Sunday, March 15, 2009

UN Special Rapporteur on Housing Submits First Report to UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

15 March 2009

Mr. Fionn Skiotis of COHRE (Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions) sent us recently a copy of the report to the Human Rights Council from the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing, Ms. Raquel Rolnik.  The report was released 9 March 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland.  The report's summary is presented below:  

The present report is the first one presented to the Human Rights Council by the new mandate holder, Raquel Rolnik, who took up her position on 1 May 2008. In view of the current crisis in the housing and financial sector, the Special Rapporteur decided to devote this thematic report to the consequences of certain economic, financial and housing policies and approaches that have seriously impacted the right to adequate housing in the past decades and have contributed to the present crisis.

The first chapter of the present report discusses the housing/mortgage and financial crisis. The second chapter relates these crises to prevalent economic, financial and housing policy approaches and their impact on the right to adequate housing. Within the context of the globalization of the housing and real estate finance markets and economic adjustment policies, cities have become unaffordable for inhabitants of lower-income -and increasingly middle-income - groups. In the majority of countries, the market has become the regulating institution, setting benchmarks for the price, location and availability of housing and land, as well as rental housing prices, while the role of the State in the management of public housing has generally decreased. This has contributed to strengthening the perception of housing as a mere commodity and a financial asset, neglecting other dimensions of the right to adequate housing and negatively impacting on the enjoyment of human rights for all.

The Special Rapporteur believes that these crises provide an opportunity to reflect on the current housing system and the adoption of a human rights-based approach, to introduce changes to make the system sustainable and allow the provision of adequate housing for all. She calls on the Council to consider the different issues tackled in the present report and gives a number of preliminary recommendations: the multiple dimensions of housing should be recognized; it should not be considered as a mere commodity or financial asset. The report argues that markets alone cannot provide adequate housing for all, and in some circumstances public intervention is needed.

The Special Rapporteur advocates the adoption of human rights-based public housing policies which support access to adequate housing by different means, including through alternatives to private mortgage and ownership-based housing systems, and through the development of new financial mechanisms and tenure arrangements. 
The work that COHRE does as well as by the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing and by the United Nations in general is invaluable in addressing a problem that is at the core of the poverty spectre that haunts the world's poor.  

COHRE's International Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland – the centre of the United Nation's human rights system. The International Secretariat acts as the coordinating office for all of COHRE's worldwide offices and activities and COHRE programmes. 

The COHRE International Secretariat office is located at 83 rue de Montbrillant, 1202 Geneva (directly opposite the UN High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR). 
Telephone: +41.22.734.1028, 
Fax: +41.22.733.8336. 

We should all support the UN Special Rapporteur's call for an "increase in public funding for housing and the construction of public housing, in order to address the impacts of the crisis in human settlements and the enjoyment of human rights."  Greater public funding for housing is a big step forward in asserting that every human family has the right to safe, adequate and decent housing.  

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