Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing


The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council.  The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert who reports on the realization of the right to housing as a fundamental component of the right to an adequate standard of living and identifies best practices, challenges, obstacles, and protection gaps related to this right.

The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing must apply a gender perspective in the reports on developments in the realization of the right to adequate housing, particularly with respect to gender-specific vulnerabilities in access to adequate housing and land.


The mandate of the Special Rapporteur lasts for a period of three years. The mandate is filled by one highly-qualified individual.

The UN Commission on Human Rights (predecessor to the Human Rights Council) established the Special Rapporteurship in 2000, with Resolution 2000/9, and extended the mandate for a period of three years in 2003, via Resolution 2003/27. The Human Rights Council extended the mandate in 2007 (Resolution 6/27), 2010 (Resolution 15/8), 2013 (Resolution 24/115), and 2014 (Resolution 25/17).

In fulfilling the obligations of this special procedure, the mandate holder may: undertake country visits, consider individual complaints, submit allegation letters and urgent appeals to States concerning specific situations, engage in dialogue with relevant stakeholders, and submit activity reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council.

Country Visits

The Special Rapporteur undertakes an average of two country visits per year, to States that have extended an invitation. A list of previous country visits and the Special Rapporteur’s subsequent reports are available here.

Country visits help the Special Rapporteur meet several objectives of the mandate. First, visiting countries around the world enables the Special Rapporteur to become familiar with and report thoroughly on the particular status of housing rights in specific places, particularly with respect to gender equality, non-discrimination, and the protection of minorities, the poor, and other vulnerable groups.

Second, these visits give the Special Rapporteur an opportunity to engage in dialogue with the country’s government in addition to the UN, intergovernmental agencies, and civil society.

Third, country visits help the Special Rapporteur identify practical solutions and best practices for the realization of the right to adequate housing.

Lastly, they provide an opportunity to gauge the effect that relevant concluding observations by treaty and other international bodies have had on the country’s national policies.

More than 100 countries have extended standing invitations to country visits by all thematic special procedures. View the list of countries that have extended standing invitations here.

Receiving Information & Complaints

The Special Rapporteur receives complaints about alleged violations of the right to adequate housing. Importantly, the Special Rapporteur does not issue decisions concerning individual complaints and cannot require the State to remedy any alleged violation; rather, the Special Rapporteur raises the issue of concern with the relevant State.

In response to complaints, the Special Rapporteur may contact the government concerned to invite comment, seek clarification, remind the government of its international obligations, or request information on steps being taken by the government to redress the situation. He or she may also write to the government jointly with other special procedures mandate holders.

Generally called “communications,” these exchanges with the government can take a variety of forms of varying degrees of significance. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur contacts a government through either an allegation letter or an urgent appeal.

The Special Rapporteur keeps confidential all communications to and from the government until he or she includes them in the communications reports of the Special Procedures, which are submitted to the Human Rights Council at each of its regular sessions (in March, June, and September).

In all of its communications, the Special Rapporteur is careful not to draw any conclusions about the facts of the case. Instead, the Special Rapporteur simply presses for the government to ensure that the right to adequate housing is not violated.

Allegation Letters

Generally, the Special Rapporteur sends an allegation letter in circumstances where the alleged violation has already occurred, relates to a general pattern of violations, or is not so pressing as to warrant sending an urgent appeal. An allegation letter generally contains a request for the government to clarify the substance of the allegation and to forward any information related to the allegation to the Special Rapporteur.

Urgent Appeals

The urgent appeals procedure is reserved for cases in which there are sufficiently reliable allegations that the situation is time-sensitive in terms of loss of life, life-threatening situations, or imminent or ongoing damage of a grave nature. If it appears that the allegation letters procedure is unlikely to address the situation in a timely enough manner, the Special Rapporteur will send an urgent appeal to the government concerned.

Dialogue with Governments, Civil Society, and Other Actors

The Special Rapporteur also engages in dialogue with governments, civil society, and other relevant actors, the purpose of which is to identify solutions for the implementation of the right to adequate housing. The Special Rapporteur’s recommendations are the basis for this dialogue; they function as a way to evaluate the adequacy of the State’s implementation of the right to adequate housing. As with all of his or her duties, the Special Rapporteur must apply a gender perspective with respect to this dialogue.

Reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council

The Special Rapporteur reports annually to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. These reports are available on the Special Rapporteur’s webpage.


Complaints should be submitted via the online submission form. When submitting a complaint, the information requested by the Special Rapporteur must be provided, including:

  • the identity and other details of the alleged victim(s);
  • the identity of the alleged perpetrator(s) of the violation;
  • the identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the communication, which will be kept confidential; and
  • the date, place, and detailed description of the circumstances of the incident(s) or alleged violation.

The Special Rapporteur may also be contacted by:

  • Mail:

Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10