As we approach the 9th World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur next week, one of the essential challenges in implementing the New Urban Agenda that governments are struggling with is the provision at scale of high quality affordable housing, a key part of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 of building sustainable cities and communities.
When I worked on affordable housing in Latin America, one consistent piece of advice we would give our clients was that it is not a good idea for governments to build and provide housing themselves. Instead, in the words of the famous (and sadly late) World Bank economist Steve Mayo, we should enable housing markets to work. Our clients would always respond by saying, “But what about Singapore?” And we would say the Singapore case is too sui generis and non-replicable.
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Now, having lived in the beautiful red-dot city state for two and half years, and
Singapore’s governing philosophy has famously been described as “think ahead, think again and think across.” Nowhere is this more apparent than how the founding fathers designed the national housing program, and how it has adapted and evolved over the years, responding to changed circumstances and needs.
It is hard to believe today but in 1947 the British Housing Committee reported that 72% of a total population of 938,000 of Singapore was living within the 80 square kilometers that made up the central city area. When Singapore attained self-government in 1959, only 9% of Singaporeans resided in public housing. Today, 80% of Singaporeans live a government built apartment. There are about one million Housing and Development Board (HDB) apartments, largely clustered in 23 self-contained new towns that extend around the city’s coastal core.
At the risk of over-simplification, there seem to be four essential ingredients to this astonishing success story:
Children are often told that home is where to run inside when thunders hit or when the rain comes, and that home is a safe place. However, for billions of people in the world, it is not.
By 2030, it is estimated that 3 billion people will be at risk of losing a loved one or their homes—usually their most important assets—to natural disasters. In fact, the population living on flood plains or cyclone-prone coastlines is growing twice as faster as the population in safe homes in safer areas.
The 10 natural disasters causing the most property damages and losses in history have occurred since 2005. The damages and losses were highly concentrated in the housing sector. While the poor experience 11% of total of asset losses, they suffer 47% of all the well-being losses. Worse, natural disasters can lead to unnecessary losses of life, with earthquakes alone causing 44,585 deaths on average per year. This is an issue that policymakers and mayors need to address if they don’t want their achievements in poverty reduction to be erased by the next hurricane or earthquake.
Well, not quite. Located an hour away from the city center, Dewi’s house is far from employment opportunities, shopping, and schooling for her two children. Two years after completion, more than half the housing development remains unoccupied. Because the house is not connected to the local water system, Dewi buys water twice a week. When seasonal floods are underway, the heavy rains impede access to her house.
with the launch of Satu Juta Rumah (One Million Homes) program. Previous efforts to address the demand for affordable housing – a function of both new annual demand creation and an unmet housing deficit – had not effectively improved housing outcomes at the scale necessary.
Options are being explored. The recently approved National Affordable Housing Program Project (NAHP), for example, aims to innovate the affordable housing market by addressing bottlenecks and actively engaging the private sector in delivering for unserved segments. So far, Indonesia’s efforts provide valuable lessons. The lessons are:
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The scene is as familiar as it is tragic: A devastating hurricane or earthquake strikes a populated area in a poor country, inflicting a high number of casualties, overwhelming the resources and capacity of rescue teams and hospital emergency rooms. First responders must resort to “triage” – the medical strategy of maximizing the efficient use of existing resources to save lives, while minimizing the number of deaths.
But if governments could apply triage to substandard housing, medical triage would be a much less frequent occurrence – because
From the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction to the 2017 Urban Resilience Summit, practitioners and policymakers have increasingly focused their discussions on how we can boost the resilience of urban areas.
But this is a problem with a well-known solution:
upgrading the existing housing stock, where most the poor live, while making sure that new construction is built safe, particularly for natural disasters. After all, if floods or earthquakes do not distinguish between old and new homes, why should policymakers?
- resilient cities
- Sustainable Communities
- natural disasters
- resilient housing
- Disaster Resilience
- 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Management
- disaster risk management
- Financial Sector
- Public Sector and Governance
- Urban Development
- Climate Change
- Latin America & Caribbean
In a world divided over how to deal with such serious problems as terrorism, immigration, free trade, and climate change, governments agree on the urgency of solving what is arguably the biggest problem of all: supplying safe, well-located, and affordable housing for the billions of people who need it.
There is even agreement on the basic steps to that goal: improving land management and adopting more tenure-neutral policies.
There is also consensus on the fact that government alone cannot afford to pay the bill. According to McKinsey & Co., the annual price tag for filling the “global housing gap” ($1.6 trillion) is twice the cost of the global investments needed in public infrastructure to keep pace with GDP growth.
As we approach the 70th anniversary in 2018 of the declaration of housing as a “universal human right,” it’s time for governments to turn to an obvious solution for closing the housing gap that they continue to ignore only at their peril: long-term market finance. , and so will the odds of social discontent.
Between 2010 and 2017, Chile was struck by 10 major natural hazard events. These disasters affected as many as 340,583 houses and cost $3.6 billion in reconstruction (Ministry of Housing and Urbanism of Chile). Post-disaster assessments point to housing as one of the most affected sectors in the wake of climate-related and other natural hazards—most commonly floods, earthquakes, landslides, and fires. In a 22-year period between 1990 and 2011, minimum losses in the housing sector for 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) amounted to $53 billion.
In the LAC region, one quarter of the population lives in slums, characterized by the prevalence of substandard housing quality as well as incremental and self-construction of homes. Families living in these informal settlements are at greatest risk to natural hazard impacts. Programs providing new housing do not always reach families in the lowest quintiles; and without access to affordable and well-located housing alternatives, households have no other option than to build informally, and in areas most prone to natural disasters.
While the need for housing is widespread, individually people have different needs—depending on whether they are single, married, senior citizens, families with children, or members with disabilities. Despite the best of intentions of policymakers, "a roof overhead" remains an elusive goal for a large majority of the world’s people. Most households cannot afford even the cheapest house that fits their needs and qualifies as “decent,” and no government alone can close this gap with subsidies. Nor are we on track to build the 300 million new houses needed to close the housing gap by 2030.
Over a billion people—about 15% of the world’s population—have disabilities. Almost 80% of them live in the developing world, which is undergoing rapid urbanization.
While urbanization brings people closer to new economic and sociocultural opportunities, , such as inaccessible buildings and public spaces, limited transportation options, inaccessible housing, and barriers in using technology-enabled virtual environments.
These urban constraints have a significant impact on those living with disabilities in terms of mobility, ability to engage in education and skills development, employability and income generation, and larger social and political participation.
Therefore, which includes persons with disabilities. And there is no better time than now to make that happen.
- Sustainable Communities
- smart cities
- participatory decision-making
- universal accessibility
- inclusive cities
- International Day of Persons with Disabilities
- New Urban Agenda
- Habitat III
- Sustainable Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Urban Development
- Social Development