Tenure Security and COVID-19 Pandemic | Land Portal | Securing Land Rights Through Open Data

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across the globe in a wide range of countries and very different environments. The pandemic has already affected countries in every region, making this a truly global situation where every country must take steps to prepare and respond.

The pandemic will hit the most vulnerable people the hardest. The economic consequences for those in informal settlements will be long-lasting. As more and more countries suspend daily activities and restrict movement, day labourers and those in informal employment will lose their income. This can result in people being forced to leave their homes due to their inability to pay the rent. Without any social benefits, they will be unable to care for their families.

Secure tenure and housing have become the front-line defence against the Covid-19. According to UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, home has rarely been more of a life or death situation. As governments worldwide are relying on people to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus, having secure tenure is crucial to be able to implement this. Governments must take measures to prevent forced evictions and to provide solutions for the homeless.[1]

Some countries are introducing measures such as moratoriums on evictions due to rental and mortgage arrears; deferrals of mortgage payments for those affected by the virus; extension of winter moratoriums on forced evictions of informal settlements; and increased access to sanitation and emergency shelter spaces for homeless people.[2]

Other measures are also required if the pandemic is to be addressed effectively. The Special Rapporteur calls upon governments to “cease all evictions; provide emergency housing with services for those who are affected by the virus and must isolate; ensure that the enforcement of containment measures (eg: curfews) does not lead to the punishment of anyone based on their housing status; provide equal access to testing and health care; and provide adequate housing which may require the implementation of extraordinary measures as appropriate in a state of emergency, including using vacant and abandoned units and available short-term rentals.”

She also warns of a “risk that such measures will enable global financial actors to use the pandemic and the misfortunes of many to dominate housing markets without regard for human rights standards” and she urges states to “prevent the predatory practices of institutional investors in the area of residential real estate.” [3]

People and communities living in countries grappling with humanitarian emergencies face additional challenges related to the protection of their housing, land and property rights. With the emergence of new and more pressing priorities among governments, UN and humanitarian actors, funding and attention are being diverted from the protection of Housing, Land and Property (HLP) rights to other issues. HLP partners in the field report of people being forcibly evicted and displaced by criminal actors taking advantage of the COVID-19 disruptions.

Displaced people and living in makeshift shelters and using essential basic common facilities, such as toilets and cooking spaces are not only being more exposed to the virus but also to the risk of being stigmatized and evicted by host communities in the event of health outbreaks. Further, as occurred in other similar situations, displaced communities are also facing challenges in finding suitable burying grounds for a large number of deceased members, leading to further health challenges and grievances. At this time of crisis, there is the need of intensifying efforts for ensuring that temporary settlements are built on suitable and conflict-free land, well planned and adequately serviced.

Now, more than ever, collaboration and partnerships among many different sectors and actors are necessary. The work of Global Land Tool Network partners on housing rights, security of tenure and combatting forced evictions can help governments to develop effective policy measures and collaborative solutions in this respect.

[1] Source https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25727&LangID=E
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

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