Habitat for Humanity International: Let’s Change Land Policies and Systems: Join Solid Ground to improve access to land for shelter

Habitat for Humanity International: Let’s Change Land Policies and Systems: Join Solid Ground to improve access to land for shelter

Policies, systems and attitudes affect us every day: how we get our water and heating; when and how long our children have to attend school; whether we take public transportation; whether we have subsidized health care; whether men and women, as equals, can own property legally; and if, when and how we are able to vote for officials and local leaders. Policies can shape our cultural and social norms, attitudes and ideas. In some cases, policies may exist, yet be ignored (purposefully or accidentally). In these cases, it is vital to make sure policies are implemented well and inclusive.

So why does promoting policies and systems matter? To truly have an impact, organizations must recognize the rules affecting the communities they work with. While providing services is critical, so is speaking out on the issues that concern those who are impacted.

Habitat for Humanity has been building homes, communities and hope through direct engagement for nearly four decades. As powerful as that has been, seventy-five percent of people around the globe lack proper documentation for the land on which they live. To address this, Habitat for Humanity established its first global advocacy campaign, Solid Ground, to promote changes in land policies and systems to ensure that more people around the world have access to land on which they can build a home. Since launching in 2016, the Solid Ground campaign has grown to being implemented in 41 countries by Habitat national organizations and partners; from the Philippines to Zambia, Hungary to Argentina.

In recognition of Urban October, Solid Ground recognizes the importance of strong land policies and systems in urban areas. Housing accounts for more than 70% of land use in most cities, yet roughly 1 in every 3 people living in cities around the world lack secure land right. Without land, there can be no housing, and housing is key to stability and opportunity.

Solid Ground is improving land access policy through four key areas:

Secure tenure: Land ownership is foundational to improving living conditions. The majority of individuals and families around the globe do not possess recognized rights to the land on which they live, making them vulnerable to eviction. Security of tenure provides the stability necessary to ensure improvements to shelter can be sustainable and long-lasting, furthering greater development within communities.

Gender equality: Women represent half the global population, yet they own significantly less titled land than men worldwide. Women are excluded from accessing land because of discriminatory regulations and practices. We know that improving women’s property rights has a profound effect on their households, health, education and earning potential, and their communities. Women tend to share the benefit of improved tenure security among household members, which is especially important for creating a more stable environment for their children.  

Slum upgrading: One out of every 7 people on the planet lives in a slum, and, by 2030, the global slum population is expected to double to 2 billion. Increasingly, vulnerable communities are forcibly evicted and pushed to the edge of cities into unplanned and poorly serviced areas, lacking basic services such as water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. The key to sustainable urbanization is upgrading slums while ensuring security of tenure for these families.

Disaster resilience: Disasters affect approximately 188 million people every year. Communities without secure tenure live with greater risk. Many live in poorly constructed shelters in unsafe locations, and when fearing eviction, they are unwilling and often unable to invest in resilience measures. For fear of not being able to return to their land, unregistered residents may refuse to evacuate high-risk areas during disasters, endangering their lives in the attempt to hold on to their land. Disaster resilience enables communities to better prepare, respond and recover from disasters, predictable or otherwise.

We are working to improve land policies and systems at all levels. We acknowledge the interconnection of global and regional policy frameworks, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; the New Urban Agenda; and the future Partnership Agreement among the European Union and African, Caribbean and Pacific states, with local and national land policies and systems around the world.  

Together, our signatures amplify the voices of Solid Ground advocates working locally to demonstrate to decision-makers and key stakeholders around the globe that land and housing are a priority for achieving positive development outcomes for all. Join us in holding all stakeholders accountable to their commitments to affordable and accessible housing by getting to the root of the issue; increase access to land for shelter.

Article by Carly Kraybill, Global Advocacy Campaign Specialist 
Photo Credits: Jason Asteros