Statement on the “Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda” for the informal hearings of stakeholders June 6 – 8 in New York


signatories of this statement are among the authors of the open letter dated 31
January 2016: “Make social
regulation of real estate markets an issue at Habitat III
”. Most of the
positions expressed in the following have been discussed among the networks
that supported that letter. However, the undersigning persons can only speak
for themselves and the indicated organization they represent.


remind the Habitat III Secretariat, Bureau and other drafters of the Habitat
III outcome document’s Zero Draft, as well as call upon all stakeholders to
take serious notice of the concerns of international and national networks and
organizations have addressed in their open letter: “Make social regulation of
real estate markets an issue at Habitat III” (again attached). With the
exception of two DGs of the European Commission, we are missing any official
response to our letter. Neither Habitat III officials nor governments have
responded. At the same time, some of our concerns have been reflected in the
outcomes of regional and thematic meetings, but not reflected in the Zero

still maintain since the beginning of the Habitat III process that what we need
is a New Habitat Agenda (not a narrower, divisive and inoperable “urban
agenda”). Such a reconsideration of the standing Habitat Agenda must
embody a commitment of the world community to global development that does not
put profit over people, but builds social rules for governments, property and
financial markets.

reading the Zero Draft, we can acknowledge progress in some principals and
proposed recommendations (see point 2 below). However, we are still missing
any systematic debate on the role of global financial markets,
consequences of the crisis or the growing role of transnational corporations,
private equity funds and securitization in housing and other real estate
markets. While we find some general recommendations regarding the regulation of
planning, construction and land registration, we do not find any reference to
the needed and possible instruments for social regulation of the private real
estate, mortgage and land markets. We are missing any specific recommendation
for rent control as a means toward ensuring security of tenure, as well as for
the protection of consumers and housing rights in loan agreements. While the
document recommends “mechanisms to capture the increase in land and property
value” and demands “fair taxation,” we would expect a much more-developed
strategy toward 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.

we agree to the recommendations toward a public supply of affordable land for
housing, we would like to see corresponding recommendations with regard to
public finance for housing. While we welcome the addressed need to shift from
the total dominance of private homeownership ideology toward an acknowledgement
of the role of rental housing and co-op solutions, we are disappointed not to
find clear language to support social public housing. What is principally
missing as well is a concrete proposal for the improvement of the living
conditions in non-authorized settlements, including the rights of tenants in
cases of regularization.

It seems that these deficits are the outcome of a principal
error, as well as an error of principle. The document generally does not
address the centrality of previous Habitat Agenda commitments to human rights
and of the corresponding obligations of states. This is particularly true for
the human right to adequate housing, which is enshrined in numerous treaties
and international instruments. The single, perfunctory mention of “the right to
adequate housing” in paragraph 28 is not sufficient.

The Zero Draft does recognize the New Agenda as relevant to
all the SDGs. This is especially important as at least six of the SDGs relate
to land and all involve local authorities and local governments. However, the Draft
does not explicitly align with the Sustainable Development Goal target 11.1
which promises “access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and
basic services and upgrade[d] slums by 2030.” It principally fails to adopt the
holistic and planetary approach of SDGs, inter alia, the commitment to
reduce inequality between countries.

The Zero Draft authors’ retreat from foregoing human rights
commitments leaves no wonder that we cannot find clear language prohibiting forced
in the text. Also the huge problems of corruption and of autocratic
governments, authoritarian and market driven urban transformations
, social
and ethnical cleansing
and many other discriminatory practices apparently
are not important enough to make it into the Zero Draft, despite their manifest
impediments to the human right to adequate housing and sustainable development
of human settlements at any scale. To wit, the Draft does not even recognize
the extraordinary challenge to human settlements and their sustainable
development posed by violent conflict, occupation and war, which form the
escalating reason and context for much destruction of indigenous human
settlements and demolitions of homes, confiscation and foreclosing of lands and
territorial waters, illegal extraction of natural resources, the plunder of
cultural and natural heritage, internal and external displacements, as well the
cause for tens of millions of migrants and refugees to seek safe alternatives
to live and, thus, heavily increase the housing demands in many countries,
foremost among them poor and developing ones.

In light of memorable and cyclical financial crises and other
recent revelations, the Zero Draft does not even meet the 20-year-standing
Habitat Agenda commitments to maintain just macroeconomic policies [Habitat
Agenda, paras. 40(a), 62, 65, 67(b) 115, 186(d), 189(b) and 201(b)]. The
pledged support for, and demands upon all spheres of government and public
service—under “Building the Urban Structure”—can be met only within a
responsible and transparent macroeconomic system that enables all spheres of
democratic governance simultaneously to combat corruption, including off-shore
tax havens, and properly allocate public resources in a context of
international cooperation whereby states fulfill their extraterritorial
obligations to each other, as well as to respect and protect the human rights
of all. However, the Zero Draft remains silent on these indispensable aspects
of the global economic order.

