Human rights on the altar of the market: the Blackstone letters and the financialisation of housing

David Birchall

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This article analyses the recent exchange of letters between two UN human rights mandate-holders and the Blackstone Group LP, a private equity firm with significant investments in the rental housing market in multiple jurisdictions. The mandate-holders argue that Blackstone’s investments are causing serious harm to the right to housing, including retrogressing affordability, and increasing evictions, homelessness and housing-related poverty. The scale of investment displaces communities and reshapes the housing landscape for the next generation. Blackstone’s rebuttal was, in part, predicated on their subservience to market forces and their obeying the law in all jurisdictions. This is largely accurate, indicating that markets and their constitutive rules permit and incentivise retrogressive housing outcomes. The paper therefore argues that promoting socio-economic rights under financialised globalisation requires challenging the engrained norms of marketisation. International human rights law provides an entry point for this project.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-471
Number of pages26
JournalTransnational Legal Theory
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • commodification
  • financialisation
  • International Covenant on economic, social and cultural rights
  • right to housing
  • UN guiding principles on business and human rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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