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General News Thu, 13 May 2004

Elements of right to housing need to be defined - Justice Ampiah

Agona Swedru (C/R), May 13, GNA - Mr Justice A. K. B. Ampiah, Retired Supreme Court Judge, on Thursday underscored the need for the enactment of a comprehensive housing law in the country. To this end, he said, Government should define and elaborate the elements of the right to housing, either through legislation or through judicial decision-making.

Mr Justice Ampiah made the call when he presented a paper at a training workshop for Lawyers and Judges currently underway at Agona Swedru.

The two-day workshop being attended by about 40 participants from Ghana, Nigeria, The Gambia and Kenya, has as its theme: "Litigating Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Particular, The Right to Housing."

It is being organised jointly by the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) and the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE).

Mr Justice Ampiah, whose topic was: "The Law on Housing and Its Implications For the Realization of the Right to Housing in Ghana", pointed out that the current legal regime on housing "leaves much to be desired in terms of the realization of the right to housing". He was of the view that judicial activism would be required in order to fill the gaps in the law and jurisprudence on housing rights. The retired Supreme Court Judge observed that the current state of the law "leaves too much room for the operation of market forces". This, he said, may be good for persons whose income levels were high, and especially those whose incomes were indexed to the dollar. For low-income persons, Mr Justice Ampiah suggested that the State needed to be more proactive in dealing with issues of affordability, access and habitability.

He urged administrative authorities to strictly monitor issues of price, location and sanitation for such income groups and not to leave them to market forces.

Mr Justice Ampiah noted that the realization of the right to housing would depend on a State committed to social and economic planning.

This, he pointed out, was not to suggest that governments should revert to command economy models of development, "but that in the case of social and economic rights generally, and the right to housing in particular, an activist State that committed resources to the development of housing facilities could better guarantee and protect the right to housing than a facilitative State".

The Retired Judge of the Highest Court in the Land explained that this was because markets catered for the demands of persons, who had purchasing power.

He was emphatic that as far as adequate housing was concerned, the majority of Ghanaians, just as those of other developing countries, did not possess the financial and economic wherewithal to afford adequate housing.

Concluding, therefore, Mr Justice Ampiah urged the State to "come over to Macedonia" and help them. 13 May 04

Source: GNA