Habitat for people, not for profit! – Open letter against financialization of cities and for Human Rights in the New Habitat Agenda


“Building cities for people is only
possible with a clear commitment in public spending and popular participation”

This declaration is based on the identification of the
main lacks of the New Habitat
Agenda zero draft
related to the right to housing.

After recalling that the New Agenda needs to be an Habitat
Agenda, not only urban, by putting the right to housing at the centre of its
concerns, the letter’s writers state that the draft lacks of any systemic
debate on the growing role of transnational corporation, private equity funds
and securitization and other real estate markets in housing, among others,
regarding urban development. It neither includes any reference to the needed
tools for a social regulation of private real estate –and, specifically, to the
rent control as a mean for ensuring security of tenure and the right to
housing. Also, in terms of tax system, it would be needed a more developed
strategy towards an effective and fair taxation of property transactions and
rental income, in order to reduce speculation and gentrification and, at the
same time, redistribute resources into social housing needs.

The open letter also highlights the fact that the zero
draft does not address the centrality of previous Habitat Agendas’ commitments
to Human Rights and of the corresponding obligations of the States –and this is
particularly true regarding the right to housing, which is rooted in
international instruments for Human Rights compliance. In parallel, it is also
highlighted the fact that none of the Habitat III Agenda recommendations will
success as long as the current distortions in the macroeconomic system and the
austerity policies prevail: building cities for people is only possible with a
clear commitment in public spending and popular participation.

Towards a substantial paradigm shift

The letter acknowledges the important progresses included
in the zero draft, such as a strong tax system based on tools to capture the
wealth created by the city, the recognition of the right to water, the need for
creating substantive housing policies and the commitment for a sound system of
land’s governance. However, all this must result in a real “radical” paradigm shift
in urban development that the current text –although acknowledging it- does not
concrete, and have to face the dominant macroeconomic order and the impunity
for violent conflicts, occupations and wars, as well as inequalities. To this
end, the authors propose three main transformative principles to ensure this
paradigm shift:

human rights as the driver of change toward cities for all, which must stop
exclusion and guarantee equal access to resources;

human rights and an adequate standard of living for all as international aims
that result in states obligations towards social regulation of markets and the
provision of needed services and infrastructures the market do not provide;

resilient and social human settlements as a binding commitment for integrated
policies at all level.

You can read the whole open letter through this link.
It is also possible to access to the Mexico
Declaration on Local Finances and the Right to the City
, adopted on
March 2016, which includes recommendations for the New Habitat Agenda to
promote a reinforced local tax system to fight against financialization of

* Original