UN expert urges G20 to tackle global housing crisis
· “Collective amnesia” as to what started 2008 financial crisis
· Households are being evicted and priced-out of neighbourhoods
· G20 summit starts in Buenos Aires on 30 November
GENEVA (29 November 2018) – A UN expert has urged leaders of the world’s major economies meeting for the annual G20
summit to tackle the unresolved global housing crisis that is depriving millions of a basic human right.
“It seems that governments across the world are experiencing a collective amnesia as to what sparked the 2008 global
financial crisis. In 10 years, the G20 leaders have yet to address the housing crisis that was at the heart of the
financial crisis and that has only worsened since,” said Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing.
“One can hardly consider the world economy to be stable when millions of people in most G20 countries and elsewhere
struggle to find and maintain an adequate and affordable place to live, and one quarter of the world’s urban population
lives in informal settlements.”
She said economic instability was caused by a new global order which treated housing as a commodity and a financial
instrument to park, grow and leverage capital.
“The G20 leaders must ensure that financial actors and their governments are prevented from selling-off the human right
to housing to the highest bidder.”
The independent expert said rather than creating homes, housing is being built at the luxury end to satisfy investors –
who of course have no intention of living there. Residential real estate was now the world’s largest business valued at
an estimated US$163 trillion – more than twice the value of the world’s total GDP.
“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. As a consequence, low-income and increasingly middle-income households
are being evicted and priced-out of neighbourhoods,” Farha said.
The expert said apartments, flats and houses were not commodities like gold and oil. “Housing is a human right which
should be accessible to all,” she said. “Until it is understood as such, fair and sustainable development is
unachievable. It is high time that world leaders acknowledge the financial crisis was a housing crisis, made worse over
the past 10 years by the blind acceptance of the new economic order.”