Skip to main content

The Honorable Buffy Wicks, Chair
Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee
1020 N Street, Room 156
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: ACA 10 - Human Right to Adequate Housing (Haney) - SUPPORT

Dear Assemblymember Wicks:

Human Rights Watch is proud to express our strong support for ACA 10 (Haney) to establish a constitutional human right to housing in California.

California is at the epicenter of the nation’s housing crisis. Over half of the country’s unsheltered people and thirty percent of all unhoused people live in California, despite the fact that California residents make up only 12% of the national population.[1] This is largely due to the state’s skyrocketing housing costs, lack of affordable housing, and stagnating wages. Due to generations of racism in housing policy at all levels, the burdens of the state’s affordable housing shortage fall disproportionately on Black and Latinx residents. [2]

We proudly support ACA 10. Recognizing the human right to adequate housing is an essential step to ensure that all Californians have a safe, healthy place to call home. Under international human rights law, all people have the right to adequate housing. This right is recognized in various international human rights instruments, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[3] The US ratified CERD in 1966. The US has signed but not ratified the ICESCR, obligating the government to refrain from actions that undermine its object and purpose.[4]

ACA 10 is an essential step toward solving California’s housing crisis. ACA 10 creates an important government obligation to ensure that Californians have access to affordable and adequate housing. This human rights-based approach is supported by a rich body of law and will help realize California’s existing Housing First policy, based on decades of empirical evidence that houselessness is most effectively remedied by access to permanent and stable housing with minimal requirements for entry.[5]

ACA 10 will establish a legal mechanism to hold local and state governments accountable for ensuring that all Californians have access to affordable and adequate housing. Rooted in human rights law, ACA 10 will establish a government obligation to:

  1. respect the right to housing by not interfering with that right;
  2. protect the right to housing by shielding the enjoyment of affordable and adequate housing from third-party threats; and
  3. fulfill the right to housing by affirmatively enacting policies and budgetary allocations to ensure that all Californians have secure housing.

A right to housing is not limited to merely having a roof over one’s head. The right to housing “cannot be viewed in a narrow or restrictive sense.”[6] Instead, the rights to adequate housing must include the following elements: 1) Legal security of tenure (protection against eviction, harassment); 2) availability of services, materials, facilities, infrastructure (safe water, light, heating, food storage, cooking, refuse disposal); 3) affordability (should not threaten other needs, states should subsidize if needed, protect against unreasonable rent levels); 4) habitability (adequate space, protection from elements, disease, structural hazards); 5) accessibility (accessible for people with disabilities); 6) location (in a location that allows access to work, healthcare, services, childcare, other social facilities; not on polluted sites); and 7) cultural adequacy (appropriate for the cultural identity of the person living there).[7]

ACA 10 obligates our state and local governments to work “progressively” toward fulfilling the right to housing. This is done by enacting and implementing relevant policies and budgetary allocations on housing and other economic, social, and cultural rights to the “maximum of its available resources.” Further, the right to housing must be implemented equitably and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex/gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, disability, economic status, or other status. The CESCR has also made clear that “States parties must give due priority to those social groups living in unfavourable conditions by giving them particular consideration.”[8]

It is clear that Californians support a right to housing. A 2020 poll[9] showed that 66% of all Californians support a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the human right to housing, similar to the recently enumerated constitutional right to reproductive autonomy.

Rights are different from policies because they receive more protection from courts and are harder to take away. Recognizing a right to housing is essential to meaningfully address the housing crisis. Such a right is a guarantee that Californians’ housing security is protected from the whims and uncertainties of politics, the charitable sector, or the private market. Policy that is not backed by an enumerated right has long proven insufficient, and countless Californians suffer daily injustice without the protection of a right to housing. International bodies and American politicians alike have acknowledged that a rights-based framework is an essential step, and it is time for the state of California to lead the nation in recognizing a human right to housing.    

We all deserve adequate housing, which is fundamental to life, health, and wellbeing. To realize this vision, Human Rights Watch respectfully urges you to vote yes on ACA 10, a state constitutional amendment establishing the right to housing.


Olivia Ensign
Senior Advocate & Researcher, US Program 
Human Rights Watch

John Raphling
Associate Director, US Program
Human Rights Watch

[1] Emily Hoeven, “California accounts for 30% of nation’s homeless, feds say,” Cal Matters, Dec. 20, 2022,, (accessed May, 30, 2023)

[2] Jerusalem Demsas, "Black and Hispanic renters experience discrimination in almost every major American city," Vox, Dec. 7, 2021, https: // / 22815563 / rental-housing-market-racism-discrimination; Janice Gassam Asare, "How Systemic Racism is Baked Into the Fabric of American Housing," Forbes, Feb. 1, 2022,, (accessed May, 30, 2023)

[3] International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Mar. 7, 1966, 660 U.N.T.S. 95, art. 5(e)(iii) (entered into force Jan. 4, 1969); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 993 U.N.T.S. 3, art. 11 (entered into force Jan. 3, 1976); Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res. 217A(III), U.N. Doc. A/810 at 71 (Dec. 10, 1948), art. 25.

[4] See Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT), May 22, 1969, 1155 U.N.T.S. 331, art. 18.

[5] Tim Aubry, Geoffrey Nelson, Sam Tsemberis, “Housing First for People With Severe Mental Illness Who Are Homeless: A Review of the Research and Findings From the At Home—Chez soi Demonstration Project,” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, November 2015, Vol. 60, p. 467-474; Joanne Zuhl, “Sam Tsemberis has revolutionized the way we think about homelessness,” Streetroots, (Nov. 11, 2020).

[6] Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 4 (The Right to Adequate Housing), ¶ 7, U.N. Doc. E/1992/23 (Dec. 9, 1991).

[7] Ibid. ¶ 8.

[8] Ibid. ¶ 11.

[9] Moms 4 Housing et al., “The Majority of California Residents Support Housing as a Human Right”, May 2020, (accessed May, 30, 2023), p.3.

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.