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Last spring The municipality of Malmö signed up to The Shift.

The Shift was initiated by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha and ” is a new worldwide movement to reclaim and realize the fundamental human right to housing – to move away from housing as a place to park excess capital, to housing as a place to live in dignity, to raise families and participate in community.”

Akbar Modan  and I were asked to contribute with our knowledge based on working according to the right-based approach to housing in places like Haiti, Philippines, India etc.

Our main contribution was that the aim is not to ONLY deliver houses, i.e. products. Instead, it is about housing as processes as ONLY during the process can power relations be adjusted so everyone can enjoy their full human rights.

Because it is during the process that

  • people who are not enjoying their full housing rights are empowered
  • the capacity of the institutions who are obligated to fulfil everyone’s rights are built
  • the people can enjoy their rights to participate in decision making that has a direct effect upon them.

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Here is a LINK to a panel discussion on Housing as a Human Right that Akbar Modan was part of together with the Mayor of Malmö (political perspective) and an architect from White (architects perspective). Akbar gave the people perspective, in other words, the right to participate in housing-related decision-making.     (NB in Swedish)

In Sweden, there is little tradition of participation in housing processes here. Akbar and I have never lived and worked in a country that is so centrally steered, top-down and expert-led. In other words, you leave urban development, like other things, to the politicians you voted in and you trust the regulations and your professionals, who then, in turn, are steered by the market, a kind of hybrid socialist housing system.

It is therefore that the delivery of housing in Malmö, even though a struggle, is not the biggest challenge. The biggest challenge is for the housing processes to become more accessible, in other words, to live up to the right for all to participate in all processes that affect them.


push_poster2.jpgEven Sweden with a strong tradition of hybrid socialist housing policies is silently being affected by housing speculation. What is worse is that it is the most affordable housing stock that is being bought up by distant investors, like global pension funds. This directly jeopardises access to affordable housing and makes participation even more difficult to achieve.

The recent film The Push, made by Malmö based filmmaker, addresses the commercialisation of housing worldwide.


Housing is tricky, but we strongly believe that by including people into the process, more can is achieved. This can be seen in approaches where the mandate is shared, as for example in owner-driven housing. Here is a LINK to the previous blog where Akbar Modan was interviewed on owner-driven housing, which is a known rights-based approach to housing in the development and humanitarian sector.




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