“More than a roof”: documentário mostra crise financeira e hipotecária nos Estados Unidos

No último dia 10, por ocasião do Dia Internacional dos Direitos Humanos, foi lançado o documentário “More than a roof” [Mais que um teto], que registrou a missão que realizei como Relatora da ONU para o Direito à Moradia Adequada, em 2009, aos Estados Unidos, no auge da crise financeira e hipotecária que afetou o país. O destaque do filme, sem dúvida, são os depoimentos de pessoas atingidas pela crise em diversas cidades e regiões.

Para além dos efeitos econômicos e financeiros, a crise atingiu em cheio as pessoas e suas condições de moradia, o que é muito pouco comentado quando se fala nesse assunto. A mobilização da sociedade civil que acompanhou a missão e produziu esse vídeo continua até hoje, acompanhando a situação, apresentando propostas alternativas de enfrentamento da crise e apoiando grupos e pessoas que têm seus direitos violados.

Produzido por NESRI (National Economical and Social Rights Initiative), CRNHR (Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights) e projeto Housing is a Human Right, o vídeo está agora disponível gratuitamente na Internet (apenas em inglês, sem legendas) e pode também ser adquirido em DVD.

Para mais informações, acesse o site morethanaroofmovement.org

More Than a Roof from NESRI on Vimeo.

Ocupe Wall Street: mais do que um bando de jovens desempregados contra banqueiros yuppies

Acabo de voltar de Nova York, onde além de apresentar um relatório à Assembleia Geral da ONU, como Relatora para o Direito à Moradia, tive a oportunidade de conhecer de perto o Ocupe Wall Street, um movimento de desobediência civil não violento, que questiona as formas hegemônicas de organização socioeconômica e de ação política nos Estados Unidos e no mundo, e que, há quase dois meses, ocupa a Liberty Plaza, bem em frente à Wall Street.

Liberty (Liberdade) é, na verdade, o antigo nome da Zuccotti Park, que foi retomado para representar o que o movimento pretende naquele lugar: mais do que um simples espaço de protesto, uma espécie de cidade dentro da cidade, estruturada a partir de princípios de solidariedade, respeito mútuo e tolerância, e da democracia direta, sem líderes nem comitê central. Para as milhares de pessoas participantes do movimento, o atual modelo econômico e político que gerou a crise financeira é responsável pelas “flagrantes injustiças perpetradas por 1% da população – elites econômicas e políticas – afetando a vida de todos nós, os 99%”.

Diariamente, entre 7h e 9h da noite, quem passa pela Liberty Plaza pode participar de uma Assembleia Geral em que as decisões sobre as estratégias do movimento são tomadas por consenso. Engana-se quem pensa que se trata apenas de um protesto contra os ganhos absurdos dos banqueiros e a não regulação do sistema financeiro. Embora esta questão esteja presente, os temas, pautas e ações vão mais além. Caminhando pela praça, encontrei os mais diversos grupos, com as mais diversas agendas sociais: coletivos feministas, grupos anarquistas, jovens, idosos, indígenas, brancos, negros, roqueiros tatuados da cabeça aos pés, religiosos, ambientalistas, entre tantos outros grupos, com causas individuais e coletivas das mais variadas.

Em um dos cantos da praça, há uma biblioteca com mais de dois mil volumes; em outro, há uma tenda de auxílio médico, onde médicos e enfermeiras voluntários mantêm um plantão de 24h. No meio da praça fica um microfone permanentemente aberto para quem quiser falar. As tarefas cotidianas são dividas entre os grupos de trabalho. Mais de duas mil refeições são distribuídas diariamente; artistas e designers trabalham na comunicação, grupos saem pelo metrô para convocar assembleias gerais nos subúrbios da cidade. E, em todo canto, há barracas, sacos de dormir e muita, muita gente.

Enraizado na história e nas tradições estadunidenses – sim os Estados Unidos não são apenas fast food, carrões e valentões – o Ocupe Wall Street retoma as lutas dos movimentos pelos direitos civis, do pacifismo e da contracultura dos anos 1970, passando pelas lutas antiglobalização em Seattle, no início dos anos 2000, com uma tremenda capacidade de organização e solidariedade da sociedade civil.

