-called Canada, but not maximum temperature bylaws. Cooling spaces also need to be maximized to be accessible to more community members. Advocates are suggesting a 26 degree C bylaw for rental units, and that the cost should not fall on renters. [5]
The working class pays for climate adaptation; retrofits
  • Retrofits have been used to justify evictions and steep rental increases. "Many building owners are using green and environmental retrofits to justify above-the-board rent increases. Retrofits are also used to rationalize the eviction of long-standing tenants, hoping to replace them with tenants willing to pay significantly more money." -Toronto Environmental Alliance

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