June 2019 opened with major movements in Global Platform for the Right to the City (GPR2C) activities at the international scale. High on our agenda has been connecting the current international fight back against the financialisation of housing to local efforts towards securing a Right to the City for all, which was a recurrent theme in our participation at the CoHabitat Network Meeting, 2nd International Social Housing Festival, and GPR2C/Habitat International Coalition (HIC) European Assembly.

Note by Francis Clay, GPR2C Support Team

CoHabitat Network Meeting 2019 – Geneva

The month began with participation at the 2019 CoHabitat Meeting between May 31 and June 3 in Geneva, the convention of which saw an exchange of knowledge and experience over three themes: the planning of the CoHabitat Awards 2019; municipal led social housing projects; and the social initiatives that are driving the adoption of such vital works.

As well as workshops and discussions, the CoHabitat Assembly featured an inspiring visit to the Housing Cooperative Equilibre at Soubeyran, a collective that has been operating since 2005 and serves as a concrete example of a radical alternative to the present dominant modes of high capital that has come to dominate housing markets the world over. This visit was followed on June 3 by a roundtable Housing as a Commons, not a Commodity, which built on what was seen with the experience and present struggles of attendees including HIC, the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), GPR2C and urbaMonde.

2nd International Social Housing Festival – Lyon

From Geneva, GPR2C then travelled to Lyon to participate in the 2nd International Social Housing Festival between June 4 and June 8, a major international meeting of practitioners, politicians and social initiatives involved in the global struggle to bring affordable, social, and cooperative housing to the forefront. GPR2C and its allies were well represented at the event, and undoubtedly, the resounding chorus of the Festival called out that the financialisaton of housing is stripping people and communities of the right to build, govern, and inhabit their cities.

For GPR2C, the two highlights of the Festival were clear: The Roundtable discussion This Land is Whose Land held on June 6, and the HIC/GPR2C General European Assembly held on June 7. The Roundtable was divided into two sessions, the first outlining the challenges and realities of the financialisaton, featuring keynote speakers including the prolific academic Saskia Sassen, and GyorgySumeghly of Habitat for Humanity. Sassen drove home the message with resounding clarity that financialisaton is a driving factor behind urban and housing poverty. Sumeghly likewise turned the conversation towards the fact that for the peoples of the so-called ‘global south’, these struggles are compounded by a lengthy list of grievances; parallel formal and traditional land ownership rules, a lack of available data, and gender imbalances surrounding inheritance.

The second session of the Roundtable linked the first to concrete examples of local struggles in this arena. Alvaro Puertas, General Secretary of HIC, spoke of the effects of the housing financialisaton on the Right to Housing and Right to Land, making clear that implementing the Right to the City at all levels is the vital remedy to these issues; this being more so the case given that these issues are inescapably international, intersectional, and most acutely felt in the ‘global south’. Laura Colini of URBACT noted that municipalities need a key role in these struggles, with their research on housing in the urban fringe highlighting that the means of governance for land needs radical, practical reform globally for a solution to be found.

In sum, the Roundtable found stark contrast between responsible housing providers and the extractive nature of high capital; that housing financialisaton is borderless; and that communities are losing their Right to the City in favour of capital interests. The full report for the Roundtable can be read here.  [ http://www.housingeurope.eu/resource-1292/the-big-battle-of-our-times-against-financialization-of-land-and-housing ]

GPR2C/HIC European Assembly – Lyon

Coinciding with the Festival, June 7 saw the convention of the GPR2C/HIC European Assembly, featuring 36 participants including UCLG, urbaMonde, Habitat enMouvement, ObservatoriDESC, and more. As well as being an excellent opportunity to strengthen the networking of allies and members, and for new connections to be forged, the Assembly proved to be a vehicle through which a powerful critical voicecould be contributed to the ISHF. Irene EscorihuelaBlasco of ObservatoriDESC made clear that housing is presently the issue for local politics in much of the world; housing at the centre reconfigured the political landscape of Barcelona, leading to the election of the progressive Ada Colau there. Strategies were shared, such as including UCLG’s work to push for metropolitan governments to sign the Declaration of Cities for Adequate Housing (for which Lyon is not yet party), and the Housing for All European Citizens Initiative (see below). Alvaro Puertas made clear that, for all international efforts, local activism is essential. Examples of local action were shared from Marseille and Lyon, noting that international collaboration through events such as these facilitates collaboration.

Geneva and Lyon opened what is set to be a summer of major efforts on part of the GPR2C in global collaboration and struggle, for which they set the tone loud and clear: Financialisaton of housing is the common threat to the Right to the City and Right to Housing, and we must link together local struggles to a global push back.

Read the full report, in French, here: 20190607_Reunion GPR2C-HIC Europe_V3

European Citizens Initiative: Housing For All

GPR2C also participated in the launch of the European Citizens Initiative, Housing for All in France, on June 5 at the ISHF. Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, launched the initiative with a speech outlining the urgency, both material and moral, of a need to enshrine and implement housing as a Human Right: 82 million people across the continent are overburdened by housing costs, spending 40% or more of their income on their rent or mortgage alone. Social, cooperative, and affordable housing stocks have been stripped and sold to private interests leaving little to no options for those who need it. Homelessness is skyrocketing, while communities are being displaced from cities and hence their connections, livelihoods, and family homes. Due to real estate speculation by global investors people are being denied their Right to the City and Right to Housing.

We support this initiative in its entirety. Housing is a human right and not a commodity. We demand better EU legislation for affordable, public and social housing in Europe! Sign now: https://www.housingforall.eu/