Apesar das tentativas da prefeitura de Nova York de acabar com o movimento e das ameaças da polícia, a ocupação física da praça não parece estar com os dias contados, nem muito menos sua influência, que, via internet, tem se multiplicado em marchas, ocupações-relâmpago e protestos em muitas outras cidades dos Estados Unidos e do mundo, como ocorreu no dia 15 de outubro.

Fotos: Lia Rolnik de Almeida

Texto originalmente publicado no Yahoo!Colunistas.

ONU encontra sem teto vítimas do sonho americano da casa própria

Reportagem publicada no site do jornal The Guardian, que inclusive foi manchete nesta quinta-feira!

UN investigator accuses US of shameful neglect of homeless

UN special rapporteur says wealthy US ignoring deepening homeless crisis while pumping billions into bank rescues

Chris McGreal in Los Angeles - Thursday 12 November 2009 15.12 GMT

Homeless man in California

A homeless man in California. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A United Nations special investigator who was blocked from visiting the US by the Bush administration has accused the American government of pouring billions of dollars into rescuing banks and big business while treating as “invisible” a deepening homeless crisis.

Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur for the right to adequate housing, who has just completed a seven-city tour of America, said it was shameful that a country as wealthy as the US was not spending more money on lifting its citizens out of homelessness and substandard, overcrowded housing.

“The housing crisis is invisible for many in the US,” she said. “I learned through this visit that real affordable housing and poverty is something that hasn’t been dealt with as an issue. Even if we talk about the financial crisis and government stepping in in order to promote economic recovery, there is no such help for the homeless.”

She added: “I think those who are suffering the most in this whole situation are the very poor, the low-income population. The burden is disproportionately on them and it’s of course disproportionately on African-Americans, on Latinos and immigrant communities, and on Native Americans.”

Rolnik toured Chicago, New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Wilkes-Barre, a Pennsylvania town where this year the first four sheriff sales – public auctions of seized property – in the county included 598 foreclosed properties. She also visited a Native American reservation.

The US government does not tally the numbers but interested organisations say that more than 3 million people were homeless at some point over the past year. The fastest growing segment of the homeless population is families with children, often single parents. On any given night in Los Angeles, about 17,000 parents and children are homeless. Most will be found a place in a shelter but many single men and women are forced to sleep on the streets.

Los Angeles, which is described as the homeless capital of America, has endured an 18-fold increase in housing foreclosures. Evictions from owned and rented homes have risen about tenfold, with 62,400 people forced out last year in Los Angeles county.

Welfare payments are not enough to meet the rent, let alone food and other necessities. A single person on welfare living in Los Angeles receives $221 (£133) a month – an amount that hasn’t changed in a decade. The rent for one room is typically nearly double that.

Rolnik said that while she saw difficult conditions in all the places she visited, the worst was on the Native American reservation of Pine Ridge in South Dakota.

“You see total hopelessness, despair, very bad conditions. Nothing I have seen in other cities compared to the physical condition of the housing at Pine Ridge. Nothing compared to the overcrowding. They’re not visible, they’re isolated, they’re far away. They’re just lost,” she said.

Rolnik says that one of the greatest matters of shame is that the US has the resources to provide decent housing for everyone.

“In the US, it’s feasible to provide adequate housing for all. You have a lot of money, a lot of dollars available. You have a lot of expertise. This is a perfect setting to really embrace housing as a human right,” she said.

Rolnik has given a verbal report to the US state department, which has a month to respond to her observations. She will submit a final written report to the UN human rights council early next year.

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UN meets homeless victims of American property dream

From New York to LA: UN human rights expert tours US hearing from subprime crisis victims

A home advertised for sale at a foreclosure auction in California

A home advertised for sale at a foreclosure auction in Pasadena, California. Photograph: Reed Saxon/AP

There were not many people packed in to the Los Angeles “town hall” meeting who had heard of the foreign woman with the unfamiliar title who had come to listen to their tales of plight. But many took it as a good sign that she had worried the last American government enough for it to keep her out of the country.

Deanne Weakly was among the first to the microphone. The 51-year-old estate agent told how a couple of years ago she was pulling in $80,000 (£48,000) a year from commissions selling homes in LA’s booming property market.

When the bottom fell out of the business with the foreclosure crisis, she lost her own house and ended up living on the streets in a city with more homeless than any other in America. She was sexually assaulted, harassed by the police and in despair.

She turned to the city and California state governments for help. “No one wanted to listen. They blame you for being homeless in the first place,” she said.

