Right to Housing:  It’s More Urgent Than Ever

Mark Ridley-Thomas, PhD

Praxis | May 10, 2022


Very happy and frankly honored to redirect your attention the long-standing and unfinished agenda of the fight against homelessness. We still have much work to do—now more than ever!

Recent data on Homelessness and Housing make it abundantly clear that the crisis has deepened and problems have worsened. This is patently unacceptable. The multi-dimensional dysfunction that is Los Angeles’ “homeless industrial complex” requires both top priority and deep intervention. Otherwise, we will continue spiraling downward.

FACT: Los Angeles is an international city engulfed in an unprecedented humanitarian and moral crisis. Therefore, on December 15, 2020, upon my return to the LA City Council, building on my work at the LA Board of Supervisors’ Crisis Response Motion my first task was to introduce a Right to Housing motion.

The Right to Housing provides a framework for a jurisdiction to take progressive steps to adopt legislative, administrative, judicial and budgetary measures to establish the Right to Housing for all.

This should include: affordability, accessibility, habitability, and security.

Adoption of a Right to Housing framework with policy and legislative components, provides a jurisdiction with a pathway to plan the allocation of resources and housing entitlements. Once established, a Right to Housing framework will set forth clear directives for the allocation of resources, the establishment of measurable benchmarks, and protections: it’s called accountability.

We should be reminded that, during the Civil Rights era, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights organizations effectively employed a universal human rights framework as a tool to advance the fight against the multi-layered forms of oppression facing African Americans— the primary targets and victims of homelessness across the nation, especially in Los Angeles. That is why it is important to use the language of human rights to construct a racially sensitive and culturally competent framework in order to secure the dignity of our fellow human beings, particularly those who are houseless.

ACTION: As a trained ethicist and an experienced policymaker, I see the law as the moral minimum. I recognize the law and rights to be fundamental to exacting social change and maximizing the common good. Therefore, it’s imperative we advocate for a legal Right to Housing and seek to summon the moral courage and political will to rally collective action. Nothing else will do.