Habitat for Humanity International: Urban Thinkers Campus in Asia and the Pacific: Creating Platform For Collaborative Efforts Toward Decent and Affordable Housing in the Region

Habitat for Humanity International: Urban Thinkers Campus in Asia and the Pacific: Creating Platform For Collaborative Efforts Toward Decent and Affordable Housing in the Region

The Asia-Pacific region is home to 2.1 billion urban residents – constituting 60 percent  of the global urban population (UNESCAP, 2017). It continues to experience rapid urbanisation, which has put an enormous pressure on the provision of adequate housing for its cities’ rapidly growing population. Governments across the region face the difficult and complex task of addressing the challenges of housing, a task too enormous to tackle alone. This has been a key learning for stakeholders of the housing agenda. The enormity of the housing challenges that we face today calls for innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships for the delivery of housing solutions. It requires working in a multi-sectoral, collaborative way that accommodates the dynamism of housing issues and its connection to the daily lives of people in the urban context.

Recognizing this need, Habitat for Humanity continues to leverage people-public-private partnerships to help bridge the affordable housing gap as well as work towards improving the living conditions of low-income households in urban settings in the region. Based on nearly 20 case studies and examples of recent work from around the world, Habitat has demonstrated that community-led development and engagement of multi-sector stakeholder partnerships are central to improving people’s living conditions as well as improving resilience and security tenure of the urban poor. To help nurture this approach, Habitat for Humanity has designated special sessions within the seventh Asia-Pacific Housing Forum as Urban Thinkers Campuses, in which key stakeholders from international organizations and local grassroots movements can have the space to discuss pressing housing issues, areas for collaboration and opportunities to scale up solutions. The results of the three campuses will inform the Housing Forum, a biennial conference that aims to provide a venue for organizations to connect and engage in promoting affordable housing as a driver of economic growth.

The first of these Campuses will be held at the Forum’s preliminary event in Manila, from July 29 to 31, 2019 in Makati, Philippines with the theme “Bahay-Buhay: Housing as the Key to Sustainable Growth.” The event focuses on three main dimensions of housing: land ownership as a key to socialized housing, market-private-public sector solutions for affordable housing, housing and building disaster resilient communities and cities.  As an Urban Thinkers Campus, it will hold dialogues that focus on exploring the role of governments in human settlements, broadening  housing options through rental housing subsidy, land use classification and breakthroughs in land policy, learning from market-led housing finance, and the role of media in advocacy and nation building.

The second Urban Thinkers Campus in the Asia-Pacific Housing Forum is the Collaborative Housing Partnerships, on September 17, 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand. Under the theme “Opportunities and Challenges in the Provision of Adequate and Affordable Housing in Urban Context,” this UTC will bring together participants from government institutions, civil society, academia, private sector, financing institutions, and multilateral organizations to provide wide-ranging perspectives from across the region and beyond. A key focus of this Campus is on exploring how initiatives like the Latin America’s Urban Housing Practitioners Hub can be adopted in the Asia-Pacific region. The UHPH is, in itself, an open platform for various organizations committed to improving housing conditions in urban context. The platform aims to contribute to knowledge sharing in support of global Agenda such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda. Also happening on September 17 in Bangkok is the Youth Congress, the third Urban Thinkers Campus under the Asia-Pacific Housing Forum event series. Titled “Youth in the House!,” it is the only housing-specific youth-led Campus in the region. It will highlight young people’s housing solutions and amplify their insights on how addressing the challenge of building decent houses and sustainable communities throughout the region. The Campus will feature speakers from a wide array of background: donors and universities supporting youth movements, young leaders who grew up in communities that Habitat has helped build or upgrade, or young professionals working in the housing and policy sectors. Open to international youth, the initiative aims to nurture youth-led solutions for the housing challenges and connect them to possible supporters or partners, as well as to ensure that youth sentiments are included in the discussion of housing solutions in the region.

Through these three Urban Thinkers Campuses, Habitat for Humanity hopes to shed light on possible partnership models aimed at delivering housing solutions at scale in urban settings and to engage different voices and push forward a multisector approach to addressing housing challenges. The long-term visions is for these initiatives to reinforce regional collaboration committed to short-, medium-, and long-term actions for housing in Asia-Pacific.

Aside from the Urban Thinkers Campus, the Asia-Pacific Housing Forum also features a training course on Strengthening Land Tenure for Disaster Resilience, the Asia Pacific Housing Innovation Awards, and Forum Sessions that dig deeper into the complexity of the housing situation in the region. Find out more at aphousingforum.org.

Article by Habitat for Humanity International
Photo Credits: Habitat For Humanity International; Photographers: (Youth Congress – Julia Broad, 2017), (settlement photos Jed Alcala, 2018)