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In the last few days, the U.S. government census figures have revealed that 1 in 2 Americans have fallen into poverty or are struggling to live on low incomes. Since 2007, banks have foreclosed around eight million homes. It is estimated that another eight to ten million homes will be foreclosed before the financial crisis is over. In addition, approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless, many of them veterans. It is worth noting that, at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.

The stark realities that persist mean that millions of families will be facing the holidays in temporary homes, or homes under threat, and far too many children will be wishing for an end to the uncertainty and distress their family is facing rather than an Xbox or Barbie doll.

Housing is a basic human need and a fundamental human right. Yet every day in the United States, banks are foreclosing on more than 10,000 mortgages and ordering evictions of individuals and families residing in foreclosed homes. The U.S. government’s steps to address the foreclosure crisis to date have been partial at best.

The depth and severity of the foreclosure crisis is a clear illustration of the urgent need for the U.S. government to put in place a system that respects, protects and fulfills human rights, including the right to housing. This includes implementing real protections to ensure that other actors, such as financial institutions, do not undermine or abuse human rights.

 

The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative along with Amnesty International are asking the U.S. to step up its efforts to address the foreclosure crisis, including by giving serious consideration to the growing call for a foreclosure moratorium and other forms of relief for those at risk, and establishing a housing finance system that fulfills human rights obligations.

One thought on “2011: 3.5 million homeless, 18.5 million vacant homes

  1. I’m from California, but recently moved to London… in the UK the local councils are legally required to provide anyone without a place to stay with one. The UK has a much stronger legacy of a welfare system then the US, and while the Reagan Thatcher era saw the privatization of large sections of the public house in the UK, there still remains a notable amount of public housing estates. There are models of public housing that work, but unfortunately the issue of housing in the US very quickly hits a ideological nerve that polarizes. But when confronted with the reality of such shocking statistics it doesn’t seem like a huge leap to imagine policy that would incentivize building owners to keep people in them. In other words policy that would still respect the idea of private ownership but would open doors in the process, something that a church going Republican could get behind. Just some random thoughts on the topic.

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