Monday, October 26, 2009

UN Wants To Know If Lack of Affordable Housing In NYC Violates Human Rights

The New York Times has a curious report noting that the United Nations is looking into the question of whether a lack of affordable housing somehow violates human rights.
The United Nations has assigned an official, “a special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing,” to check the city’s affordable housing. The rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, is to tour the city for the next three days with housing advocates and city officials to “hear the voices of those who are suffering on the ground,” she said.

The United Nations Human Rights Council appoints a rapporteur, or independent experts, to investigate human rights conditions around the world. In the case of Ms. Rolnik, a professor of urban planning at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, her “mission” is to tour New York City and six other places in the United States and to report back to the United Nations General Assembly about housing rights violations and advances.

After that, “We send off letters to governments to ask, ‘Is this true? What’s going on?’ and to please intervene,” she said.

Housing advocates will be taking Ms. Rolnik to the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn to see the results of the government’s use of eminent domain to seize property; to the New York City Housing Authority’s Grant Houses in Harlem to see how public housing residents live; and to the Bronx to meet residents whose landlords are in foreclosure.
Base question here. Is there any law or justification anywhere saying that anyone has a right to live wherever they want, regardless of the cost to live there? New York City is an insanely expensive place to live.

I know.

I have lived and/or worked in New York City practically my entire life. Many of my friends live and work there.

We moved out of New York to New Jersey because it was marginally less expensive. Many others have done the same. Unless you're Rep. Charles Rangel, you don't have a guarantee on living in New York City in an affordable housing arrangement. Yet, the UN seems to think there's some kind of right being violated here.

New York City is expensive, but it hardly alone in large cities around the world that are insanely expensive to live in. Toyko, Moscow, London, and Paris - any large international city will be far more expensive than surrounding areas.

Throw in government policies that restrict housing construction, "affordable housing" laws and rules that limit rents that can be asked for which actually has the opposite effect of providing more affordable housing since those who build the properties don't see the kind of profit that makes such projects feasible in the first place, and it still doesn't rise to the level of a human rights violation.

No one is saying that a person has to live in New York (or any other expensive place to live). Even within New York, there are affordable corners of the city - you just have to look hard enough. Not everyone can afford to live on Park Avenue or the Upper West Side or Brooklyn Heights or Park Slope or any other desirable area in the City.

This is instead a witch hunt by the UN that will single out housing issues that are minor in comparison to problems seen elsewhere in the world - like say India or China where living conditions are deplorable - where lack of sanitation, clean air, potable water and other basic necessities are in short supply.

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