Leilani Farha is the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.
Toronto’s overheated housing market is now being called a crisis, and evidence has been offered to support wildly divergent opinions on its causes. Some suggest it’s a problem of unprecedented demand for housing; others say it’s all about lack of sufficient supply. I’d like to suggest it’s neither.
What’s happening in Toronto is not new, it’s a phenomenon seen elsewhere – in Vancouver and places across the globe such as Hong Kong, London, New York, Singapore, Sydney, and Stockholm. Vancouverite and urban planner Andy Yan has termed them “hedge cities” – places that offer us insight into the heart of the matter.
Housing is now predominantly valued as a commodity, traded and sold on markets, promoted and invested in as a secure place to park unprecedented amounts of excess capital. The view of housing as a human dwelling, a place to raise families and thrive within a community, has largely been eroded. Despite its firm place in international human rights law, housing has lost its currency as a human right.
In Toronto, Vancouver and elsewhere, residential and commercial real estate have become the “commodity of choice” for corporate finance, and the uber rich. Global residential real estate is now valued at $163-trillion (U.S.), more than twice the world’s total GDP. In Canada in 2016, real estate represented the third-largest segment of our economy but accounted for half the country’s GDP growth.
The consequences of placing the interests of investors before human rights are stark.
In hedge cities, housing prices have increased to levels that moderate- and low-income…
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