by Ginia Bellafante
“Last fall, a special investigator for the United Nations presented a report to the General Assembly on the global housing crisis, pointing out that a quarter of the world’s urban population now live in ‘informal settlements’ or encampments, increasingly in the most affluent countries. The fact-finding mission took the investigator to cities like Mumbai, Belgrade and Mexico City, where she found rodent infestations, children playing on garbage heaps ‘as if they were trampolines’ and people living in shacks or in damp abandoned buildings full of exposed wires.
“At the invitation of academics and advocates, she also went to to San Francisco, where the median home price is $1.6 million.
“There she witnessed equally deplorable conditions. Crucial to the report’s assessment was the finding that the city’s resistance to providing help and basic necessities in the encampments there qualified as ‘cruel and inhuman treatment,’ which was in line with violations of international standards of human rights.”