Right to Housing and Right to the City: cities from across the world come together to launch a common message

Make the shift HLPF

Last Sunday, 15 July, UCLG and its Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights co-organized a special session on the Right to Housing as a preview of the Local and Regional Governments’ Forum held in parallel to the High Level Political Forum (New York, 15-18 July), in partnership with the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

While national government representatives presented their commitments to implement SDG 11 in order to “achieve safe, sustainable and resilient cities” last week, member local governments of UCLG have come together to recall the crucial issue of housing and adopt an approach based on the Right to the City in order to realize this goal.

A joint declaration, Cities for Adequate Housing: Municipalist Declaration for the Right to Housing and the Right to the City”, was presented by Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau during last Sunday’s Special Session “#MaketheShift: Cities for the Right to Adequate Housing”. Mayor Colau recalled that housing must first and foremost be considered as a right, not a commodity, in order for cities to survive and to fulfill the human rights of its inhabitants.

Articulated around five axes, the Declaration aims to highlight the common challenges faced by cities around the world, such as the growth of informal settlements, socio-spatial segregation, financialization and real estate speculation, as well as the urgent need to put in place sound strategies for achieving:

  1. More powers for local authorities to better regulate the real estate market;
  2. More funds to improve public housing stock;
  3. More tools to co-produce alternative public-private and community-driven housing solutions;
  4. Urban planning schemes that combine adequate housing and quality neighborhoods that are both inclusive and sustainable;
  5. Municipalist cooperation in residential strategies.

The Mayors of Berlin, Montevideo, Madrid, Montreal, Strasbourg, the Vice-President of Plaine Commune and New York’s Deputy Mayor on district strategy took the floor to support this initiative and to share their visions on the basis of their own local experience. In particular, they stressed the importance of not leaving the housing issue to market rules alone, and defended the need for public intervention in order to guarantee dignified living conditions for all their inhabitants. They also emphasized the importance of promoting a rights-based approach in local action.

The representative of New York’s OHCHR office, the President of Habitat International Coalition (HIC), the Director of Cities Alliance and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing also took the floor, emphasizing the vital role of local governments and welcoming their unprecedented commitment to push forward for the Right to Housing at the global level. The Special Rapporteur also recalled the origins of her alliance with UCLG around the #MakeTheShift campaign. Since Habitat III, the Shift has worked on dveloping common voices around adequate housing at a global scale. The Director of World Enabled also emphasized the essential role of housing in building inclusive and accessible cities for all.

Closely interrelated with the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Agenda, this declaration also highlights the contribution of local governments and concretely raises the question of linking the international, national and local agendas. UCLG President Parks Tau supported the progressive realization of socio-economic rights and UCLG's Secretary General stressed the importance of cities being at the heart of development policies.

This special session was instrumental to reinforce and highlight a common message on behalf of UCLG’s member-local governments on the Right to Housing. While stressing the interdependence of human rights issues, cities and territories wished to frame local development in the broader context of the Right to the City, and expressed their willingness to continue to work together on these issues.

Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona and Co-President of UCLG, will present the Declaration of Cities for Adequate Housing on the occasion of the Local and Regional Governments’ Forum, to be held on 16 July at the United Nations Headquarters, rallying cities from all continents to fight against the housing crisis affecting urban dwellers around the world.

The cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Durban, Lisbon, London, Montreal, Montevideo, New York, Paris, Seoul, as well as the territories of the Metropolitan Region of Barcelona, Greater Manchester and the Plaine Commune have already joined the call of Barcelona for the right to adequate housing.

UCLG, alongside its Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights, invites its member cities and partners to take note of this initiative and express their support on social networks on 15 and 16 July using the hashtags #CitiesforHousing and #MaketheShift.