In 2019, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Ms. Leilani Farha, published detailed guidelines to help governments establish the right to adequate housing. Not surprisingly, given the key role it plays in housing affordability, finance is a central theme in these guidelines.
For instance, both Guideline Numbers 4 and 12 address finance directly:
Guideline No. 4. Implement comprehensive strategies for the realization of the right to housing
• Housing strategies must identify the State’s obligations to be realized progressively, based on clear goals and timelines for achieving specific outcomes and the right to adequate housing for all in the shortest possible time
• Strategies should provide coherence and coordination in all relevant policy areas, particularly urban planning, land regulation, taxation and finance, social benefits, and services.
Guideline No. 12. Ensure the regulation of businesses in a manner consistent with state obligations and address the financialization of housing
States must regulate business in order to prevent investments having any negative impacts on the right to housing, including by:
• Preventing any privatization of public or social housing that would reduce the capacity of the State to ensure the right to adequate housing
• Maintaining a rental regulatory framework that preserves security of tenure and affordable housing for tenants, including through rent caps, controls or rent freezes where needed
• Imposing taxes on residential real estate and land speculation to curb the short-term resale of properties and on residential real estate left vacant.
These guidelines reflect emerging research on the impact of the financialization of housing – increasing the influence of financial markets and instruments on governments, housing systems, households and housing affordability. Since the completion of her term, the Special Rapporteur has established a global movement called “The Shift” (https://www.make-the-shift.org/), aiming to generate and amplify a global conversation on the right to housing. Some of the Special Rapporteur’s responses to financialization are explored later in this chapter.