Growing privatization of property among reasons driving homelessness, UN rights expert says

11 May 2005

The growing privatization of property and increased land speculation were among the driving forces behind the 1.6 billion inadequately housed people across the world, including an estimated 100 million who are completely homeless, a United Nations human rights monitor said today.

Miloon Kothari, the UN Human Rights Commission's Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said inequality in global land ownership was a rising trend, and cited recent figures which showed that a mere 2.5 per cent of landowners controlled nearly three-quarters of all private land.

The main concern was a phenomenon of "urban apartheid" taking place across the world, partly due to an urban gentrification process – seen very strongly in New York City – and a colossal gap in the supply of formal-sector housing, he told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.

He also noted a trend across the globe towards reducing public housing expenditures and subsidies, pointing to, as an example, a $28 billion drop between 1976 and 2002 in the budget authority for federal housing assistance in the United States.

Mr. Kothari said there was also a lack of legal provisions to enable communities to inhabit or own land as well as a growing tendency to criminalize the homeless and the landless. His annual report to the Commission contained recommendations concerning the need for States to apply diligently their human rights obligations and to control land speculation and land mafias and cartels operating across the world.

He also referring to a progress report he had presented to the Commission concerning a global study on women, housing and land, and said that lack of secure tenure, information and affordable social services, as well as discriminatory cultural and traditional practices were among the critical factors affecting women's right to adequate housing and land.

There also was a very clear link between violence against women and their lack of adequate housing, he added. As for discrimination, there was a culture of silence regarding women's rights to housing, land, property and inheritance. Even where there was growing constitutional recognition of those rights, customs and traditions were normally dominant.

 

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