Accelerated by neoliberal economic doctrine a paradigm shift in housing has occurred in recent years. There is a growing disconnect between housing as a human right and housing as a financial vehicle for investment. We’ve come a long way from FDR’s remarkable 1944 State of the Union address where he advocated for, “The right of every family to a decent home.” Today, housing is viewed by the global investor class as a commodity to be bought and sold in markets, a repository for capital and a means of accumulating wealth. Financialization of housing causes gentrification, undermines community, exacerbates inequality and contributes to the disgrace of homelessness. We need to develop and encourage politics that not only restores housing as a universal human right but makes it affordable as well.
Leilani Farha is the special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council. She was also the executive director of Canada Without Poverty, an NGO based in Ottawa. A human rights lawyer by training, she has worked for many years all over the world on the implementation of economic and social rights.