The Commodification of Housing in London and the Right to Housing and to the City (June 2020)

  • There’s No Place Like Home: The Commodification of Housing in London and Its Effects on the Right to Housing and to the City

  • By Melissa Ozer. Published as a King's College London Law School Graduate Student Research Paper on 25 June 2020

  • Abstract:

    • In London and in other global cities, housing is becoming increasingly commodified and regarded as an asset, rather than a social good. This has led to worsening affordability and a decrease in the supply of social housing in London. As a result, there has been increased displacement and exclusion of people from the city.

    • While the right to housing is a fundamental human right that ensures our ability to live a dignified and free life, I argue that as it is understood in international human rights law, it inadequately responds to commoditised housing and financialised housing markets.

    • I advocate for a more ambitious understanding of the right to housing which incorporates ideas from the “right to the city” concept developed in urban studies.

    • The right to the city is more critical of political and economic processes that have created exclusive cities and thus draws attention to the causes of the crisis, rather than concentrating on the symptoms.

    • Its focus goes beyond the physical structure of a house and asserts people should have a place in their cities and a say in how their cities are shaped.

    • To achieve this, fundamental changes are required at the national level, through increased welfare provision and supply of social housing, as well as taxation to manage demand. While these are necessary measures, the right to the city encourages a shift away from a focus on the State towards imagining the city’s potential.

    • I argue cities should play a more pivotal role in protecting the right to housing. National governments and the international human rights community need to recognise this and help cities achieve their potential.

  • Keywords: London, England, UK, housing crisis, financialisation, financialization, corporate landlords, investment funds, investment banks, right to housing, right to the city

This paper is interesting because it takes a pragmatic approach to the legal point of view and argues that "the right to housing" as understood in human rights law is not an appropriate tool to respond to the financialisation of housing. Instead, the author argues that the concept of "right to the city" might help to push for more appropriate regulatory tools at the local level to respond to the financialisation of housing.