Housing as a Human Right

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Over 10 years ago, I uploaded a translated article "Housing as a Human Right." The emeritus Swiss professor Arnold Kunzli said housing as a human right is subverted by the right of speculation. In Switzerland and the US, yuppies can move in and jack up rental prices 300\%. Housing is a creative challenge, Professor Kunzli said, since we are not clams with our own built-in housing.


If we could change our thinking (our assumptions, norms, priorities and practices), we could be Cascadian and congratulate Vancouver B.C. for their computer-rail system, their senior housing, their 26-community centers and their city hall involvement in restoring rundown hotels etc. With a little humility and love for the future and for humanity, we could make fighting poverty, job creation, respecting the rights of nature and affordable housing our priorities. Thinking is the best way to travel (cf. Traffic).

The future should be anticipated and protected in the present, not extrapolated from the present (cf. Jurgen Moltmann) The alternative seems to be money creation for the rich, no counter-measures to gridlocked cities and splash boondoggles in Portland, e.g. the Orange line Max-to- nowhere and a 21-story on the Burnside bridge.

www.booktv.org, www.openculture.com, www.onthecommons.org, www.citizen.org, www.kickitover.org, www.foreffectivegov.org and www.nextnewdeal,net

demandside's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm


The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Signed, but never ratified by the U.S.

It includes:

Article 11

1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent.


Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Even if that statement had been ratified, it is unlikely that the government would step in and start financing more affordable housing and housing assistance programs. In the disability community, when the U.S. did not sign an international statement on the rights of the disabled, some advocates felt that the disabled did not need some high-sounding proclamation. Instead, they needed improved programs, resources, and opportunities to meet their pressing needs, which a human rights statement does not really guaranty or provide. In the U.S., there are many people who talk about the poor and working class -- or those who live in public housing -- in one-sided, stereotypical terms. Middle class people in this country often have the attitude that they live in a gated community, isolated from anyone who they consider to be inferior to themselves and possibly dangerous, even though most people do not live in gated communities. America has much more of a caste system than many middle class people understand. It takes experience, combined with statistical-based, empirical research on poverty and upward mobility, to fully understand this. When I posted comments about certain concerns regarding a federal housing program and agency, not one person bothered to chime in with a comment. Many of the so-called liberals on this site think that poverty, and the related issue of the housing crisis among those who are income-challeneged, is simply a matter to be read about on the Internet or discussed by intellectuals who talk in terms that are just as abstractly theoretical as are discussions by traditional, classical economists and conservative public policy types on the free market as the only solution. Complicated-sounding theories will not translate into what is needed in housing: more funding from a government that has deficit-financing, more regulation of landlords so they will participate, more innovative financing for new apartments and possibly construction methods that will both lower the cost of housing while attempting to make it more environmentally sound. Federal agencies rely largely on private, for-profit landlords to provide rental units. These property management companies typically have regular rent increases. Yet, despite these increases, the government tries to limit the amount of money that people can save for their own use, showing that the government is rather illogical. Those who often live on fixed or low incomes, such as the disabled, are discriminated against economically because the federal government does not take seriously enough its own civil rights laws, and, as Professor Robert Reich and others have pointed out, the government favors corporations, including property owners, over working class, poor, and even middle class people who cannot afford housing at today's prices. But one point that is lost on 1) the government and 2)progressives in the housing realm is that even when someone happens to be middle class or even upper middle class and is making a very good or above-average income, does that automatically mean that such a person wants the biggest, fanciest, most expensive home that he or she can afford to buy? If someone is doing o.k. financially, that does not always mean that they want to own a home. If they rent, they may not like having to pay as much as they are being charged for an apartment. Very often, more reasonably priced housing of any type is not available, except maybe in a run-down, dangerous neighborhood somewhere. Some people may not have the time for or don't want the expense of home maintenance. The attitude of people in government agencies is very impersonal and bureaucratic. I would venture to guess that many of not most of the people on this site have had only minimal exposure or contact with federal programs, especially in housing. HUD is a paternalistic agency. Their attitude is that they are all-knowing. The inconvenience and lack of privacy for those who live in only slightly more reasonable housing that is financed by the federal government makes life difficult for people, including those who may be disabled or ill and cannot always fill out forms and provide answers that are required. Our government, which has had people from both parties at various times in the majority in Congress or in control of the White House, just is inherently too intrusive and bureaucratic when it comes to helping people with housing. On the documentary on cancer produced by Ken Burns, Cancer: The Emperor of all Diseases, it was pointed out that a diagnosis of cancer often means financial ruin and bankruptcy for individuals and their families, even if they have insurance in many cases. In America, most things cost money, and sometimes, a lot of it. How can people meet their expenses if their housing costs are too high, or if the government is too involved with controlling the finances of low to moderate income people who cannot readily afford housing. If Americans are so humane, generous, and in, some cases, Christian, why is safe affordable housing out-of-reach for so many, including many disabled people? The government makes assumptions about people based on their station in life. The government doesn't much like our citizens if you see how they phrase things or how they talk to citizens who call. There is too much of Big Brother as depicted by George Orwell in his famous novel 1984 in government agencies and programs. Rich people, by way of contrast, often can use tax loopholes to lower their taxes, and critics point to corporate subsidizes. People looking at someone else's personal data are judgmental about what they say, even though they never will admit it. If someone is a low-income worker, it may be essential that he or she live relatively close to the workplace. If such a worker has to drive a long distance, the person may not be able to get to work on time or afford the costs of driving and maintaining car for a greater distance that is practicable. HUD things they can judge how people should live their lives if they cannot easily afford housing, even if they are disabled. They don't have any medical qualifications or expertise. In Utah, the approach being used is Housing First. Homeless drug addicts can be helped with housing without requiring that they first go into rehab and are clean. That is held out as a possibility which they probably will want to pursue, but does not prevent them from being able to be provided with affordable housing if and when available. Where do homeless people go when there are few emergency facilities, and those that exist may be overly strict or poorly run. This matter is part of the American Nightmare, which was the title of a book that is probably out-of-print by now.

