Does Poverty Mean Troublemaking? Garib v the Netherlands and Its Effects on Sustainable Urban Development

Friday, July 14, 2017
Carnegie Room (University of Glasgow)
Carlo Maria Colombo , Tilburg Center for Regional Law and Governance, Tilburg University
Is an urban policy limiting poor people’s freedom to choose their own residence proportionate with the aim of fighting the decline of impoverished inner-city areas? The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) replied positively to this question in a recent case brought by a Dutch woman, whose request for a housing permit was refused on the ground that she did not meet the minimum-wage threshold laid down in an act that restricts the freedom of residence in a city (the so-called ‘Rotterdam Act’). By considering the policy as a general measure, the ECHR has concluded that the challenged act is suitable to achieve its goal of reversing the adverse fate of deprived urban areas. However, the line of reasoning followed by the Strasbourg Court raises some concerns in that it appears to grant States an excessive margin of appreciation. It seems, in particular, to imply that people living in poor conditions are per se sources of social problems and represent a threat to urban environments. The paper discusses the correctness of the ECHR’s judgment, its potential problematic consequences, and explores alternative solutions to the challenge of building sustainable cities.