‘Collective amnesia’ over causes of global financial crash – human rights expert

World Bank/ Yuri Kozyrev Some of the state-built housing in Russia is in need of improvement (2007).

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

10 years on, governments are experiencing collective amnesia towards of one of the biggest factors behind the 2008 global financial crash –the housing crisis – which has not been addressed and is only getting worse, said Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, in a statement on Thursday.

Ms. Farha, an independent expert who is also Executive Director of the NGO Canada Without Poverty, released the statement as the leaders of the world’s leading industrialized countries gather in Argentina for the G20 meeting in the capital, Buenos Aires, which begins on Friday.

Even in these countries, which comprise the world’s wealthiest States, millions of people are struggling to find and maintain an adequate and affordable place to live, she said, and one quarter of the world’s urban population is living in “informal settlements.”

Ms. Farhi said that, against this backdrop, the world economy can hardly be considered stable, and that this instability is being caused by a “new global order” which treats housing as a commodity and a “financial instrument to park, grow and leverage capital.”

The Special Rapporteur called for the G20 to ensure that “financial actors and their governments are prevented from selling-off the human right to housing to the highest bidder”. She said it was key to ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing – one of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 11, which covers sustainable cities and communities.

The right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate housing, is recognized in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and has since been recognized, or referred to, in other international human rights treaties.

“Governments have actively encouraged – through tax structures, laws, policies and a lack of regulations – private financial actors to purchase large swathes of housing in ‘under-valued’ areas and to buy up foreclosed mortgages, affordable housing and even social housing stock”, said Ms. Farha.

“As a consequence, low-income and increasingly middle-income households are being evicted and priced-out of neighbourhoods,” she added.

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