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Thanks to Aljazeera, we now have a link to Push: the global housing crisis, a documentary by award-winning director Fredrik Gertten. The project investigates why we can’t afford to live in our own cities anymore. Housing prices are skyrocketing in cities around the world. Incomes are not. This is not gentrification; it is “a different kind of monster”. Push sheds light on a new kind of faceless landlord, our increasingly unliveable cities and an escalating crisis that affects everyone.

In Harlem, New York, we meet a man who spends 90% of his income on a flat. Soon, the two-bedroom apartment will cost USD3,600 per month. His 1,700-unit housing project has just been bought by a huge private equity fund. In Barcelona, Ahmed and his family are the last left in their building where all other apartments are sealed off. The new owner has been pushing all of their neighbours out. In London, people talk about ‘bank boxes in the sky’; new condo buildings and flats sold at international fairs as investment pieces. Now many apartments in these shiny new buildings stand empty.

Enter Leilani Farha, of Ottawa, Canada. Leilani has just sent her children off to school when she receives an email with a startling graph. It shows the extreme difference between housing prices and wage development over a 20-year period. In the Greater Toronto Area, housing prices have increased at three times the rate of income. With a background in advocacy for the homeless, Leilani has for the past three years been the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, with the right to hold governments accountable if they don’t meet the human rights obligations in the UN Human Rights Charter. She believes that if we really want to make change to ensure people can live in the city – all people; rich, middle and poor, brown, black and white, young and old – then we have to be able to hold someone responsible for what is going on. Leilani wants to confront the very idea of what the experts call the “financialisation” of the housing market. “There’s a huge difference between housing as a commodity and gold as a commodity. Gold is not a human right, housing is”, says Farha.

‘Push’ follows Leilani Farha’s quest to understand the radical change that cities all over the world are now being confronted with. The main ‘monsters’featured in this 47:30 min documentary are Blackstone and Airbnb. As we wrote back in May, Blackstone (Australia) is headquartered in Sydney’s Macquarie Place and, since 2009, has grown from a single employee entity to boasting in yesterday’s Financial Review that they have hired Macquarie Group dealmaker Michael Blickstead as their senior managing director, “in a clear sign it wants to ramp up activity in Australia”. And, “the firm is understood to be moving into a larger office in Sydney next year.”Blackstone has AU$979 billion in assets under management including US$230 billion in real estate. Their Australian portfolio also includes a 9.9 per cent stake in casino operator Crown Resorts - today’s SMH: “…illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative.”

And as of 01 November, Airbnb and its ilk will have access to all housing across NSW, due to NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes.

Also in the AFR on Sunday was a report – Shambolic short-term rental rego process to decimate listings in NSW”. The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) says 19,00 properties have signed up, yet the Australian Short-Term Rental Association (ASTRA) estimates…there could be up to 80,000 short-term rentals in NSW in total. Quoted in the report are representatives from Expedia (Vrbo/Stayz), L’Abode, the Holiday Rental Specialists, HomeHost and ASTRA’s chairman Rob Jeffres. All complain and they are “fed up”. Jeffres is quoted as saying: “the process has been poorly managed by the Department of Planning, which made no effort to promote it (the registration process)”. One suspects the NSW DPIE is keeping this change in legislation quiet, for fear of a massive backlash from NSW residents most likely? Truth: most NSW residents have no idea what we are walking into. And the frustration of the short-term rental operators is nothing, compared to what’s felt by residents in neighbouring homes who are forced to tolerate these parasitic hotels’ penetration of their residential buildings and communities…and who were not interviewed by the Fin Review’s Martin Kelly for the article. Not only were opponents of the “illegal use of residential premises” not interviewed, their comments in relation to the article on the Financial Review and Commercial Real Estate on social media sites have been deleted.

ASTRA recently ran a webinar, featuring their 'professionals': Yoav Tourel from Guesty (ASTRA Board Member), Margaret Shannon, General Manager at the Tiona Investments (CEO Robert Jeffress), Zsuzsanna Handlesman who is Business Manager at Robert Jeffress Holdings, and Rob Jeffress (and noisy dog), Chair of ASTRA. Their chatter can be heard here.

Please, do yourself a favour; watch Push: The Global Housing Crisis.

#Right2Housing Homes not Hotels Communities not Transit Zones

People before Profits Neighbours not Strangers


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