UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing says Akelius disregards human rights

[05.05.2020] Press Release

deutsche Fassung / german version

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, Leilani Farha, has issued serious accusations against Akelius in a press release on April 29, 2020. According to the statement, Akelius’s business model disregards human rights through the systematic reduction of affordable and reliable housing. In several cases, Akelius’s business practice has resulted in hundreds of tenants living on major construction sites for months, sometimes without heating and water supply for weeks, the statement says.

From the press release of the UN:

„Farha said she had heard of many cases where Akelius utilises an aggressive business model which wreaks havoc with people’s lives and has told the company its operations in the UK, Canada and Germany are inconsistent with international human rights law on the right to adequate housing. […] ‚Although it does a lot for charity, Akelius’s business model is trampling on the human rights of its tenants, decreasing housing habitability, affordability and security of tenure‘, Farha said.“

Currently, Berlin accounts for roughly one third of Akelius’s total portfolio. The group owns 45,000 apartments representing a fair value of 12 billion euros, with more than 14,000 located in Berlin worth 3.3 billion euros. This makes Berlin by far the most important location for the group. We consider it a scandal that an international company that is engaged in this way in Berlin „is trampling on the human rights of its tenants“ (Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing).

Farha concludes her statement by calling on Akelius to set up the necessary business procedures and personnel for „human rights due diligence“.

We fully support this call on Akelius. We also think that the responsibility to act on this human rights crisis caused by Akelius and similar companies lies with all actors associated with housing: The associations of real estate companies, tenants‘ associations, government authorities and politicians need to develop a firm and determined response. International companies that conduct a significant portion of their business in Germany and Europe must be controlled and regulated so that a harmful business model and business practice as applied by Akelius is a) recognized and b) prevented.

An appeal to Akelius to set up a due diligence system for the observance of human rights needs to be supported by a larger framework of regulatory and political measures. Human rights are a fundamental part of our societies. Controlling compliance with human rights standards cannot be left to a company whose business model already „tramples on human rights“. We need far-reaching regulation to ensure that housing is not abused for radical profit maximization that systematically destroys affordabel housing and thus the social fabrics of our cities. Instead of treating housing as a means for short-term private profit maximization, we need to treat housing as a public good and focus on the welfare of all. Housing is not a commodity. Housing is a human right. A company like Akelius, whose business model disregards human rights, is obviously lacking the most basic notion of responsibility towards tenants and towards society. From this point of view, Akelius themselves have forfeited their right to manage housing in any way.

In return, it becomes a duty for all social and political actors to protect housing and tenants from Akelius and similar corporations. The Berlin rent cap is an important first step, which will probably serve as a blueprint for necessary regulation also in other regions in the wake of the Corona crisis. However, the Berlin rent cap is only set for five years. It is not yet a permanent solution. But housing cannot and must not remain in the hands of ruthless companies like Akelius. In order to guarantee the observance of human rights and to build up a social and sustainable housing industry in the long run, all houses must be transferred into common property controlled by tenants themselves. We need to expropriate Akelius & Co and socialize housing.

UN press statement: https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25845&LangID=E

International Media Coverage

Canadian TV and radio station CBC on Akelius in Toronto and how Akelius disregards human rights

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