On Monday, World Habitat Day, which also serves as the official beginning of Urban October, a month of global celebrations and citizen engagement in urban life, the United Nations is highlighting affordable homes in light of the 1.6 billion people who live in inadequate housing, one billion of whom live in slums and informal settlements.
In a message honouring the Day with the 2017 topic of “Housing Policies: Affordable Homes,” Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), stated that “while millions of people lack suitable homes, the stock of vacant buildings is constantly expanding.”
Therefore, he continued, “ensuring housing affordability is a difficult issue of strategic relevance for development, social harmony, and equality.”
The reason this year’s celebrations are important is that they fall on the first anniversary of the New Urban Agenda, a document that was endorsed during the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador, which established urbanisation as a necessary condition for growth and prosperity.
Urbanization and development are now inextricably connected, according to Dr. Clos, because of this paradigm change.
“Transferring Houses to The Market Has Failed,”
The majority of the world’s population has been unable to afford housing, including rentals, despite rising demand over the past 20 years, according to a study on housing affordability. Dr. Clos went on to say that “leaving housing up to the market has failed to provide affordable and suitable housing for all.”
“We all recall clearly that, rather than being at the centre of urban policy, housing was the point at which the global economic crisis of 2008 erupted. One billion of the 1.6 billion people who currently live in substandard housing—including slums and informal settlements—do so, he said.
Dr. Clos stressed that the development agendas must place a high focus on addressing the housing requirements of the poorest and most vulnerable people, particularly women, young people, and those who live in slums. Promoting sensible housing policies is also essential for reducing energy use, mobility, resilience, and climate change.
It is for this reason that, as the Executive Director stated, “we would want to underline on this Day the necessity of locating housing at the physical – and holistic – the centre of our cities.
“The New Urban Agenda calls for placing housing policies at the centre of national urban policies along with strategies to fight poverty, improve health, and increase employment,” he stressed. “Housing must contribute to national socio-economic development and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Every year, a different theme for World Habitat Day is chosen to promote sustainable development policies to ensure that everyone has a place to live. These themes frequently highlight one of UN-focal Habitat’s areas, such as inclusive housing and social services, a safe and healthy living environment that takes into account the needs of children, youth, women, the elderly, and people with disabilities, affordable and sustainable transport and energy, and job creation.