What do rights mean in an urban context? Does righting the city require the (re)inscription of individual or collective rights within a legal framework? Take for instance, the right to housing which has been enshrined in international law under the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as a right to “live somewhere in security, peace and dignity.” At first glance, this statement would appear to convey a purely humanistic demand for the universal possibility of decent living conditions. In actual fact, however, the 4th edition of the Committee (1991) codifies these rights as security of tenure, the right to private use of one’s property, and protection from unlawful eviction. The potentially ethical or even socio-economic problem of adequate housing is immediately placed within the clearly identifiable legal boundaries of property right and real estate. It concerns not so much the universal right to housing, in a broadly humanist sense, as the right to become either a property owner or tenant, in the strict legal sense.
On the surface of it, this might not be such a bad proposition. Properly formulated housing regulations, including protections for renters and alleviation of ground rents, are certainly one means to a more just distribution of urban space. Recent high-profile examples include the (short-lived) victory of renters in Berlin to impose caps on rent increases. The fact that this initiative was so quickly defeated points to a broader problem in the recourse to legal instruments in confronting property and capital insofar as the latter exerts such imposing mastery over the instruments themselves, created as they were to enshrine and protect property.
THE URBAN TRANSCRIPTS JOURNAL
VOLUME 5, NO. 1 / JAN-JUN 2022
Righting the City
Mapping Democracy: A Tale of Two Capitals
The Fine Line Between Protection and Citizen Control in Beirut
Kamila Bak, Rita Berisha and Anna-Maria Grimm
The Space of Appearance Revisited in the Occupied Squares Movement
Kallia Fysaraki and Phaedra Kotsifaki-Sarpaki
The Spatiality of 2019 Protests in Beirut
Design and Policy Proposals
Infrastructures for Voice
Fani Kostourou and John Bingham-Hall
Activism and Community Initiatives
The Pain of Others
Black at Home in the Bay Area
Wendy M. Thompson
Crowded but With Masks: On the Resilience of an Unfair Mobility, Reflections From Santiago, Chile
Fernando Campos-Medina, Iván Ojeda-Pereira and Josefa Mattei
Drawing Photography and Creative Media
Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World, by Leslie Kern
A Right To Fight For: Berlin’s Housing Referendum in Context
with Neelke Wagner
Cycling Without Age: The Right to Wind in Your Hair
with Pernille Bussone
Call for Submissions
Housing for a Fairer and Greener World
Closing 30 June 2022
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The Urban Transcripts Journal publishes work in a variety of formats and media, exploring the interaction of people, policies, and spaces, in cities across the world, bringing together research, design and policy proposals, activist and community voices, visual arts and creative writing, in a critical and analytical discourse on the city created by a diversity of perspectives from the Global North and the Global South.
Cover image photo: Up to 10,000 people at a rally in Dublin, Ireland, demanding an end to the housing crisis, 3 October 2018. Source: Tom Honan / The Irish Times