H.J. Heinz Foundation Visiting Fellow: Leilani Farha

Housing is a Human Right: Fair Housing Month Kick-Off with Leilani Farha

The Global Studies Center is honored to welcome Leilani Farha, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Adequate Housing, to the University of Pittsburgh as a H.J. Heinz Foundation Visiting Fellow. 

Leilani Farha is the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing and Global Director of The Shift. Her work is animated by the principle that housing is a social good, not a commodity. Leilani has helped develop global human rights standards on the right to housing, including through her topical reports on homelessness, the financialization of housing, informal settlements, rights-based housing strategies, and the first UN Guidelines for the implementation of the right to housing. She is the central character in the documentary PUSH regarding the financialization of housing, screening around the world. Leilani Launched The Shift in 2017 with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and United Cities and Local Government.

Farha is featured in the documentary film, Push, which explores the reasons for the global housing crisis and efforts to restore the right to housing in cities and communities. Free streaming access to the film was available through April 6th, courtesy of Pittsburgh’s Commission on Human Relations. 

During the week of April 4th to 7th, Leilani tookpart in a number of public lectures, student and faculty visits, and meetings with City officials and community organizers to highlight housing as a human rights issue. 

Learn more about the week of events below



Friday, April 1st

12 - 1:30PM

Panel Discussion: Housing and the Right to the City

University of Pittsburgh School of Law Teplitz Memorial Moot Courtroom, Ground Floor (3900 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15260)

Join Pitt Law’s Center for Civil Rights and Racial Justice for a panel discussion regarding the PUSH documentary, directed by Fredrik Gertten. PUSH sheds light on a new kind of faceless landlord, our increasingly unlivable cities and an escalating crisis that has an effect on us all. This is not gentrification, it's a different kind of monster. The film follows Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, as she's traveling the globe, trying to understand who's being pushed out of the city and why.

Monday, April 4th

12 - 1:30PM: 

Public Lecture: Global & Local Strategies for Advancing Housing as a Human Right

Wesley Posvar Hall Room 4130 (230 S Bouquet St, Pittsburgh, PA 15213) and Zoom

As UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Adequate Housing, Ms. Farha worked to push governments to do more to protect residents’ access to safe and affordable housing. She continues to work with governments at local, national and global levels while also helping housing justice advocates make better use of international tools to defend and advance the right to housing. 

View a recording of the lecture here.


2:30 - 3:30PM:

Press Conference: Housing as a Human Right in Pittsburgh 

In partnership with the City of Pittsburgh Commision on Human Relations

City-County Building

Read the Commission of Human Relations' press release on Fair Housing Month here.

Tuesday, April 5th

6 - 8:30PM:

Campus Screening and Discussion: Push (2019) 

Lawrence Hall Room 106 (3942 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15260)

PUSH is a 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? A discussion with Leilani Farha and Dr. Michael Glass, director of Pitt's Urban Studies Program, will follow the screening. University members can view the film at any time through the University Library System here

View a recording of the discussion here.

Wednesday, April 6th

5 - 6:30PM:

Public Lecture: Using International Law and Institutions to Support Housing as a Human Right 

Alcoa Room, Barco School of Law (3900 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15260)

Many local policy makers and legal practitioners remain unaware of the extensive body of international law and precedent upholding the internationally recognized human right to adequate housing. Farha will discuss this legal context and how the United Nations is working to support governments to do better and more to realize this most basic right for all residents. Pitt Law School/Hybrid event.


Thursday, April 7th

3 - 4:30PM

Undergraduate Roundtable Discussion: Right to Adequate Housing

Floor 35, Cathedral of Learning

This program will feature a brief talk by Leilani, opportunities to ask questions and talk about housing rights, and space to talk about action steps in Pittsburgh and the world. Coffee and food will be provided!


6 - 8PM

American Apartheid Cities: Human Rights Strategies for Advancing Racial and Housing Justice, A Community Action Dialogue

Hill District Community Engagement Center (1908 Wylie Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15219)

Join our panel of community leaders as they share examples of how Pittsburghers are working to advance housing justice in our city and to engage with our international guest, Ms. Leilani Farha, in explorations of how we can make more use of global alliances and international legal strategies in efforts to protect and promote housing as a human right.


Randall Taylor, Penn Plaza Support and Action Coalition

Teireik Williams, CMU CREATElab

Jason Beery, Urbankind Institute

Ed Nusser, Executive Director of City of Bridges Community Land Trust

Moderated by Jam Hammond, Executive Director of Pittsburgh's Commission on Human Relations

Watch a recording of the Community Action Dialogue here.



Learn more about Leilani's organization, The Shift


Read Pittsburgh´s Affordable Housing Crisis: Is Privatization the Solution? (Feb 2022) by Daniel McClymonds, Jackie Smith, PhD, & Connor Chapman (University of Pittsburgh Department of Sociology) with Randall Taylor (Penn Plaza Support & Action Network):