Housing "has lost its currency as a human right"

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UN Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha speaks out against the “hyper-financialized” housing market which penalises poorer families. Photo: UN Photo/Daniel Johnson

Urbanization and financial speculation have created an unsustainable global housing crisis.

That's the message from leading UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing Leilani Farha, who blames the world's money markets for pricing people out of cities.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Everyone has a right to shelter and housing – it's written into international law and the Sustainable Development Goals agenda that states have pledged to achieve by 2030.

But UN Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha believes that this right has been forgotten; she blames financial markets and speculators for treating housing as a "place to park capital".

Just look, Ms Farha says, at the total value of the global housing market: it's worth a staggering US$ 163 trillion – that's more than twice the world's total economy.

"Housing has lost its currency as a human right…Valued as a commodity, rather than a human dwelling, it has become for investors a means to secure and accumulate wealth, rather than a place of dignity, to raise a family and thrive in a community."

The rights expert's comments come amid growing global urbanization which will soon see more people living in cities than the countryside.

But there's far too little housing to go round, so millions of people are forced to live into slums or other informal settlements, where their human rights and their dignity are sacrificed.

In a call for action to address this housing crisis, Leilani Farha points to cities leading the way with various initiatives.

In London, for instance, developers haven't been scared off by the social housing requirement, she says, while in Vancouver, vacant homes face a one per cent tax levy which is intended to contribute to low-income accommodation.

Welcome as these city projects are, it's at the national level that change needs to happen, the Special Rapporteur insists.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 1'35"


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