“Financial credit for homeownership is not an adequate solution for the world’s poor” – UN expert on housing

NEW YORK (2 November 2012) – Financial markets have taken over the housing sector, resulting in a detrimental effect on the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing, especially for the poor, UN Special Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik said today, urging governments to adopt broader policies and interventions for the housing sector.

“The ongoing worldwide housing crisis, in which there are millions of vacant houses and apartments and an alarming rise in foreclosures and homelessness, is the starkest evidence of the failure of housing finance to address the housing needs of all segments of society,” Ms. Rolnik said during the presentation of her annual report* to the UN General Assembly in New York.

Ms. Rolnik emphasized that housing finance policies based on credit are inherently discriminatory against lower-income households, exposing them to increased financial risks and pushing them further into debt and poverty. She also noted that “in many cases, housing finance policies have resulted in increasing inequalities in access to housing, increased tenure insecurity, poor location and low habitability, social segregation and, sometimes, increased homelessness.”

“Despite this clear evidence, I am extremely concerned to find, three years into the deepening financial and economic crises, that States are still promoting credit for individual homeownership as a “one-size-fits-all” solution, in both developing and developed countries,” warned the expert. “The provision of credit to finance a massive production of houses does not fulfill the multiple and interconnected elements of the right to adequate housing.”

“Instead of doing more of the same, States should promote more comprehensive and holistic housing policies and interventions, such as public investments in infrastructure and basic services, upgrading and rehabilitation of human settlements, public land and housing provision, rent regulation and collective and cooperative solutions,” said Ms. Rolnik, stressing that a mixture of tenure solutions, based on genuine and meaningful participation of those affected, is essential to shield the housing sector from economic and financial shocks.

“I call for a shift from housing policies based on the ‘financialization’ of housing to a human rights-based approach to housing, which can help us learn from past mistakes and promote the right to adequate housing for all,” Ms. Rolnik said.

Ms. Raquel Rolnik (Brazil) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2008. Ms. Rolnik is an architect and urban planner with extensive experience in the area of housing and urban policies. Learn more, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/housing/index.htm

(*) Read the full report of Special Rapporteur on housing: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N12/459/18/PDF/N1245918.pdf?OpenElement or http://www.un.org/en/ga/third/67/documentslist.shtml

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