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“Fewer housing opportunities for the world’s poor” – UN expert on housing

Statement by the Special Rapporteur on housing, Raquel Rolnik, on World Habitat Day

GENEVA (1st October 2012) – “Opportunities for whom?” asked the United Nations Special Rapporteur on housing, Raquel Rolnik, when assessing this year’s World Habitat Day theme ‘Changing cities, building opportunities.’

“The current ruling model of housing policies across the globe increasingly focuses on housing finance,” said Ms. Rolnik, noting that this pattern has proven to be detrimental to the realization of the right to adequate housing of the poor.

“Credit for housing ownership is not a ‘one-size-fit-all’ solution,” warned the human rights expert. “The ongoing worldwide housing crisis, in which millions of vacant houses and apartments coincide with 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.”

The Special Rapporteur stressed that housing finance policies based on credit are inherently discriminatory against lower-income households, and at their best increase housing affordability for middle-income groups.

“Subject to financial logic, the housing market has not led to adequate housing solutions for the poor,” Ms. Rolnik noted. “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.”

The Special Rapporteur, who in the last four years has examined the impact of prevalent housing finance policies in both developing and developed countries of the world, underscored that such strategies “have largely failed to promote access to adequate housing for the poor.” She describes these findings in a report to be presented to the UN General Assembly at the end of this month.

“I take this opportunity on World Habitat Day to call for a shift from housing policies based on the financialization of housing to a human rights-based approach to housing policies, which can foster real opportunities 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

For more information and media requests, please contact Lidia Rabinovich (+41 22 917 9763 / ravinovich@ohchr.org) or write to srhousing@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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