26 May 2015 – Amid a range of structural challenges, including high unemployment and poverty, Serbia is now also facing a housing crisis which demands an immediate Government response, according to a United Nations independent human rights expert.
“Serbia urgently needs a national law on housing that fosters non-discrimination and inclusion and that complies with its international human right obligations,” Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said in a press release today following her week-long visit to the country.
“This new law must take seriously issues of availability, affordability and security of tenure for all, especially for vulnerable groups,” she continued. “And it must be firmly grounded in international human rights law and standards.”
Serbia’s large public housing stock was privatized in the early 1990s and sold to individuals and families at symbolic prices leading to a high-rate of homeownership, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). However, the agency noted, homeownership does not guarantee adequate housing.
Ms. Farha pointed out, in fact, that homeowners and renters alike had indicated that heating, electricity bills and other housing charges remain “simply unaffordable” while some renters had even received eviction notices due to arrears.
In addition, the Special Rapporteur said she learned of “deplorable housing conditions” experienced by vulnerable groups with “distinct housing needs,” such as persons with disabilities, the young, the elderly, women suffering domestic violence, and migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East.
“In my view, some significant housing issues of the past remain unresolved,” she continued. “Roma housing conditions are egregious; they continue to be targeted for eviction with its devastating consequences. Allowing this to continue exacerbates discrimination, stigmatization and exclusion.”
Serbia has an obligation to ensure that housing is protected as a legal right that everyone, especially the most vulnerable, can claim, Ms. Farha added.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.