There will be no solution to the housing and urban crisis as
long as these distortions in the macroeconomic system prevail, while the dogma
of austerity rules in all spheres of government in many states. The envisaged
solutions to overcome the housing shortage remain dreamy without good global
, while requiring massive public funding and popular

The “radical” paradigm shift claimed in the Zero Draft does
not manifest in the current version. In some respects, it reads like a document
“out of time,” without acknowledging major impediments to sustainable human
settlement development witnessed in our daily news. The dominant macroeconomic
order and the impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity remain two
main challenges for a social and sustainable spatial development that call for
effective measures in Habitat III.


Nonetheless, in the Zero Draft of the mistitled “New
Urban Agenda,” we welcome, in particular, the following points:

It is an indicator of progress that the commitment to “leave
no one behind” (para. 6) now is expressed with respect to the global effort to
overcome poverty and urban inequity. However, the Zero Draft still misses an
opportunity to make the New Habitat Agenda relevant to the implementation of all
SDGs. The second principle “achieve sustainable and inclusive urban
prosperity and opportunities for all”
is a questionable outcome of the
narrowing of the Habitat Agenda, because the “prosperity” objective here is
reduced to

only the “urban” half of humanity and obviously purveys a
problematic economic vision of growth, especially in connection with

Other principles in section A are welcome; however, the
recommendations on implementation in section B generally could be more

We share the view that decision making and planning processes
need to be more participatory and democratic (7g, 8a, 9b, 23, 30, 44,
87, 102, etc.). We also share the view that strategic urban planning is a must
(104). However, urban planning is a public good and service integral to
realization of the human right to adequate housing. We would expect similar
recognition and more solid and specific commitments in the New Habitat Agenda.

We welcome some of the points in the statement on land (105–107),
in particular:

The combination of fiscal,
urban planning, and urban management tools, including land market regulations
to ensure the capture and distribution of the value created as a result
of the process of urbanization and avoid speculative practices (105).

The enhancement of the public
supply of affordable land for housing
, including land in the center and
consolidated areas of cities, and encourage mixed-income development to offset
segregation, to secure land tenure in informal settlements, and to
introduce efficient legal and technical systems to capture part of the land
value increment accruing from public investment (106).

Strong land management
that deal with land
registration and governance, implementing a transparent and efficient land use,
property registration, and sound financial system. (107).

However, we are worried that the protection of the commons
and of traditional land rights against commodification and land grabbing
are hardly mentioned.

We welcome the aim to put housing at the center of
strategies (109) and the mentioning of participatory planning
(108) in this regard. However, it should be clarified that the human right
to adequate housing
should be at the centre of the devlopment of human
settlments. Much more should be said on implementation.

It is encouraging that the Draft seems to overcome the
totally discredited private home ownership fetish
, and addresses rental and
cooperative housing, as well as community land trusts in 110: “We will
consider policies that promote a wide range of alternative housing options,
considering shifting from a predominantly private ownership to other rental and
tenure options, including cooperatives solutions such as co-housing and
community land trust, in order to improve the supply of affordable housing, as
well as to adopt policies that support incremental housing and slum/informal
settlements upgrading programs.”
This denotes real progress, even compared
to Habitat II, but it must be followed with lively and concrete action.

We are gratified to find language on the regulation of
in 111: “We will promote regulations within the housing
sector, including building codes, standards, development permits, land use
by-laws and ordinances, and planning regulations, ensuring quality and
habitability. In this regard, planning initiatives should avoid peripheral and
isolated mass housing schemes detached from the urban system.” It is
disappointing, however, that the regulation of financialized markets such as
mortgage, securitization, property transaction, corporate landlords and
developers is totally missing. Regarding mass housing, we propose more-positive
language, like: “guarantee the inclusion of new settlements into existing
spatial patterns and the social and physical infrastructure.”

We totally agree about the need to shift from
car-orientated policies
toward a massive increase in public transport,
walking and cycling, as well as the avoidance of transport needs through mixed
use and the inclusion of affordable housing (112).

We applaud the mention of the human right to water in
120. We had wished to find more references to human rights, where appropriate,
also regarding the human right to adequate housing.

We welcome also the aim to “implement specific
mechanisms to capture the increase in land and property value
generated by
public investments, including the increased value of residential and commercial
buildings brought about by provision of economic and social infrastructure and
quality public space. Measures will be put in place to prevent its solely
private capture as well as land speculations, by introducing fair taxation and
site and city-wide redistribution of gains with the aim to ensuring the
contribution of land owners to a more equitable urban development.”


