April 3, 2017

Financial speculation has led to an “unsustainable” global housing crisis, according to the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right to housing.

In her latest report on global housing need, Leilani Farha said the world’s money markets have priced people out of cities, with speculators treating housing as a “place to park capital”.

She stated: “Housing has lost its social function and is seen instead as a vehicle for wealth and asset growth. It has become a financial commodity, robbed of its connection to community, dignity and the idea of home.”
The report, presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, highlighted the total value of the global housing market was $163 trillion, the equivalent of more than twice the world’s total economy.

Farha urged governments to better regulate “private actors” in the housing market, and the introduction of stronger rights-based frameworks for homes to prevent blatant violations of human rights.

“The financial world has essentially operated without any consideration of housing as a human right and states are complicit: they have supported financial markets in a way that has made housing unaffordable for most residents,” she stated.

The review highlighted that global investors had not been “scared off” by social housing requirement for developments in the city. Other examples of government action highlighted in the review include a 1% levy on the value of vacant homes in Vancouver, which is intended to contribute to low-income accommodation.

Governments must hold those in the housing market accountable, Farha concluded.

“Government accountability to international human rights obligations has been replaced with accountability to markets and investors.”

Special rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation.