The city of San Diego recently declared that “housing is a human right,” but did not explain what that means. It also reaffirmed “its commitment to providing more housing services geared toward putting a roof over the head of every San Diegan.”
The city council rightly claims that housing is “a component of a standard of living adequate for health and well-being.” The resolution states that “housing provides stability and security” and that everyone “should have a secure, peaceful, and dignified place to live.”
Homelessness is certainly a crisis that the city should work to alleviate, but declaring housing a “right” doesn’t make it any more abundant or affordable. It only sends an inaccurate message. The city needs real, practical, viable solutions that uphold the human dignity of the homeless without offering counterproductive handouts.
Housing is certainly a central part of upholding human dignity, but that doesn’t make it a human right. Rights cannot be granted, only protected. To declare housing a human right is to suggest that anyone can demand free housing and never be denied. If housing is truly a “right,” no one should be paying rent or a mortgage. Both practically and theoretically, this logic fails.
“…if declaring housing to be a human right means that the government is obligated to provide housing with no strings attached, won’t that result in human disempowerment rather than security, peace, or dignity?” writes Caitlyn Axe of the Federalist.
Protecting a good is not the same as providing it. The government is meant to protect human rights such as life, speech, religious exercise, and so on, but it cannot provide those things.
Rights are guarantees that certain things may not be done to a person against his will.
They do not come from the government – they come from God alone.
“Many things add dignity and quality to human lives — safe homes, fulfilling jobs, healthy relationships, and nourished bodies. The government allows human lives to flourish when it acts to protect the pursuits of these things, not when it becomes the provider of them…free housing with no responsibility isolates suffering individuals and deprives them of ownership and accountability,” writes Caitlyn Axe.
Further, more than half of the homeless population cite mental illness or drug abuse as a cause for their loss of housing. The idea that more affordable housing will solve the homelessness crisis is simply untrue. There are better, more effective ways to truly care for the homeless.
Crime, violence, and overdoses are incredibly common in homeless areas, and police are unable to stop the drug cycle, especially with the legislature passing laws lowering penalties on illegal drug dealers and users. Instead of setting up safe injection sites and enabling open illicit drug markets like San Francisco is doing, California should help the homeless get back on their feet by requiring effective addiction and mental health treatment.
San Diego City Council’s resolution does nothing to help the homeless population and address the root causes of homelessness. It only suggests that the government should spend millions on housing for individuals suffering from mental illness and addiction, leaving them isolated to continue suffering.