PUSH is a new documentary from award-winning director Fredrik Gertten, investigating why we can’t afford to live in our own cities anymore. Housing is a fundamental human right, a precondition to a safe and healthy life. But in cities all around the world, having a place to live is becoming more and more difficult. Who are the players and what are the factors that make housing one of today’s most pressing world issues?
In Harlem, New York, we meet a man who spends 90% of his income on a flat. Soon, the two-bedroom will cost 3600 USD per month. His 1.700-unit housing project has just been bought by a huge private equity fund. In Barcelona, Ahmed and his family are the last left in their building where all other apartments are sealed off. The new owner has been pushing all of their neighbours out. In London, people talk about ‘bank boxes in the sky’; new condo buildings and flats sold on international fairs as investment pieces. Now many apartments in these shiny new buildings stand empty.
Enter Leilani Farha, of Ottawa, Canada. She has just sent her kids off to school when she receives an email with a startling graph. It shows the extreme difference between housing prices and wage development over a twenty year period. In the Greater Toronto Area, housing prices have increased at three times the rate of income. With a background in advocacy for the homeless, Leilani has for the past three years been the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, with the right to hold governments accountable if they don’t meet the human rights obligations in the UN Human Rights Charter.
She believes that if we really want to make change to ensure people can live in the city – all people; rich, middle and poor, brown, black and white, young and old – then we have to be able to hold someone responsible for what is going on. She wants to confront the very idea of what the experts call the “financialisation” of the housing market. “There’s a huge difference between housing as a commodity and gold as a commodity”.
Push will follow Leilani’s quest to understand the radical change that cities all over the world are now being confronted with.