Others followed, recounting in English or Spanish, sometimes Korean, their personal crises. Some shouted their anger, others laboriously recounted details of losing homes, families forced into overcrowded shelters, life on the streets.

The United Nations special rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, listened to it all patiently, occasionally taking notes, nodding encouragement.

Rolnik had waited more than a year to tour cities across the US to prepare a report for the UN’s human rights council on America’s deepening housing crisis following the subprime mortgage debacle.

UN special rapporteurs are more often found investigating human rights in Sudan and Burundi or abuses of the Israeli occupation than exposing the underbelly of the American dream. George Bush’s administration blocked her visit, finding itself in the company of Cuba, Burma and North Korea in blocking a special rapporteur.

“I was asking for almost a year before I as allowed in,” Rolnik said.

When Barack Obama came to power she was welcomed to range across America talking to those who have lived on the streets for years and the newly homeless forced out by the foreclosure crisis.

Rolnik, a Brazilian urban planner and architect, said administration officials were genuinely interested in what she might find, if not embracing of her raison d’etre that everyone is entitled to a decent home.

Continuar lendo

O acesso à moradia adequada está na agenda dos Estados Unidos

Este é o press release final sobre a minha missão nos EUA como relatora da ONU. Um pequeno documento com recomendações e observações preliminares já foi divulgado e está disponível neste link, em inglês. Devo apresentar o relatório final sobre a missão em março, ao Conselho de Direitos Humanos da ONU.

Já voltei ao Brasil e estou com muita vontade de contar minhas impressões sobre os EUA! Devo fazer isso na quarta-feira que vem, 18, na Casa da Cidade (a confirmar). Aqui no blog, vamos voltar a falar das discussoes da nossa terrinha.

“Acesso à moradia adequada está na agenda dos Estados Unidos”, afirma especialista da ONU

A relatora especial da ONU para o direito à moradia adequada, Raquel Rolnik, declarou no final de sua missão oficial aos Estados Unidos que “milhões de americanos estão gastando altas parcelas de seu orçamento para pagar seus alugueis e hipotecas, enfrentam despejos e remoções e vivem em condições inadequadas”.

“O contingente de pessoas sem teto continua a se elevar, com um número crescente de famílias e indivíduos que acabam indo morar na rua” destacou a especialista da ONU, após visitar Washington DC, Nova York, Chicago, Nova Orleans, Los Angeles, Pacoima e a reserva indígena de Pine Ridge. “E a crise econômica exacerbou esta situação.”

Os EUA têm há muito tempo uma história de compromisso com moradia decente, segura e acessível, que remonta ao National Housing Act de 1934. Porém, certos grupos como minorias e indígenas não se beneficiaram de forma igualitária desta política.

Nas últimas décadas, fundos federais para moradia popular foram cortados, levando à diminuição do estoque e da qualidade da moradia subsidiada. Durante este período, foi empreendido grande esforço para redesenhar o sistema de aluguel e moradia pública nos Estados Unidos, frequentemente por meio da demolição de moradias públicas e construção de condomínios de renda mista. “Apesar de ser um objetivo positivo, a implementação de empreendimentos de renda mista em muitos casos tem como consequência o esvaziamento, práticas discriminatórias e redução do estoque de habitação adequada e acessível para moradores de baixa renda”, destacou Raquel.

A relatora observou que a nova administração está pensando de forma ampla e crítica para enfrentar e resolver a crise de moradia adequada no país e reverteu décadas de cortes orçamentários, destinando recursos adicionais para moradia. Porém, é necessário um arco mais amplo e efetivo de opções de moradia acessível, particularmente para os mais pobres. Raquel lembrou que durante o desenvolvimento e implementação dessas alternativas, os moradores e a comunidade devem ser parceiros no processo de planejamento e decisão, como estabelecido por tratados internacionais de direitos humanos.

Durante sua missão de 18 dias, a especialista da ONU se reuniu com o autoridades públicas federais, estaduais e locais, com o Departamento de Estado e com o Departamento de Moradia e Desenvolvimento Urbano (HUD, em inglês), entre outros.

Ela também participou de audiências públicas em todas as cidade visitada e se engajou em extensos debates com representantes de uma ativa rede de organizações não governamentais, centenas de moradores e pessoas em situação de rua. “Moradia é um direito humano”, foi a palavra de ordem mais ouvida durante esses encontros abertos.

