Habitat International Coalition
Global network for the right to habitat and social justice
Not only Houses! Public Policies to Guarantee the Right to Housing for All
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Source: Habitat International Coalition

World Habitat Day

Every day, more and more voices are denouncing the same fact all around the world: we are living a global housing crisis that is not going to be solved using the same approach and promoting the same policies that are currently in place in most countries.

Every person needs a place to live; every human being has the right to adequate housing. However, according to official data, more than 100 million people are homeless; more than 1,500 million suffer from precarious housing conditions; dozens of million are forced to abandon their homes every year; and many more are afraid of not being able to pay their rent and mortgage every month, living under constant threat and insecurity.

"No Houses without People, No People without Houses is the rallying cry fromcommunities who see how real state speculation, corruption and entrepreneurial management of our cities and towns are dispossessing and expelling entire populations from their livelihoods. Transformed into a commodity, land is left to the whims of the market and private interests. The ethic of voracious profit and immediate personal benefit is being imposed over human dignity and caring of the planet for the present and future generations. Where has the meaning of the public sphere gone? Where are the public servants -responsible for the common good- being trained? Who is planning our territories and for whom?

It is clear that we cannot keep walking down the same path. A paradigm shift is urgent, to frame public policies for respecting and fulfilling the right to housing for all. It is not a dream, it is the governments`obligation, and our society has enough resources and the knowledge needed to achieve it.

But to make it happen, it isimperative to take into account fundamental elements that the international commitments have been pointing out for several decades, reaffirmed in the New Urban Agenda: urgently address homelessness; put an end to forced evictions and displacements; and guarantee the social function of property and the city, security of tenure, access to materials, services and infrastructure, affordable costs, habitability, priority attention to groups in vulnerable conditions, adequate location, cultural adequacy. And, above all, support decision making processes that are truly democratic and consider people’s needs and proposals.

The right to adequate housing implies much more than four walls and a roof; so understanding and addressing the housing deficit implies much more than building houses. In fact, the massive housing construction programs implemented during the past twenty years have had serious negative impacts (with severe social, economic and environmental consequences) and have produced even counterproductive results, considerably augmenting the empty housing stock that today reaches alarming levels.

At the same time, attention to the qualitative housing deficit -that in many cases represents the bigger obstacle to adequate housing- has been generally neglected. When they exist, the policies and programs to address it are mostly focused on physical improvement or in titling delivery, actions that are necessary but not sufficient.

It is also imperative to insist on the fact that housing rights and security of tenure are not the same, nor limited to individual property rights -a model that has been broadly promoted as the best and only one, resulting in a devastating mortgage crisis that is still evicting hundreds of thousands of people, both in the north and in the south.

It is not a novelty that also in this same period, we have witnessed massive privatization and selling of public/social housing stock, while production and regulation of rental housing has been far from being a priority. Simultaneously, the self-organized social production and management of habitat processes, accompanied bytremendous efforts by families and communities to access a place to live, are not being supported —on the contrary, they are usually blocked. The city made by the people is invisibilized, stigmatized and even criminalized, in the name of a certain kind of ‘legality’, ‘development’ and even ‘sustainability’ that only deepens inequality and social injustice.

It is fundamental that housing policies recognize and support a broad range of options and modalities for housing production and access to security of tenure, including rental and cooperative housing, possession and usage rights, and, in general, collective, communal and traditional forms, both in urban and rural areas.

On this World Habitat Day, UN-Habitat`s statement revolves on Housing Policies: Affordable Homes’. From the civil society organizations, the social movements, the profesional associations, the academic institutions and the activists, members and allies that constitute our network, we make an emphatic call for housing policies conceived from a human rights approach, and responsive to integral habitat issues; and for the definition of the needed mechanisms and instruments to implement them with our substantive participation.

Stop Speculation, Privatization and Savage Urban Development!

Right to Land and Right to Adequate Housing for All!

Lorena Zárate, HIC President

October 2, 2017

• Housing and Land Rights / Right to Adequate Housing   • Right to the City   

Habitat International Coalition
General Secretariat