United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing Condemns Speculation
Leilani Farha, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, recently condemned real estate speculation, which plagues cities such as Montreal. “It became clear when I assumed this role a few years ago, that there was a major housing crisis worldwide. People could no longer afford to pay their rent. Some were being evicted from their homes and I wanted to understand why,” she explained in an interview with the Métro newspaper.
The reasons why big cities are less accessible to those with lower incomes may vary from one location to the next. However, the UN expert has identified one common denominator to the “crisis”: the role played by the financial sector.
Notably, she looked into the case of Blackstone, a U.S. investment firm which purchases affordable housing all over the world in order to profit from it by increasing its value. The corporation also has property assets in Montreal.
“[An investment corporation] locates properties, purchases them, renovates them, often only cosmetically, then increases the rents. And that’s what forces people to move out of their homes,” the UN expert notes. In her estimation, this often results in immediate rent hikes of up to 15 per cent.
“Investors then willingly allow those purchased units to remain vacant so that they can resell them at a higher price a few years later. They then become ‘financial assets.’ ‘It’s amazing how there’s this housing crisis with so many units remaining vacant,” she said.
On the island of Montreal, the most recent property assessment rolls show an average increase of 13.7 per cent in property value.
“We must change our conception of housing to ensure that people are provided access to it, particularly those with low incomes. Housing must be recognized as a human right,” she concludes.
(Quotes translated from original French by Renewal Update.)