A relatora especial agradece ao governo dos Estados Unidos pelo convite para realizar esta missão e aprecia a abertura e o apoio demonstrados.

Todo ser humano tem direito a um lar

Vídeo da coletiva de imprensa concedida na sede da ONU em NY na sexta, 23.

Enquanto todos estão discutindo ativamente a relação entre a crise financeira global e a redução do crédito, ninguém fala sobre o impacto da crise financeira no direito à moradia adequada.

As políticas de moradia foram construídas como iniciativas de bem-estar social na Europa e nos Estados Unidos. Porém, com a inversão desta política, pela primeira vez em um século pode-se observar a formação de favelas, a maioria habitada por imigrantes, nas periferias de cidades como Madri.

O primeiro passo foi reconhecer que existe um problema de moradia. Daqui para frente, serão necessárias políticas públicas para garantir que uma pessoa sem recursos tenha garantido seu direito à moradia digna. Vídeo completo disponível aqui.

UN housing expert talks to Hurricane Katrina survivors

Reportagem publicada na United Nations Radio.

By Jocelyne Sambira

Former residents of New Orleans and survivors of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina met with UN Housing Expert, Raquel Rolnik, on Thursday to share their testimonies and present the problems they face getting adequate housing.

Senior citizens, youth, veterans, immigration advocates came together at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City to meet with Raquel Rolnik who is conducting her first official visit to the United States.

At the town hall meeting, she was given a first hand account of house-related concerns people living in the United States have. She says while many government officials recognize the housing challenges, listening to community residents, she felt a sense of urgency.

“As a person I love the idea of having town hall meetings, that I can hear the people themselves. Here, you feel the radicality. When you talk with technicians, of course all of that it’s a little bit more diluted. But I’m happy to see that these issues that are here, today, I heard also in the meetings with city officials.”

During her two week tour, Ms. Rolnik will also visit Chicago, Pennsylvania, an Indian reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Washington, DC.

She will present her formal report on US efforts to protect the right to housing to the UN Human Rights Council next March.

Sound bites

“As a person I love the idea of having town hall meetings, that I can hear the people themselves. Here, you feel the radicality. When you talk with technicians, of course all of that it’s a little bit more diluted. But I’m happy to see that these issues that are here, today, I heard also in the meetings with city officials.”

“Well, the feeling is that we definitely need to have a discussion, open discussion and re-appraisal of housing policies. I think a lot has been done in this country. This country has a history of intervening in housing sector, of building public housing, or intervening in the homelessness sector on innovating programs like rent subsidizing and other schemes. But in a way I think that was stuck in some point now. And I think the way forward need to be discussed.”

U.N. Rapporteur For Housing Visits Tenants Facing Foreclosure In The Bronx

Reportagem publicada no blog The Village Voice.

By Aaron Howell

Right now she’s in New York. Runnin’ Scared caught up with her as she toured The Bronx, where tenants and organizers prepped her on what they described as the newest phenomena of housing woes, “predatory equity.”​ Followers of the Times‘ City Room blog may have seen that the United Nations has dispatched Raquel Rolnik (pictured), its Special Rapporteur for housing issues, to America. She’ll visit various U.S. cities on her trip, including Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans.

At an hour-long presentation at the Sedgwick Branch Library on University Avenue and 176th Street — a futuristic 90′s building that looks part space shuttle and part Star Wars, — the rapportuer was told that in a four-square-mile area of the North and South Bronx, six private equity firms have officially driven 2,738 apartment units into foreclosure or risk of foreclosure.

Cesar Guzman, who lives at a building formerly owned by Ocelot Capital Group, said when Ocelot officially “disappeared” — meaning they literally can’t be traced, they “packed up everything and left town” — they also left his 16-unit building in foreclosure and total disrepair, with things to this day “getting worse.”

Other tenants told the the rapporteur similar horror stories. Dina Levy, organizing and policy director for the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, who helped organize the tenants, found one common denominator in all these cases: buildings with over-leveraged mortgages that their rent revenues can’t support.

And when a building is over-leveraged, said Levy, the landlord inevitably fails to maintain it. “The landlords have these outrageous mortgage payments,” she said. “And they either have two choices: they can pay the mortgage, or they can fix the building.”

Every single building holding the 2,738 endangered or foreclosed units saw a dramatic increase in violations, going from a handful to over 200 in less than a year. For Guzman and many others, this meant no heat and no hot water last winter. (He told us he took a cold shower this morning because the boiler broke down — again.)

