UCLG brings the voice of local and regional governments calling for human rights-based housing strategies at the UN Human Rights Council


“We are determined to put an end to privileges and change the regulatory framework. We must secure the Right to Housing as a key component of the Right to the City”.
Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona and co-chair of UCLG’s policy council on the right to the city.

On the 2nd of March, UCLG took part in the Human Rights Council session convened by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing in Geneva: “How to shift housing from a commodity to a human right”, focused on promoting human rights-based housing strategies at all levels of governments and to tackle worldwide housing commodification.

Launched at the Habitat III Conference in Quito in October 2016 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, the Office if the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and United Cities and Local Governments, the Shift campaign aims to foster a change of approach in regards to housing policies at all levels of governments, as a way to reclaim and realize the right to housing.

Indeed, the campaign stakeholders especially stress the need to promote a clear change of strategy in order to tackle housing commodification, both as a key condition for successfully achieving the 2030 global goals on housing (ensuring access to adequate housing for all (SDG 11.1) and to progressively achieve the full realization of the Right to adequate housing (New Urban Agenda) as well as to shift the approach on housing from considering it as place to park excess capital to a place to live in dignity.

At the Human Rights Council, UCLG shows how local governments are already engaged in carrying out the Shift 

The side-event focused on discussing the importance of the different spheres of government and their relationship when implementing the Shift. The discussions throughout the event focused on the importance of coordinating the efforts between the different spheres of government and national and international organizations as well as the obligations that all actors involved have when it comes to ensuring the right to housing.

“Our Cities are not for sale. Cities are not commodities. We call for greater regulation of the real-estate market, taxes and a greater responsibility of private actors.” Emilia Saiz, UCLG Secretary General

Secretary General Sáiz represented UCLG at the side-event as one of its panel participants. She brought the voice of local and regional governments committed with the Shift movement, and stressed the need to provide more competences and resources to local and regional governments worldwide to progressively fulfil the Right to Housing. Her intervention fell in line with UCLG’s commitment with the Right to the City and UCLG’s Policy Council on the Right to the City latest meeting on the occasion of Hangzhou’s World Council (which approved UCLG’s participation in the Shift).

In her intervention, Secretary General Sáiz stressed how we are facing a critical moment for housing, noting how this is a pressing issue not just for the North or the South, but worldwide. Homelessness is growing, even in wealthier countries, and there are over 100 million people who do not have access to housing worldwide.  

Over 1.6 billion People do not have access to adequate housing throughout the world and informal settlements are on the rise. Low- and middle-income households are consistently being priced out of their neighborhoods and it is becoming increasingly clear that commodification and gentrification are a matter which needs to be addressed by governments at all levels.

In order to fulfill the right to housing, which is a key part in the right to the city, Sáiz remarked how local governments still need tools which are out of their reach. Local and regional governments are committed to addressing housing issues, but cannot tackle them alone.

If local governments are to deliver a human-rights based approach to housing, she noted, local financing needs to be strengthened and local governments need capacities to develop inclusive urban planning strategies. Most of all, however, there needs to be an integrated approach towards housing and enhanced multi-level cooperation between different spheres of government in order to face the issue with a unified voice (which includes not just local, regional and national government but also non-governmental actors such as NGOs and private actors).

In her conclusion, Secretary Sáiz also recalled how the Right to Housing is a key condition for achieving the Right to the City. As housing cannot be understood as just just four walls and a roof over our heads, but as a home, the shift on housing must also embrace and understand it as a key condition for fulfilling all human rights and a vital starting point for the city’s full enjoyment.

Support The Shift on social media and share your housing rights actions using hashtag #MakeTheShift!

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