The basis of the right to livable residence is to meet the shelter needs of people

The right to livable residence refers to the right of people to have healthy, safe and decent housing. The basis of this right is to meet the shelter needs of people. However, the right to livable residence not only meets the need for housing but also secures people’s social, economic and cultural rights. Besides containing the right to shelter at its heart, the right to residence also functions as a right that determines the socio-economic dynamics of the individual, which is not just about housing. Due to its vital importance, the right to liveable residence has been included in international conventions and constitutions, thus bringing certain positive and negative obligations to states. Article 11.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights contains the following provision: “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.” Article 57 of the Constitution of the Republic of Türkiye, on the other hand, contains the following provision: “The state takes measures to meet the housing needs within the framework of a planning that takes into account the characteristics of cities and environmental conditions, and also supports mass housing enterprises.”

As per the applicable international conventions and our Constitution, in order for a house to be considered suitable for life, it must contain at least the following essential elements, and the states must offer minimum efforts in terms of providing these essential elements:

1. Legal security of tenure: This element refers to the public assurance that residents will not be forcibly evicted
without due process.

2. Affordability: This refers to the issue that individuals should not have difficulty in meeting other basic needs such as nutrition, health, and education while paying the rent or loan costs of the house within their current budget and that there are livable housing prices in the quality required by the demographic structure.

3. Physical security: This element refers to the issue that especially in regions with high earthquake risk, the infrastructure and superstructures are built as earthquake-resistant, the risky structures are determined immediately, and individuals -especially the socio-economically disadvantaged sections of the society- are not forced to live in unsafe structures, and earthquake risks and effects are minimized. Physical security also includes the necessity of conducting urban transformation activities in line with the public interest, environmental justice and sustainability.

4. Location and convenience: This element refers to access to urban services, running clean water, sewerage, electricity, and heating in a reliable and affordable manner, the capability to combat natural disasters and the opportunity to get help in case of emergency.

The right to livable residence also secures people’s social, economic and cultural rights

These essential elements also provide assurance for citizens in post-disaster scenarios. Because even after a disaster, access to earthquake assembly areas, clean water, heating and urban services is an integral part of living conditions. Otherwise, failure to provide the right to residence, which is an important pillar of environmental justice, will cause the damage caused by disasters to cluster on the vulnerable groups of society, and both the disaster risks and the distribution of damage will not occur fairly, and unfortunately, the effects of the destruction will deepen.

These elements are vital not only in terms of providing the right to shelter but also in terms of meeting the essential life needs of people and ensuring public health. As a matter of fact, as the post-disaster process on February 6 showed all of us in a painful manner, a house is not just the four walls we stick our heads in for shelter. Houses also make individuals a part of a social solidarity network and constitute the most fundamental part of the memory spaces of society. Because not only were houses and living spaces destroyed in the earthquake but also people’s social experiences, and memories, and the only shelter where they feel safe, and their sense of belonging.

The essential elements required for a residence to be suitable for life also provide assurance for citizens in post-disaster scenarios

As Behçet Necatigil said, “Whatever there is in the name of happiness in this world is lived in the homes, with the company of the people at home” In this period, when we are preparing for the reconstruction process by taking lessons from the post-disaster processes, these essential elements that should be considered the fundamental building blocks in the construction of livable cities can only be considered to be fulfilled in a way that guarantees the right to liveable residence in the case of the construction of highly supervised housing projects with public benefit. However, in order to ensure the holistic fulfilment of the right to liveable residence, it is necessary to establish not only the houses but also to create qualitative social living spaces around the houses, and the adoption of a structure perception that is compatible with nature and the ethnic/cultural values of the inhabitants, and which is easily accessible to essential needs and urban services.

Inaddition, the value of the houses should be determined not by their market value and speculative return, but by their capacity to respond to these needs, and public policies should be pursued to secure this use value.