Not only Houses! Public Policies to Guarantee the Right to Housing for All


Every day, more
more voices are denouncing the same fact all around the world: we are living a global
housing crisis that is not going to be solved using the same approach and
promoting the same policies that are currently in place in most countries.

Every person needs a place to live;
every human being has the right to adequate housing. However, according to
official data, more than 100 million people are homeless; more than 1,500
million suffer from precarious housing condition
s; dozens of million are forced to abandon their homes every year; and many more are afraid of not being
able to pay their rent
every month,
living under constant threat and insecurity.

“No Houses without People,
People without Houses
is the rallying
see how real state speculation, corruption and
entrepreneurial management of our cities and towns are dispossessing and expelling
entire populations from their livelihoods. Transformed into
a commodity, land is left to the whims of
the market and private interests. The ethic of voracious profit and immediate
personal benefit is being imposed over human dignity and
caring of the planet for the present and future
generations. Where has the meaning of the public sphere gone? Where are the
public servants -responsible for the common good- being trained? Who is
planning our territories and for whom?

It is clear that we cannot keep walking down the same path. A paradigm shift is urgent, to frame public policies for
respecting and fulfilling the right to housing for all. It is not a dream, it
is the
and our society has enough resources and the knowledge
to achieve it.

But to make it happen, it isimperative to take into account fundamental
elements that
the international
commitments have been pointing out for several decades, reaffirmed
in the New Urban Agenda: urgently address
homelessness; put an end to forced evictions and displacements;
and guarantee the social function of property and the
, security of tenure, access to materials, services and
, affordable
, habitability, priority attention to groups in
vulnerable conditions
cultural adequacy. And, above all,
support decision making processes that are truly democratic and consider people’s
needs and proposals.

The right to adequate housing implies
much more than four walls and a roof; so understanding and addressing the
housing deficit implies much more than building houses. In fact,
the massive housing
construction programs implemented during the past twenty years have had serious negative
impacts (with severe social, economic and environmental consequences) and have
produced even counterproductive results, considerably augmenting the empty
housing stock that
today reaches

At the same time, attention to the
housing deficit
-that in many cases represents the bigger obstacle to adequate housing- has
neglected. When they exist, the policies and programs to address it are mostly
focused on physical improvement or in titling delivery,
actions that are necessary but not sufficient.

It is also imperative to insist on the fact that housing rights and
security of tenure are not the same, nor limited to individual property rights
-a model that has been broadly promoted as the best and only one, resulting in
a devastating mortgage crisis that is still evicting hundreds of thousand
s of people, both in the north and in the

It is not a novelty that also in this same period, we have witnessed massive privatization
and selling of public/social housing stock,
while production and regulation of rental housing has been far from being a
priority. Simultaneously, the self-organized social production and management
of habitat processes,
accompanied bytremendous efforts by families
and communities to access a place to live, are not being support
ed —on the contrary, they are usually blocked. The city made by the people is invisibilized, stigmatized and even criminalized, in the name of a certain kind of ‘legality’,
‘development’ and even ‘sustainability’ that only deepen
s inequality and social injustice.

It is fundamental that housing policies
recognize and support a broad range of
and modalities for housing
production and access to security of
tenure, including rental and cooperative housing,
and usage rights
, and, in general,
collective, communal and traditional forms, both in urban and rural areas.

On this World Habitat Day, UN-Habitat`s statement revolves on Housing Policies: Affordable
Homes’. From the civil society
organizations, the social movements, the profesional associations, the academic
institutions and the activists, members and allies that constitute our network,
we make an
for housing policies
conceived from a human rights
, and responsive to integral habitat issues; and
for the definition of the needed mechanisms and instruments to implement them with our substantive

Stop Speculation, Privatization
Savage Urban Development!

Right to Land and Right
Adequate Housing for All!

Lorena Zárate, HIC President

October 2, 2017