- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 3, 2009


The United Nations is fretting that the United States might be violating human rights by not providing adequate housing. To get to the bottom of the issue, the U.N. Human Rights Council has dispatched Brazilian architect and urban planner Raquel Rolnik, the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, to our shores. We apologize for being unwelcoming hosts, but she should go back from whence she came.

Miss Rolnik’s bureaucratic pity might be better targeted at her native Brazil, where 28.9 percent of the urban population lives in slums, according to the UN-HABITAT Global Urban Indicators database. Or China, where the rate is 32.8 percent. Or Kenya at 54.8 percent, Mozambique at 79.5 percent, or Sierra Leone, where 97 percent of people in cities are slum dwellers.

But instead, the U.N. is expending its limited time and resources on the United States, where the homeless population is a fraction of a percent, three-quarters of people below the poverty line live in homes with two or more bedrooms, and median square feet of living space per person in poverty is 91 percent of the national median, according to the 2007 American Housing Survey. This is not what you would call a human-rights nightmare.

Miss Rolnik’s mission fits well with the Obama administration’s objective to have government intrude on every aspect of American life. She promotes “really thinking out of the box” about housing, particularly by moving away from the American dream of individual homeownership and toward more collective solutions, including “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.”

She believes that the Obama administration should “face the basis, original basis, of the financial crisis,” which in her opinion 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.” Miss Rolnik might want to glance over a July 2009 report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform titled “The Role of Government Affordable Housing Policy in Creating the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.” This study found that government intervention in the marketplace to provide “affordable housing” played a significant role in creating the economic meltdown.

According to the House study, the government-backed corporations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “privatized their profits but socialized their risks, creating powerful incentives for them to act recklessly and exposing taxpayers to tremendous losses.” The government promoted dangerous lending policies that encouraged lower down payments, looser underwriting standards and higher leverage.” This malformed system created false incentives that produced “a nexus of vested interests - politicians, lenders and lobbyists - who profited from the ‘affordable’ housing market and acted to kill reforms.” In the long run, the government-imposed systemic contradictions were too much to bear, and “the ultimate effect was to create a mortgage tsunami that wrought devastation on the American people and economy.”

Miss Rolnik began her mission last week with a town-hall meeting with the homeless and housing-rights activists in New York City, and she will hold similar meetings in Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Washington, the Pine Ridge Indian reservation and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. She will report her findings to the U.N. General Assembly in March 2010. Miss Rolnik can be expected to deliver the same old tired socialistic rhetoric about public ownership and collective responsibility, sprinkled liberally with uncorroborated anecdotes and horror stories collected from her town meetings with radical pressure groups.

“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,” she said in explaining her investigation of America. “We know very well that changes will come only if people organize.” Miss Rolnik is assuming the role of a global community organizer, with the U.N. acting as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) on steroids. This is part of a gradual encroachment on American sovereignty. The United Nations should not be in the business of organizing radical American interest groups to stir up trouble within our borders.

The United Nations should stay out of U.S. domestic politics. The international body’s prescription for evermore government is not the cure-all this country needs. The U.S. government played a major role in causing the housing crisis; it will not provide the solution.



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