Before leaving the prep talk for her tour of a few of the foreclosed buildings, the rapporteur said she’d file reports with the City, the U.S. government and the U.N. But, she added, “I am glad to see that you tenants have organized. Nothing can ever replace people’s organizing. Without pushing from below and taking direct action, nothing ever changes.”

UN to look at U.S. housing conditions

Entrevista concedida à rádio Marketplace de Nova York, neste link. Para ouvir clique aqui.

BILL RADKE: A special envoy from the UN Commission on Human Rights is touring the United States this week and next to review housing conditions here. This is the first time a UN fact-finding mission has come to this country. From Washington, John Dimsdale tells us what the UN is looking for.


JOHN DIMSDALE: As the UN’s advocate for adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik is visiting seven U.S. cities — looking at foreclosure rates and the availability of low-income shelters. Usually UN housing rights advocates are in countries like Romania or Cambodia. But Rolnik says the housing crisis in the U.S. bears closer scrutiny.

RAQUEL ROLNIK: Because of the specific link between the financial crisis and the issue of housing and especially housing for low-income people, a great interest raised to the situation of the United States.

The UN Commission for Human Rights did not send her to investigate specific violations of housing policies.

ROLNIK: But indeed I have received complaints on the demolition of public housing and the situation of the people that became homeless or live in a precarious situation.

She’ll deliver a report on U.S. housing conditions in the spring — before her next investigation in either Laos or Indonesia.

In Washington I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

Exclusive: U.N. Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Speaks with the Indypendent

Entrevista publicada no The Indypendent neste link.

Last night, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Raquel Rolnick, kicked off her nationwide tour by hosting a town hall meeting with New Yorkers affected by the housing crisis.

To read more about the town hall meeting, click here.

Rolnick is a Brazilian architect and urban planner, and a professor at the University of Sao Paolo.  She is also the former Director of the Department of Planning for Sao Paolo, and from 2003-2007 served as the National Secretary for Urban Programs of the Brazilian Ministry of Cities.

After the event, I caught up with Rolnick for an exclusive interview about the housing crisis in the United States, the economic recession, and the Obama administration.

Alex Kane:  Explain the purpose of your trip.

Raquel Rolnick:  This is an official mission of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.  The Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing was appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in order to monitor the implementation of the right to adequate housing in the world.  And in order to do that, the instruments that the Special Rapporteur has as an independent expert, one of the instruments is doing fact-finding trips that we call missions, to different countries, in order to meet both with official government and non-government and community and see what’s going on in the country in this specific topic, the specific right to adequate housing and then report back to the Human Rights Council.

AK:  And when will that report back be?

RR:  I will present the full report next March 2010, in the meeting, in the next Human Rights Council meeting, where I’m supposed to report.  I report there once a year.  But before there, by the end of the meeting, I will do a very, very short, preliminary, two-pages, preliminary report, and I share that with the government, and after that, I issue a press release with key findings or key sentences, and that will be by the end of the mission, that will be on November 8.

AK:  What do you think the Obama administration should do to combat the housing crisis?

RR:  Well, I think one of the hopes that we have with the Obama administration is to face the basis, original basis, of the financial crisis, which is the failure of housing policies to address the issue of housing, and the radical shift from taking housing as a social issue into housing as a commodity and a financial asset, opening ground to sub-prime, and the whole thing in terms of predatory lending that came after that.  So I think it’s very important to do an evaluation of all that and retaking the path the United States had in the past, from the 30s and up to the 80s, taking housing as a human right.  And I hope the Obama administration will do that, but of course, the agenda for this government is huge.  Housing is one of the issues, but there are of course many others.

AK:  How has the global economic crisis exacerbated the housing crisis here?

RR:  Well, of course the fact that when you have economic crises, you have unemployment, you have increasing poverty, and that immediately exacerbates the housing crisis because more people cannot pay their rent anymore, more people cannot pay their mortgage anymore, and this is a vicious cycle.  So, of course the economic crisis, one of the aspects of the economic crisis, is exactly the housing crisis.

AK:  What do you think is the best way to hold the U.S. government accountable and to make housing as a human right a priority?

RR:  I think the best way to do that is really thinking out of the box, which means going out of the scheme one-size fits all, like home ownership is the path, the only solution, credit is the only solution, and taking the issue, and the complexity of the issue has, means having housing policies to address the different needs of different groups and different situations.  Combining rent schemes, subsidized rent schemes, with public housing, with other types of community development housing, and other types of schemes.  And of course, putting more priority on that in the government agenda and take that as a responsibility of the state.

