UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Leaves the US, but not without criticism.
“Millions lack access to affordable and adequate housing in the U.S.”
WASHINGTON D.C. (8 November 2009) – The UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, warned at the end of her official visit to the United States of America that, “Millions of people in the U.S. are spending high percentages of their income to make their monthly rent and mortgage payment, face foreclosure or eviction, and live in overcrowded and substandard conditions.”
“The number of homeless continues to rise with increasing numbers of working families and individuals finding themselves on the streets,” highlighted the UN expert after visiting Washington DC , New York , Chicago , New Orleans , Los Angeles , Pacoima and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. “The economic crisis has exacerbated this situation.”
The U.S. has a longstanding and established history of commitment to decent, safe, and affordable housing, dating back to the National Housing Act of 1934, though certain groups such as minorities and Native Americans have not benefitted on an equal basis. Federal funding for low income housing has been cut over the past decades leading to decreased stock and quality of subsidized housing.
During this time, significant efforts have been taken to reshape the face of subsidized rental and public housing in the U.S., often demolishing public housing and promoting mixed income communities. “Though a good goal, implementation of mixed income developments in many cases leads to displacement, discriminatory practices and a reduction of the stock of affordable and adequate housing for low-income households,” stressed Ms. Rolnik.
Ms. Rolnik is pleased to note that the new Administration is thinking critically and broadly to confront and solve the affordable housing crisis in the country, reversing decades of budget cuts and proposing large additional budgetary resources to housing. A wider range of permanent options for affordable housing, particularly for the most vulnerable, is required. In designing and implementing these options, affected residents and community members should be partners in the planning and decision making process, as required by international human rights norms.
During her 18 day fact-finding mission, the UN expert met with senior Government officials at the local, state, and federal level, at the Department of State and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), among others. She held public town hall meetings in each city visited, and engaged in extensive discussions with many representatives from a strong network of non governmental organizations, hundreds of residents, and people experiencing homelessness. ‘Housing is a human right,’ was the rallying cry heard throughout these public meetings.
The Special Rapporteur is grateful to the government of the United States for inviting her to undertake this visit and appreciates the Administration’s openness and support, and welcomes its commitment to reform policies.
Raquel Rolnik (Brazil) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context by the United Nations Human Rights Council, in May 2008. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. An architect and urban planner, Rolnik has extensive experience in the area of the right to housing and urban policies.