Social rights and housing needs

“Stay home: if you can.” In March 2020, this warning was painted in capital letters on the façade of a building looking down on Long Street, in central Cape Town. The second part of the message is open to interpretation. Two basic ideas come to mind. Stay home, if you have a home and if you manage to.
Covid-19 unveiled the inadequacy of contemporary housing systems. Homelessness became visible as it never had been, unaffordability turned into a common concern, and more than ever personal well-being depended on the habitability of dwellings.
Legislatures have responded to this dramatic situation with a range of interventions, from eviction moratoria to rent increase freezes. In some cases, legislative undertakings countered pre-pandemic patterns. Often measures were driven by the heightening tension among property and housing needs in cities, whereby the latter seemingly demanded a reframing of the interests at stake. Addressing this task is the future of public law.