The UN says residential displacement undermines human rights

Updated: Sep 16, 2019

“From mass forced evictions to make way for luxury developments, to nameless corporations purchasing real estate from remote boardrooms, to empty homes and people pushed out of their communities because they simply could not afford to live there…” –United Nations Human Rights Office of High Commissioner

The United Nations Human Rights Office could very well have been writing about Seattle’s housing market and locally elected leaders pushing displacement inducing upzones for our neighborhoods. In a recent press statement two UN agencies including it’s Human Rights Office announced release of a special report outlining the process whereby “existing neighborhoods located in ‘prime land’ are subject to evictions and displacement to make way for speculative investment. Residents are often rendered homeless, replaced by luxury housing…”  They went on to warn that governments have “human rights obligations to regulate investment in residential real estate so that it supports the right to adequate housing and in no way undermines it”.

As we’ve recently reported, according to the city’s own data, the great majority of sites subject to the recent ‘MHA’ city-wide upzoning and identified as “likely to be redeveloped” are concentrated in low income and minority neighborhoods.  Meanwhile, the most vocal supporters of those upzones, such as councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda have resisted attempts even to mitigate the effect of these upzones on existing low cost housing. Mosqueda has said in committee she doubts residential displacement even exists (see March 6th council land use committee video – begins about 35 minutes in).  Given their influence over several other councilmembers, Councilmember Herbold’s anti-displacement legislation requiring developers to replace “one-for-one” low cost housing they destroy currently has been placed on hold.

Meanwhile, Mosqueda and a few other councilmembers are rushing forward with still more upzones – this time for the University District.  The District 4 interim councilmember Pacheco also seems to be going along with the flow. These upzones threaten to displace dozens of small businesses and cause the loss several hundred units of low cost housing.  This is in a city where already there is a homeless crisis – directly attributable to displacement inducing redevelopment.

Since 2016 , over 2900 housing units – most lower density affordable rentals – have been torn down for market rate and luxury homes.  An even greater number of low cost rentals have been lost of speculative redevelopment – the buying and selling of residential properties and flipping by investors – driving up rents and forcing mass evictions.  Upzones simply encourage these trends and pour fuel on the fire. For every one unit of public or “social” housing the city produces, we lose 2-3 times that number to demolition and speculation; a direct by-product of conscious decisions by our electeds to upzone without any measures taken to prevent the displacement it causes.

So we’ll let you be the judge.  Read the attached summary of the UN’s press statement and if you have time read their full report: “Access to justice for the right to housing”.  Then tell us if the following statement is true or not:  By failing to regulate and instead turning our housing market into a haven for real estate investors, flippers, and developers…  our locally elected leaders are guilty of human rights violations.

"The UN says residential displacement undermines human rights"; By John V. Fox; Outside City Hall; July, 2019

Keywords: HousingCrisis

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