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The Urban Way

How can we and why do we need to house a billion people?

“Finding housing for a billion people, advocacy in public policy on land and housing." This is the new web page where we would like to show that the proposal to create Peoples' Funds for Land and Housing is an objective to which IAI has made a decisive commitment, as part of a broader and more integrated strategy.

The failure of the neoliberal perspective supported by UN-Habitat

We consider that the current public policies on land and housing, far from taking a helpful approach to the problem, consitute an obstacle to solving it. They not only fail to approach the problem with objective analysis of the most fundamental points, they ignore them completely. Sixteen years after the Habitat II Summit, and the implementation of its conclusions, the problem of housing throughout the world has worsened dramatically. The theories of the State as facilitator, support from private agents (supposedly more efficient according to the logic of subsidiarity) and the need to bring housing supply in line with demand through commercial banks and subsidiaries, that is, the neoliberal approach, have been a total failure. Reality has shown once again that the solution to the diverse and complex problem of housing cannot be left in the hands of those who conceive of it as a commercial transaction rather than as an opportunity for development and a fundamental human right. It's no accident that the problem of unpaid mortgage loans has been one of the factors which has led to the crisis in Europe and the U.S., a crisis which highlights the paradox of capitalism in many countries: an excess of housing, suddenly vacant, and an increase in the number of people without a roof over their heads.

In the same way, the system of microcredit has shown its limits and contradictions, often directing people's energy towards palliative solutions which have no impact on the political causes of the housing crisis.

Finding homes for a billion people requires policies based on a different paradigm

The challenge of housing over a billion people in the coming years requires a global rethink of the current policies, not only for land and housing, and solutions which are truly within the reach of a large majority of people. There is therefore an even more pressing need for policies based on a different paradigm to neoliberalism - the right to housing as a common good, social and environmental sustainability, the social function of property, and people's participation. We need policies which demand the use of public resources as a priority to meet this social commitment, a commitment made in law when governments ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Public resources should not be used, for example, to pay off external debt.

A proposal for joint work towards concrete political advocacy

IAI has initiated a process of reflection and debate which aims to contribute to this approach, by providing a useful tool for the convergence of the struggles and the proposals of inhabitants' social networks and organisations, i.e. the construction of the Urban and Community Way, a common space that was emphatically launched at the World Assembly of Inhabitants in 2011.

We began this work in Latin America and the Caribbean, taking an integrated approach based on the social movements. We hope to complete an analysis of the situation in each of the countries, to gain a concrete understanding of what needs to be done in each case, agree on a critical vision of current policies and research the main alternative experiences occuring in the region. With these materials and the active participation of popular organisations and networks, we would like to begin a clear and frank dialogue with the local and national authorities of each country, as well as multilateral organisations, and mobilise at regional level around a common agenda.

A call to join in the debate and coordinate proposals and the struggle

The Alliance considers that this initiative can and should be taken up, bringing together similar proposals from other regions and continents, because alternatives to the current status quo must be global, as the policies which are imposed on us are global.

We call on all the movements and organisations to stand up to this pressure and coordinate activities and struggles with unity and solidarity.

The World Assembly of Inhabitants, (WSF, Tunis, 26-30 March 2013) will be a first step towards this approach.

This page serves as part of this proposal. This is why its purpose is to offer debate, tools for the development of regional analysis, documentation and a bibliography to enrich our thought processes and our proposals, and materials for self-training in housing and habitat, which should be adapted to the reality of each country.


The Volunteer translator for housing rights without frontiers of IAI who has collaborated on the translation of this text was:

Juliette Rutherford


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