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Housing Justice

Indian Institute for Human Settlements
17 hours
7 weeks

Explore what housing justice means and how to take action through law, policy, programmes and projects.

Housing Justice refers to the concept that everyone has the right to safe and adequate housing conditions. Moreover traits such as race, gender, sex, age, wealth or any other status should not determine access to adequate and safe housing. The reality, however, is very different.

Globally 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing conditions, 100 million people are homeless and 15 million people are forcibly evicted each year. As a serious violation to human dignity, homelessness and inadequate housing impact a variety of basic rights including the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to health and the right to education.

Below are some examples how housing injustice can impact different human rights.

Right to Health Inadequate housing is a major health risk factor. People are at increased risk of respiratory diseases, infections and mental health issues.
Right to EducationChildren and young people who experience homelessness or live in inadequate housing conditions face additional barriers to education, including difficulty enrolling in school, lack of transportation, and stigma.
Right to WorkHomelessness or inadequate housing can make it difficult for people to find and maintain employment.
Right to VotePeople who live in inadequate housing conditions are often deprived of their right to vote because they don’t have a physical address. Housing injustice can also prevent individuals and communities from participating in other decision-making processes that affect them.
Right to EqualityPeople who live in inadequate housing conditions are often stigmatized and discriminated against due to their housing status. Housing injustice can disproportionately affect marginalized communities, including low-income families, people of color, and individuals with disabilities.

Overall, housing injustice has far-reaching impacts on a range of human rights, making it a crucial issue to address through policy and social action. The first step in building change is equipping yourself with knowledge and skills to take action. For this purpose, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements is offering an online course on Housing Justice. Is it worth your time? We take a look.

How will you learn?

The self-paced course, which is offered entirely online, takes roughly 17 hours to complete. It consists of seven weeks.

Week 1

The introductory video of the course provides an overview of the course structure and contents. Although the course uses India as a starting point, overarching questions of discrimination and inequality are relevant in all cities everywhere. The course also features case studies from all over the world including Thailand, Brazil, Singapore, South Africa and others.

Screenshot week 1

In this week you’ll also get to know the instructors and teachers of the course. Gautam Bhan who researches, and writes on the politics of urban poverty and inequality, as well as Swastik Harish, who focuses on housing for the urban poor in India. Furthermore Ruchika Lall who works on questions of urban education and equality and Rashee Mehra who focuses on anti-eviction work.

Week 2

In the second week of the course you’ll learn about essential terminology to better understand and describe what housing justice actually means. One unique aspect of the course is an interactive dashboard where you will explore different concepts and topics that relate to housing justice. Below is an example that shows how the housing situation affects social security, mobility and access to services.

Screenshot week 2

While the dashboard is a great way to learn in a more engaging and visual way, some learners reported having difficulties navigating it, especially on mobile devices. We also found that some of the elements are very small and might be difficult to read for some learners.

Week 3

In the third week of the course you’ll learn more about affordability, adequacy, viability of housing through case studies of different cities around the world. Although the interactive dashboard doesn’t work perfectly, the instructors made sure that the case studies are accessible as .pdf files for everyone.

week 3 screenshot

Week 4

The fourth week of the course focuses on Rental Housing. In the second video the instructor outlines one of the issues related to rental housing: “[…] we must also acknowledge that rental housing can be exclusive, and even discriminatory as landlords tend to choose tenants on the basis of religion, class, and other socioeconomic filters.” However, contrary to what you may maybe expect, this module also outlines some surprisingly positive facts about rental housing to advance housing justice.

Week 5

The fifth week of the course is focused on activism and contains more video content than other modules. In the introductory video you can feel that this is what the course is really about. The instructor speaks passionately about this “course on housing rights activism” and paves the floor for four inspiring activists. The activists speak about the political practice of advocating for housing justice and share their stories, strategies, campaigns, challenges and successes. Since the activist speak in their local languages, the videos contain subtitles and transcripts in English.

Week 5 screenshot

Week 6

In week six you’ll learn about specific modes and scales of action, including through policies, laws, programmes and projects. “When we speak of modes of action, the idea of scale becomes central. This is because different problems require different approaches and the scale of action or  intervention becomes a key determinant in firstly defining what we want to achieve and secondly, how we plan to achieve it.” (Swastik Harish)

Week 7

In the last module of the course you are tasked with writing an 800 words Opinion-Editorial Piece on Housing Justice for a digital media outlet or print newspaper in your city, state or country.

Overall, this course will be especially useful to urban practitioners, students, activists and policy makers but everyone who wants to learn more about housing rights, the existing inequalities and how to improve access to adequate housing will benefit from this course.

Grading & Certification

At the end of modules 1-6 you’ll have the opportunity to check what you have learnt in a graded quiz. Each quiz will count between 10-15% towards the passing grade. The final assignment where you write an Opinion-Editorial Piece on Housing Justice counts 25% towards your grade.

Is the course free?

The course is free to audit. However, if you would like to obtain a verified certificate you have to pay a fee. The fee will depend on your location and currency. Please note that Coursera offers financial aid to learners who cannot afford the fee.

About the author

Robert Fellner

Robert is founder of Human Rights Careers (HRC). A platform with the aim to support human rights students, alumni, graduates and professionals in pursuing and developing their career in human rights. Prior to launching HRC, Robert worked as Global Human Rights EdTech Manager at Amnesty International in London and as consultant for international human rights organizations globally. During 2011 and 2012, Robert worked as lecturer at Ain Shams university in Egypt. Robert has a masters in literature and human rights.