Academic journal article Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

Transitional Justice in Housing Injustice: The Case of Housing Rights Violations within Settler Democracies

Academic journal article Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

Transitional Justice in Housing Injustice: The Case of Housing Rights Violations within Settler Democracies

Article excerpt

TABLE OF CONTENTS    I. INTRODUCTION                                               796  II. SETTLER DEMOCRACIES                                        800 III. THE RIGHT TO (ADEQUATE) HOUSING                            802  IV. PROTECTION AND VIOLATION OF HOUSING RIGHTS IN SETTLER      809      DEMOCRACIES        A. Canada                                                810        B. Australia                                             813        C. The United States                                     816        D. Israel                                                821   V. TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE IN SETTLER DEMOCRACIES                826        A. Transitional Justice without Transition               829        B. Transitional Justice and Social Rights                830  VI. INCORPORATING TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE MECHANISMS IN HOUSING   831      POLICY        A. Institutional Reform                                  833        B. Reparations and Restitution Programs                  835        C. Participation as Political Constituencies             836 VII. CONCLUSION                                                 838 


Housing is one of the necessities of life and fulfills a variety of critical functions in contemporary society. (1) It encompasses much more than a physical shelter and having a roof over one's head, (2) as it provides a sense of place, belonging, comfort, and security. (3) Where people live plays a crucial role in fixing their place in society and their interaction with others because it affects the level of education they acquire and their social and economic mobility. (4)

In acknowledging its importance, the right to housing has been recognized by international human rights treaties as an integral part of the right to an adequate standard of living. (5) Many states have ratified these treaties and incorporated protection of some aspects of housing rights into their constitutions (6) and domestic legislation. (7) Others have not enacted any legislation in recognition of housing rights (8) but provide some legal remedies for violations of housing rights. (9) Despite this, domestic and international reports indicate that housing rights are constantly being violated by states in differing levels and forms. Such violations include forced eviction, displacements, and discrimination in housing. (10)

This Article focuses on housing rights violations within "settler democracies," which are multicultural societies that consist of two groups: (1) settlers (emigrants) who came to reside in the country and (2) indigenous groups who are natives of the place. (11) Such countries have been built upon the political exclusion and the marginalization of indigenous ethnic groups, citizens of their countries, through various forms of dispossession of both land and the power of self-government. (12)

Settler democracies share common features of housing rights violations committed against marginalized groups, such as unequal distribution of land, forced evictions, massive expropriations, crowdedness, and housing demolitions within indigenous localities. (13) As a result, the victimized groups remain marginalized and without resources. (14) These violations are a result of structural and systematic discriminatory spatial and housing policies embedded in the legal and political systems. (15) Systemic discrimination refers to the existence of a general pattern of discrimination against a particular group of people. (16) The concept of systemic discrimination can be useful to identify relevant criteria for violations of economic, social, and cultural rights. (17)

United Nations (UN) reports indicate that addressing the root causes of conflict appears to be an important function in repairing past injustice. (18) Academics have also argued that addressing past wrongs can serve to lay the foundation of the new political order. (19) Based on this insight, this Article asserts that addressing the root causes of systematic housing rights violations is crucial for dealing with the housing crisis and housing rights violations of marginalized groups and for the creation of a just future and society. …

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