Loafers Lodge blaze: Human Rights Commission slams Government, says tenants denied human rights by housing crisis

The Human Rights Commission is hitting out at the Government saying New Zealand has let profit become more important than providing a decent home. 

It comes after Loafers Lodge went up in flames last Tuesday killing five people. 

It's not clear how many bodies still remain inside the hostel, but the final death toll is expected to be below 10. 

The Human Rights Commission says housing is "critical to wellbeing" and is calling for an independent accountability body to hold governments on track for "this fundamental human right". 

"The tragic fire at Loafers Lodge highlighted just how many people are harmed by the housing crisis," says Te Amokapua Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt.  

"We let our values deteriorate when it comes to housing. We let profit be more important than the human right to a decent home.   

"Many have had no option but to live in unsafe and precarious conditions as a result."

New Zealand is in a middle of a housing crisis, which is only getting worse, resulting in some people living in Loafers Lodge because they were unable to access adequate housing or support from the Government, according to Downtown Community Ministry Manahautū Stephen Turnock. 

"There's an outflowing of support now for the residents who have been through a traumatic crisis event, but for many of the survivors this is just the latest incident on top of repeated housing trauma and insecurity," Turnock said.

"We need a housing system that uplifts people's rights, not an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff." 

Hunt added: "When things go so badly wrong, like they did at Loafers Lodge, it's a crucial moment to identify what we need to do so this does not happen again." 

The Commission is conducting a housing inquiry, to bring attention to human rights issues and propose solutions within the housing system. 

They expect a final report to be released in early July.  

The Chief Commissioner said a key recommendation of the inquiry is to set up a permanent accountability body with the power to address systemic issues.   

"Accountability is about ensuring standards are respected and promises are kept. It does not need to be about blame or punishment," Hunt said. 

If an independent body was created it could provide a review by holding inquiries into issues within the housing system, such as the Loafers Lodge fire and what it has revealed about the poor regulation of boarding houses, he added. 

"There are various ways to establish a constructive accountability body, but it must fundamentally reflect te Tiriti o Waitangi." 

Hunt said the Government, and those involved in providing housing, have obligations under the right to a decent home and te Tiriti o Waitangi, yet these obligations are rarely acknowledged in housing policies or laws.  

"Too often, we are not treating housing as a human right. We must take the opportunity now to put human rights at the centre of our housing efforts."