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Habitat for People

Message to Surabaya: Positive commitments of Habitat III will remain wishful thinking

Members of the “international working group for the promotion of market regulation and market alternatives at Habitat III” have reminded the currently ongoing prepcom in Surabaya, that the new draft of the “New Urban Agenda” still is totally is ignoring the economic frames of the global housing crisis.  “Without addressing the global economic frames of spatial developments well sounding commitments like ‘ending poverty’ or ‘integrated urban management’ will remain wishful thinking”, the authors say in their message.

Dear participants of the Habitat III prepcom in Surabaya!

We are writing to you as members of the international working group for the promotion of market regulation and market alternatives at Habitat III. Earlier, we published these two open letters on the Habitat III preparation.

In the new draft of the “New Urban Agenda”, which you are discussing in Surabaya, we appreciate the stronger focus on “ending poverty in all forms”, which in particular was achieved by some change in wording and a regrouping of content in section A. In this context we also welcome the prominent position of the human right to adequate housing and the focus on housing policies. We very much hope that these commitments will remain in the final document and thus can build a basis for further progress in achieving human settlements for all.

At the same time it is a really scandal that the document still keeps totally silent about the development of globalized markets, its crisis and all related economics. It fundamentally fails to address the needs to regulate financial and property markets, private corporations and the relations between the national economies at a global scale. It does not mention necessary instruments like rent control, taxation of transactions and private insolvency. We find nothing about the mortgage and housing crisis since 2007, nothing about public and municipal debt and poverty as a consequence of structural adjustment programs, privatisation and austerity.

We welcome that point 97 mentions building codes and deals with urban planning. But it is really shocking to find nothing about the necessary transnational regulation of mortgage securitisation, real estate private equity, REITs and land grabbing. It is a real progress that point 94 supports a shift from private homeowner policies to rental housing and market alternatives.  But without addressing the global financial this hardly will create more than a playground.

Without addressing the global economic frames of spatial developments well sounding “commitments” like “ending poverty” or “integrated urban management” will remain wishful thinking. We fear that Habitat III will produce nothing but hot air. The repetition of well- known “urbanist” phrases will have no real impact on the global spatial development.

sincerely
Knut Unger, Witten Tenants Associations, Habitat Net, Germany, knut.unger at habitat-netz.de
Varghese Theckanath, Campaign for Housing and Tenurial Rights/MSI, India, vtheckanathsg at gmail.com
Cesare Ottollini, International Alliance of Inhabitants, global.coordinator.iai at habitants.org
Laurent Muntlak, Association des Comités de Défense des Locataires), Paris, France, laurent.muntlak at wanadoo.fr

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