Housing is a basic human right

Editorial, Normal

The National, Monday August 24th, 2015

 THE recent forced evictions of tenants by the National Housing Estate Limited (NHEL) in the National Capital District from its properties should be stopped and the state-owned entity ordered to change tact.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right to housing as part of the right to an adequate standard of living. 

It states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” The eviction of entire families happens to be an act of the last resort to reclaim National Housing Corporation (NHC) properties from those who defaulted on rental payments or money owed to the corporation and its business arm.  

It is understandable that the corporation has been owed money over the years and recouping the millions of kina has been quite impossible.

What is possible is for the NHC and its business arm, NHEL, is to reclaim all those unprofitable properties, give them a new lease of life and turn them into money-making assets, which they really are. And that seems to be what it is doing.  

Yet, we have serious reservations over the manner in which the corporation and its business am treat Papua New Guineans who have for years lived and raised families in those government properties.  

The corporation has also itself to blame for the poor state of its properties instead of finding fault only in its tenants and penalising them.

Furthermore, there have been instances when the NHC favoured new or potential tenants or buyers of properties and uses force to evict them.  

There have also been instances of officers taking bribes over the sale or change of tenancy of properties. 

To drag someone out of the privacy and security of his home is tantamount to violating one’s dignity. 

The corporation and NHEL continue to evict families out of its properties despite personal intervention by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Recently, a family from Gulf became victims of the forceful evictions from the corporation’s flats in June Valley, NCD.  

For some reason, the family was the only one targeted while the rest of the tenants in the block of flats were unaffected.

An entire family forced out and made to sleep in the open should not be the way to deal with what NEC deems truant tenants or defaulters.

In this instance, the corporation proceeded to evict families, including young children and elderly people, despite the express direction from the prime minister to stop such evictions. Even if whatever conditions the NHC or NHEL act on legitimately transcends the direction of the prime minister, throwing out an entire families without showing them where to go is a cruel inhuman act. 

Housing is a critical human need in all our urban centres and despite the rapidly expanding economy the chances of an average family acquiring a home are not any easier.

On the contrary, the favourable economic conditions are merely exacerbating the law of supply and demand.  

The limited volume of real estate is beyond the reach for most Papua New Guineans.  Add to that the age-old human greed for quick easy money and most citizens stand by bemused while a few gain the most.

The situation will continue unabated unless the Government steps in to put a ceiling over the price of real estate.

The NHC is the one state agency that Papua New Guineans will turn to for solutions to the serious shortage of housing and land in urban centres.

Its current management has so far done well with the launching of new housing initiatives, such as Duran Farm in NCD, to provide affordable land and housing for our working class citizens.

It should be seen to be agency of relief rather than one that resorts to the use of heavy handed tactics to recoup the corporation’s money and property. 

There must be more a more humane approach providing those affected tenants a way out rather than forced evictions.