AK:  You said earlier you met with members of the City Council and local government.  Who did you meet with exactly, and do you think anything will come out of those meetings?

RR:  Well, the meetings were much more for me to learn.  So, it was basically a meeting where I asked about the numbers, about the situation, about the structure, about how it functions, and how it works, what has been discussed.  So, I don’t expect any immediate outcome from this meeting.  The meetings, like today, were to inform me, basically, but now it’s there.

AK:  Did you meet with Mayor Bloomberg?

RR:  No, unfortunately.  I asked to meet him, I would love to meet Mayor Bloomberg, and I asked to meet him and all the mayors in the trip, but unfortunately I didn’t get a positive answer.

AK:  Last question:  What’s your final message to get out to everyone?

RR:  First, which is not so clear to everyone, adequate housing is a human right.  Second, today, now, it’s time to go forward, to implement that.  I think that few countries in the world have the conditions to do that.  And U.S. is one of them.

U.N. Housing Rapporteur Kicks Off U.S. Tour in New York City

Publicado no site The Indypendent neste link.

By Alex Kane

Public housing residents, victims of foreclosure, and homeless people gave testimony on New York City’s housing crisis Oct. 22 at a town hall meeting with the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Raquel Rolnick.

In what was often disturbing and emotional three-minute testimonies, New Yorkers shared stories of unscrupulous landlords, predatory equity firms, and a broken homeless shelter system with the Special Rapporteur, a Brazilian urban planner and architect.

“It’s time for America to look in the mirror and realize how land is a significant factor in the class struggle,” said Rob Robinson, the New York City chair for the U.N. visit and a housing organizer withPicture the Homeless.  “It’s time for America to abide by the Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  After all, housing is a human right.”

The town hall meeting, held at the Union Theological Seminary in Morningside Heights, kicked off Rolnick’s nationwide tour that will bring her from the rural community of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where the foreclosure crisis has hit hard, to New Orleans, Louisiana, where public housing has been demolished and privatized.  Her visit marks the first time a U.N. Special Rapporteur on Housing has visited the U.S.

In New York over the next two days, Rolnick will be visiting homes in foreclosure and public housing sites in Queens, the Bronx and Upper Manhattan, where she will be hosted by grassroots organizations.

The site visit to New York comes as the economic recession has only exacerbated the homeless and affordable housing crises in the city.  The homeless shelter population is at its highest level since the Great Depression, while the shortage of public housing continues to plague the area, with about 130,000 families on the waiting list for public housing.

Across the country, unemployment, poverty and homelessness continue to rise.

“I see this mission as an opportunity to open a dialogue, to open a movement, towards the achievement and implementation of the right to adequate housing,” said Rolnick, who was appointed to her post in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council.  “We know very well that changes will come only if people organize.”

Before the town hall meeting, Rolnick met with members of the New York City Council, and while in Washington, D.C., will meet with Housing and Urban Development and Obama administration officials.  The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty are coordinating the U.S. State Department approved trip around the country.

The New York City visit is being sponsored by a wide range of grassroots organizations from the five boroughs, including Good Old Lower East Side, the Coalition to Save HarlemMothers on the Move, and Organizing Asian Communities.

Cynthia Butts, a New York City Housing Authority resident in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, shared her story with Rolnick.  “If you come to Brooklyn, I will take you personally on a tour of Fort Greene.  I will explain to you the history of Fort Greene, and I will also show you the damage of Fort Greene,” said Butts, a member of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality.  “We have been displaced, we have been relocated…There are still empty, vacant apartments.  So who are you holding these apartments for?”  Fort Greene, like other neighborhoods in Brooklyn, has experienced a wave of gentrification in recent years.

At least 25 people testified in front of the Rapporteur, who will use the testimony, as well as information from site visits, to present a report to the U.S. government and the Human Rights Council next March.

“I am disgusted by the disinvestment [in public housing].  State, federal, where’s the money?” said Nova Strachan, a resident of Claremont Consolidated, a public housing site in the Bronx, and a Housing Justice staffer with Mothers on the Move.  “You know, you bailed out Wall Street, bail out the people.”

