New report shows it is "not enough to mandate a human right to adequate housing; we need to define it"

Housing is a human right and ensuring that every household has an adequate house is one of the key obligations on the Scottish Government and Local Councils. 

A new report published by the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO) has shown that not every household enjoys this right and current housing policies may not be doing enough to improve things.

The central estimate in the report, produce by Gillian Young of Newhaven Research ltd, suggests that some 547,000 households fall short of being adequately housed for two or more reasons. This equates to 22% of all households. But without a clearer definition of what we mean by “adequate”, and much better statistics, the Scottish Government can’t be sure that it’s focusing on the right things or that it’s policies are having the right effect.

John Mills, ALACHO’s co-chair, said “Our report, we are consciously calling it a “can opener”, is intended to move the debate on the human right to housing firmly into the field of policy, programmes and resource allocations. To explore what we mean by “adequate”; how it could be defined and the extent to which we can measure how well it is being met.

"What we found is that answering these questions is difficult because we simply lack the information we need to understand the situation. But based on what we do have, there are many families, owners as well as tenants, who may be living in homes that fall short of meeting their rights, including those with disabilities, those facing domestic abuse, and many families struggling to pay for their home each month or to keep themselves warm in winter.”   

UofG's Professor Ken Gibb, Director of the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, added: “This excellent and timely report reminds that it is not enough to mandate a human right to adequate housing; we need to define it, operationalise it and resource the capacity to address it”.

The impact of the pandemic on those already facing disadvantage has been widely noted. The recent report by the Social Renewal Board recommended that the Scottish Government should itself carry out an audit of the achievement of the human right to adequate housing. This report shows how urgent that task now is.

You can view full report and executive summary on the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence website here: The right to adequate housing: are we focusing on what matters? : CaCHE (

The Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers

The Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers is the representative body for senior housing and homelessness officers working in Scottish local authorities. Our members play a lead role in planning and developing new social and affordable housing, managing council homes, providing services to the homeless and those at risk of losing their home, providing advice and assistance including supporting to adapt homes to meet the needs of those with particular needs and in regulating private landlords. Further information is available at:

The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE)  

The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE) is a consortium of 14 institutions led by the University of Glasgow. The centre, which was established in August 2017, is a multidisciplinary partnership between academia, housing policy and practice. Over the course of the five-year programme, CaCHE researchers will produce evidence and new research which will contribute to tackling the UK’s housing problems at a national, devolved, regional, and local level. CaCHE is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Arts and Humanities Research Council and Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Newhaven Research

Newhaven Research is an Edinburgh-based company, established in April 2013, with expertise in meeting the high-level research and intelligence needs of government, and the wider housing industry; improving customer understanding of the operation of the housing system; and, assisting in the development of effective strategies for the delivery of regeneration and social justice.



First published: 9 June 2021

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