A report by Housing Europe, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and UN-Habitat was presented at a UNECE Ministerial Meeting in Geneva this week under the title “Affordable, adequate, and resilient housing in liveable cities, including cities which face extreme weather conditions.”
Attending the launch in Geneva, Director of UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy and leading Irish expert on housing policy, Professor Michelle Norris was one of three principal authors on the report – along with Associate Professor Julie Lawson from the Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University, Australia and Professor Holger Wallbaum from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
Developed under the joint international initiative of UNECE, UN-Habitat and Housing Europe known as #Housing2030, and with the help of an expert team of writers, researchers and collaborators, the report focuses on solutions to the housing affordability crisis in the UNECE region, highlighting existing policy instruments and good practices that have been shown to be effective.
Professor Norris said: “Housing2030 is intended to help policy makers provide more affordable, energy efficient housing. It sets out a practical toolkit of measures which they can use to finance this housing in a way which is affordable for governments and households, regulate building standards to ensure the housing is climate friendly and cheap to heat and access the land required to deliver this housing in a cost effective way which enables development of sustainable communities. These tools have been tried and tested and shown to be effective in the 56 countries which are members of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe."
Approximately 50 million people in the UNECE region live in inadequate housing conditions, while unaffordability and housing exclusion are also prominent issues in the region. This has led many housing experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, to declare that our housing systems are “in crisis”.
The households who must live with the worst effects of this crisis have been let down not always by a lack of action, but often by a lack of knowledge on the part of policymakers. They are also subject to forces beyond their control; from climate change, unguided or unregulated investment flows, insufficient state supports, and most recently, a global pandemic – Housing Europe said in a statement following the launch.
President of Housing Europe, the European Federation of public, cooperative and social housing, Bent Madsen said: “The #Housing2030 report offers a very rich toolkit, which can help to support the work of our sector, but at the top of it is political commitment, dialogue, willingness to see the bigger picture and providing necessary financial and human resources to deliver the basic human right that decent, quality housing really is.”
UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova said: “UNECE supports the key messages of the #Housing2030 report that there is an urgent need to rethink housing policy making. Housing policy should be based on a stronger engagement of national and local governments in shaping the markets to better deliver the housing we need to move away from simply relying on market mechanisms. Multilevel governance approach and international cooperation must be further strengthened.”
The #Housing2030 report focuses on four topics: (1) Housing governance and regulation; (2) Access to finance and funding; (3) Access and availability of land for housing construction; and (4) Climate-neutral housing construction and renovation. #Housing2030 and its website, which will eventually include over a hundred best practices, lay out a clear blueprint for affordable housing provision: Effective governance; strategic land policy; purposeful circuits of investment; and active promotion of climate neutral and affordable housing and neighbourhoods.
Housing Lead Specialist in the Land, Housing and Shelter Section at UN-Habitat, Christophe Lalande said: “Since its foundation, UN-Habitat has worked to promote the realisation of the right to adequate housing for all as one of the transformative forces that can lead the world to overcome challenges related to climate change, poverty, exclusion and inequality. We are committed to ensure that the growth of cities and nations around the world translates in more equally distributed opportunities, and that no-one and no place is left behind. Increasing housing affordability is critical in reaching this goal and is now made even more urgent by the impacts of COVID-19. For this reason, Housing2030 is as timely as it is crucial.”
The study draws on the experience of over 100 researchers, policymakers, housing providers and advocates from across the ECE region and beyond, to define useful approaches, outline their advantages and disadvantages, and illustrate their practical application. The study involved an extraordinary level of engagement, despite the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, using survey instruments, online workshops and podcasts in order to maximise the exchange of policy experience and good practices.
The study also underlines that housing is central to peoples’ lives, health, dignity, safety, as well as the liveability of their neighbourhoods. Housing also contributes significantly to social solidarity, environmental sustainability, and economic stability.
The report will support policymakers to shape more resilient housing systems and ensure that decent homes and neighbourhoods are affordable, safe and accessible, by implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, meeting the Paris Agreement climate goals, and realising the Right to Adequate Housing.