Brenda Stokely of the New York Solidarity Coalition for Katrina/Rita Survivors urged the audience to use the meeting and testimonies to build a housing justice movement.

“This is not the end, brothers and sisters.  This is just another beginning for how to build our movement,” she said.

Deu no New York Times: Moradia acessível? ONU envia olhar crítico para a habitação em Nova York

Reportagem publicada nesta sexta, 23, disponível neste link.

Raquel Rolnik

Michael Premo
Raquel Rolnik, United Nations special rapporteur, meets New Yorkers at a town hall meeting on Thursday.

Affordable? U.N. Puts a Questioning Eye on New York’s Housing

By Mike Reicher

Everybody knows New York City is an expensive place to live. But the United Nations wants to know if affordable housing is so tough to come by that it actually 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.

At a town hall meeting last night in Morningside Heights, residents wept and shouted at Ms. Rolnik. They complained about deteriorating public housing, the lack of housing subsidies for AIDS patients, landlord harassment and many other issues, large and small.

She told them: “I am representing the right of adequate housing as a human right.”

One advocate and resident of public housing, Agnes Rivera, wept after telling Ms. Rolnik that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg “doesn’t care about the poor.” Rob Robinson from Picture the Homeless, a local advocacy group, embraced Ms. Rivera and gazed toward the special rapporteur. Later, Ms. Rolnik hugged a resident herself.

“Affordable housing here is not that affordable,” said Ms. Rolnik, who studied urban history as a New York University doctoral student in the 1980s. Her eyes lit up when talking about inclusionary zoning and other city housing policies. New York is unusual, she pointed out, because it has a city-level obligation to ensure that homeless people have shelter. Now it should make affordable housing a priority, she said.

Ms. Rolnik was appointed as special rapporteur by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2008. This is her first official mission.

After her tour of New York City, she will survey the housing situations in Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Washington, a South Dakota Indian reservation, and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Her report to the General Assembly is planned for March.

Across the United States, residents may tell her the same stories as those of New Yorkers — of mortgage scams, too many luxury condos and the stigma associated with public housing.

“We have no one to help us,” said Delores Earley, 73, who said her landlord has been trying to push her out of her Harlem rent-stabilized apartment for 20 years. “Somebody has got to know.”

Começa minha missão nos EUA como relatora da ONU

Primeira missão oficial nos EUA de relator da ONU para o direito à moradia adequada começa nesta quinta (press release)

Os Estados Unidos recebem nesta quinta-feira, 22, a primeira missão de um relator especial da ONU para o direito à moradia adequada. A atual relatora, a urbanista brasileira Raquel Rolnik, estará no país até o dia 8 de novembro.

A missão visitará seis cidades – Nova York, Washington, Chicago, Nova Orleans, Wilkes-Barre, Los Angeles – e uma reserva indígena em South Dakota (Pine Ridge).

O objetivo da missão é observar as políticas habitacionais e a realização do direito à moradia adequada nos EUA. O setor de moradia foi o epicentro da recente crise hipotecária que levou muitos americanos para uma situação precária .

“Vou coletar informações sobre a realização do direito à moradia adequada nos EUA, com ênfase na moradia social, crise hipotecária e famílias sem teto”, afirma Raquel. “Os Estados Unidos vêm implementando uma variedade de programas e políticas visando à realização de moradia adequada para todos. Quero observar seu funcionamento e resultados sob uma perspectiva de direitos humanos”, disse.

A relatora se encontrará com representantes do governo federal e dos governos locais e se reunirá com diversas organizações comunitárias. Raquel dará uma coletiva de imprensa no dia 8 de novembro sobre a missão e apresentará, em março do próximo ano, um relatório ao Conselho de Direitos Humanos da ONU, sediado em Genebra.

Mudanças climáticas

Na sexta-feira, 23, a relatora apresentará um relatório na Assembleia Geral da ONU, em Nova York, sobre como as mudanças climáticas afetam de forma mais contundente a população pobre, moradora de assentamentos irregulares localizados em encostas e áreas alagáveis.

Para Raquel, os tratados sobre as mudanças climáticas precisam incluir alternativas para essa população e os países devem investir na urbanização e consolidação dos assentamentos irregulares para efetivar os direitos humanos e evitar maiores prejuízos.

Informações da missão

A agenda completa e outros materiais podem ser conferidos no blog não-oficial da missão, organizado pela sociedade civil (não expressa necessariamente as opiniões e posições da relatora).