We demand/expect:

The New Habitat Agenda (not “Urban Agenda”) must
propose a commitment of the world community to the idea of a global development
that does not put profit over people, but builds social rules for governments,
property and financial markets that guarantee the human right to adequate
housing and to all other services and infrastructures necessary for an adequate
standard of living and well-being. This in particular requires social
regulation of real estate markets at all levels and a provision of relevant
social alternatives to private home ownership, private landlords and private
finance. If the HIII process does not address the fundamental causes of
segregation, exclusion and inequality in human settlements or include
corrective measures, the subsequent Agenda will be another failure, squandering
so many precious resources.

The three transformative principles should be specified as:

(a) Social human rights as the driver of change toward
cities for all, which must stop exclusion and guarantee equal access to

(b) Well-being, human rights and an adequate standard of
living for all as international aims that result in state obligations toward
social regulation of markets and the provision of needed services and
the markets do not provide;

(c) Sustainable, resilient and social human settlements as a
binding commitment for integrated policies at all levels. We acknowledge
also that resilience, though a laudable pursuit, is not sufficient to prevent
or remedy the crises and their effects as addressed in the Zero Draft. While we
all share responsibility for sustainable development in the face of disaster
risk, many human-made crises and disasters demand accountability and liability
for harm caused by the commission or omission of responsible parties. In such
cases, resistance, reparations and remedy are the required measures to avoid,
resolve and deter the consequences of such crises and disasters of both cyclical
and protracted nature.

The New Habitat Agenda must include a clear commitment to the
right to stay put, which requires a principal of strengthening security
of tenancy and tenure
in its diverse forms in all countries. The global
community must call for a ban on evictions without proper established
safeguards, relocation in the same neighbourhood and respect all the human
rights. The New Habitat Agenda should remind all stakeholders that forced
eviction is a “gross violation of human rights, in particular the human right
to adequate housing” and subject to prosecution of perpetrators and reparation
for victims. It should include recommendations for the implemention of policies
for concrete alternatives.

Rent control must be
implemented for all tenants, for new rental agreements, as well as for sitting

Enforceable rights to adequate housing must be guaranteed by public institutions at different
levels, which implies concrete policies in order to empower public institutions
to uphold this human right in their relations to real estate and financial
markets. This applies in both urban and rural areas, since we observe the same
unfair trends affecting peasants and indigenous people, and not only city

In all countries, we need effective taxation of real
estate transactions
to reduce gentrification and speculation, and to
generate revenue for public-housing support. Vacant buildings should be subject
to special tax and penalty. Public requisition of empty buildings and squats
should be considered as legitimate for meeting social needs.

The New Habitat Agenda should express commitments to social
and collective (not only private-property-based) solutions for the regularisation
of non-authorized “spontaneous” neighbourhoods
. Tenants in “informal”
neighbourhoods and in the regularization processes must be respected as
citizens with equal human rights, not least the human right to adequate

Social housing needs never can be met by private markets
alone. People with low and medium income in all countries and cities need
structures of housing provision that do not pursue profit maximization, but are
directly dedicated to a social purpose. Therefore, the ongoing privatizations
of public and social housing, publically regulated housing finance, urban
planning and development must be stopped and reversed

There will be no solution to the housing and urban crisis as
long as the dogma of austerity rules policies at all levels. We need massive
public funding
in order to overcome housing shortage. Mindful that popular
housing solutions, by actual number of units, far outstrip both private and
public sector production combined, we urge the recognition of “state-supported
social production” that the Barcelona UTC on “Housing in the City We Need” has

Essential to the New Habitat Agenda are firm commitments with
respect to the rights of all workers, as well as inhabitants, to express,
organize, strike and collectively bargain and negotiate in order to achieve
collective solutions
. The New Habitat Agenda should recognize squatting,
rent strikes and other forms of peaceful protest and self-help as elements of
rights-based spatial development. This approach does not question, but
underlines and supports both the authority and obligation of constitutional
states to prevent and remedy all violations of the human right to housing.

signatories (drafting team) and contacts:

Knut Unger,
MieterInnenverein Witten (Witten Tenant Association) – Habitat Netz, Germany
Schillerstr. 13 – D-58452 Witten – Germany – Fax. +49(0)2302-77310 – Cell:

Joseph Schechla,
Housing and Land Rights Network – Habitat International Coalition
Cairo/Geneva/New Delhi Telefax: +20 (0)2 3748–6379 – Cell: +20 (0)122 347–5203

Cesare Ottolini,
global coordinator International Alliance of Inhabitants

* Click here to download the statement.