Members of Congress have constituent assistance forms that include a release of information/permission to contact a government issue that you can fill out and sign. This is called casework, but it is considered to be of only limited effectiveness in resolving a problem or getting an agency to change its policies.

A current news story (10/2015) is that the governor of Hawaii has declared a state of emergency because Hawaii has more homeless people than any other state, constituting a crisis. Their are homeless encampments there, from what I heard mentioned. The report also said that the state is now going to try and address the problem. This begs the question, what took you so long, so that the problem developed to the point of having to declare a state of emergency?

Robindell's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

WBEZ, Chicago's public broadcasting radio station, has reported that certain landlords in Chicago are violating a city housing ordinance which requires that landlords do not discriminate against people who want to rent an apartment and who have a Housing Choice Voucher. An ad cited in Craig's List actually stated "no minorities," which is against the Fair Housing Act, in addition to not accepting anyone with a voucher. Many landlords declined to be interviewed by the station for the story, but some agree to talk, but did not want to be taped. They gave several reasons for not accepting renters with a voucher. The most common reasons may be that they incorrectly assume that they have to register with the housing authority to be able to take people with vouchers. There is a form that has to be filled out, but there no registration is required. Some landlords cited having to fill out the paperwork as a reason for violating the city's ordinance and not accepting holders of vouchers. Some said that the initital and annual housing inspections, which are required by HUD, were something that they did not want to have to go along with. If a problem is found with an apartment, the landlord would have to remedy the situation before the tenant would be allowed to rent the apartment, and some landlords apparently don't want to perform corrective maintenance. The reporter from the station who was on T.V. discussing the investigative report said that another reason behind the refusal by some to rent to people with vouchers, who are also sometimes still referred to Section 8 renters, is either that they don't like lower-income people because of stories they have heard or that, at least in the city of Chicago, about 88% of voucher holders are African-American. The reporter said that they found some black landlords who said that they would not rent to people with vouchers.

The city's Department of Human Services only has a limited number of housing investigators who can look into charges of refusing to rent to voucher holders, and many applicants do not complain when they are told that a landlord will not rent to them, because they are angry that the law is not being followed, and that the voucher expires in 90 days, and their priority is finding a place that will take them. The end result of this refusal to rent to people with vouchers often is that they are confined to certain neighborhoods which may be lower-income and predominately minority. In other jurisidictions, there usually is no local ordinance requiring that landlords rent to holders of housing vouchers, and Congress has not passed a similar law that would prevent people from being turned down on the basis of having a voucher. Chicago landlords are not required to accept anyone, but only that they cannot refuse to rent to someone just because they have a Housing Choice Voucher.

Robindell's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

The Thom Hartmann Program Newsletter Tuesday 21 January 2020

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