Housing markets led to homelessness: the human right to housing

This is a transcription/translation of Raquel Rolnik’s talk in Barcelona for the people affected by the recent wave of evictions (PAH -Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca). Related to that, we have already exposed the emerging issue of the new landless and homeless people in Greece and the ‘developed’ world.

UN special rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, visited Barcelona and had talks with social movements about one of the basic Human Rights,  the Right to Housing.

She explained to the public that the current bubble of the estate agencies has transformed the human right to housing from a social policy to a commodity. Houses were considered as a product, which then became a financial product. This problem is not local, it is international; it is maybe the first gun pointing straight on the nape of the neck.

People were forced to buy houses and to have access to money and banks offered a credit. This was just because there was a surplus of capital in the international market, so the market needed to get quick benefits.

As everyone needs a house to live, the narrative was easy to spread; besides that the construction of houses was promoted as a way to create jobs and dynamize the economy. The fraud was perfectly orchestrated. However, this discourse fits the logic of finance but the basic human rights. They offered private housing as the only solution to the need of house, avoiding other possibilities like cooperatives, protected rents etc.. By this way the human right to housing was abandoned by governments, which gave the banks the power to resolve this social need.

The massive access to private houses produced a huge financial revalorisation of properties, increasing their prices. So what before was valued as 100 was being sold as 400. But when the crisis started the prices came back to the previous situation, 100, but the banks reclaimed 400 as their logic is always to win. [Editors note: let us not forget that this crisis started with the sub-prime market in the US mortgage business]. As the financial system is globally interlinked with credits sourced everywhere, this crisis was bound to spread to many parts of the world.

There is a necessity to face the housing problem as a collective issue, not as an individual situation. This is a social, collective and political problem at the global scale. We can find this situation worldwide in USA, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Spain, etc. So we need to come back to housing as a human social right by considering options like common property or rent – but without exposing people to risks. Because when the financial bubble exploded the problem was directed to the people not to the banks.

People have to keep on fighting collectively to stop evictions. The right to house is an International Human Right, so those policies from countries that do not respect this right are illegal and they need an urgent radical reform.

So do not panic – Rolin is telling us- because this situation is an opportunity to publically show that the paradigm of the housing mercantilisation (commodification), as dominant during the last 20 years,  has been a total failure. This is the moment to change the policies.

It is the moment for a reflexive movement and collective action to achieve an international change. It is the moment to reverse the situation, to organize and fight together, and raise our voices.

Rolink promised that next report on Financial Crisis and Rights to Housing, which will be presented at the General Assembly of United Nations on October 2012 will be inspired by these structural questions.

- Chamo

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Read also:

Crisis or fraud? Spain: “They call it crisis, we call it Capitalism”

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