Why Societies Have a Moral Obligation To Invest in Affordable Housing

The human right to adequate housing means much more than just four walls and a roof – it’s about having a home that provides security, protection, and dignity.

April 03, 2024

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Having a secure place to call home should be a basic right for every person on this planet. And yet, the lack of affordable housing has become one of the biggest crises facing societies around the world. From major metropolitan areas to small rural towns, an increasing number of people are struggling to find housing that doesn’t consume the majority of their income.

This leaves little left over for other essentials like food, healthcare, and education. The human right to adequate housing means much more than just four walls and a roof – it’s about having a home that provides security, protection, and dignity.

Shelter: A basic human need

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological theory proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943, places shelter as one of the most fundamental human needs, just after physiological needs like air, water, and food. This hierarchy reflects the undeniable truth that without a secure place to call home, individuals struggle to meet higher-order needs such as safety, love, and belonging, let alone self-actualization.

Affordable housing ensures that individuals and families have access to shelter without compromising other essential needs. It provides stability, security, and a sense of belonging, which are vital for human well-being. When people have a place to call home, they are better equipped to pursue education, employment, and personal growth, contributing positively to society.

Breaking the cycle of poverty

One of the most significant barriers to escaping poverty is the lack of affordable housing. For many low-income families, the cost of housing consumes a substantial portion of their income, leaving little room for other necessities. As a result, they may be forced to live in substandard conditions or spend excessive amounts of time commuting to work, further perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Affordable housing breaks this cycle by providing stable and affordable living arrangements, allowing individuals and families to allocate their resources more effectively. It gives them the opportunity to invest in education, health care, and entrepreneurship, thus empowering them to improve their socio-economic status and break free from the constraints of poverty.

The impacts of the affordable housing shortage are vast and cut across all races, ages, and income levels. For low-income families, the lack of affordable options leaves them in substandard conditions or facing homelessness. The same is true for minimum-wage workers whose paychecks simply can’t cover escalating rents. Even middle-class households find themselves “house poor” after buying a home, with so much of their earnings going towards the mortgage. This housing insecurity has ripple effects on overall well-being and opportunities.

Beyond the ethical argument of housing as a human right, the affordable housing crisis poses risks to the overall economic and social fabric. A lack of stable housing makes it difficult to keep a job, stay healthy, and give children an equal chance at success. It perpetuates systemic poverty and inequality rather than upward mobility. And from a purely economic perspective, the costs of homelessness and housing instability are a drain on municipal resources and economic productivity.

Treating this crisis with urgency

Societies have both a moral and pragmatic obligation to prioritize investing in affordable housing solutions. This could include updating antiquated zoning laws, renting out rooms in single-family homes through marketplaces like PadSplit, and expanding public housing. Declared as a human right by the United Nations, the denial of secure, habitable housing violates the basic dignity that every person deserves. It’s time to treat this crisis with the urgency it requires and work towards a future where housing is considered a right, not a privilege, for the few who can afford it.

In conclusion, affordable housing is not merely a commodity or a privilege but a fundamental human right that underpins the well-being of individuals and the stability of societies. It provides shelter, promotes social justice, breaks the cycle of poverty, and fuels economic growth.

As we strive to build a more just and equitable world, it is imperative that we prioritize affordable housing as a human right and take concerted action to ensure that everyone has access to secure and affordable housing. Only then can we truly create a world where every individual has the opportunity to thrive and fulfill their potential.

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