The housing crisis has reached unprecedented levels, exhacerbated by the profound effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deepening inequalities resulting from a convergence of crises stemming from climate change impacts and conflicts. Financial repercussions and escalating disparities further compound the challenges, impacting countries, cities, and communities on a global scale.
Adequate housing has become an urgent imperative to address the rising shelter deficit, making people increasingly vulnerable to heat waves, floods, storms and other adverse climate change impacts. It is estimated that the world needs to build 96,000 new affordable homes every day to house the estimated 3 billion people who will need access to adequate housing by 2030.
Housing prices are soaring in many cities around the world for both tenants and people looking to buy homes. Amid the skyrocketing prices in large cities, home buyers are pushed to explore alternative places, far from work, services and education. In many large cities, rising property values and rent prices lead to changes in the urban demographic, and the displacement of long-standing, lower-income residents. In parallel, disconnected, dysfunctional urban areas are growing to accommodate the middle to lower-income families and individuals. The homeless population is likely to increase as well, fuelled by shortages of affordable housing, unplanned and rapid urbanization, as well as poverty and unemployment.
In addition, countries must respond urgently to the climate crisis. Because of the new climate imperatives, people are asked to adopt new low-carbon materials, norms and technologies which often decrease housing affordability. Higher upfront costs pose challenges for individuals and communities, especially those with middle and low income. This implies the risk of illegal developments and marginalisation of communities unable to afford adequate homes. While the cost of land was the main past cause of illegality, leading to the formation of slums, an additional layer of constraints in hampering access to home ownership or rental in the formal city implying lower access to basic services, health and education, and decreased livelihood opportunities. As summarized by Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing: “Natural disasters and the climate crisis have enormous impacts on the enjoyment of the right to housing, with exponential increases in these effects anticipated in decades to come.”
Such combination of crises calls for profound questioning on the way we plan, design, build, manage housing, as well as the pertinence of national housing policies, legislations and financing frameworks that drive markets. While the crises force people to adopt new strategies for accessing housing, populations are also expressing new needs with changing lifestyles which need to be examined to better shape the future demand for housing, taking into account the decarbonisation of the construction sector. Every new square meter of housing to be built needs to be mindful of resource preservation while filling its primary shelter, social and economic functions.
As partners of the World Urban Campaign, we believe that:
#HousingMatters because housing is an essential need for people to live and thrive.
The urgency of the housing crisis demands a coordinated and multifaceted response driven by adequate housing policies, legislations, finance, planning, design, technology and decarbonisation.
By addressing the root causes, implementing adaptive measures, and fostering global collaboration, it is possible to create a more sustainable and resilient housing landscape that ensures the well-being of communities worldwide.
We call to action to address the challenges by exploring and implementing bold measures, strategies and innovative solutions on the entire housing value chain.
We commit to explore, review, and recommend immediate relief measures, medium and long-term strategies, as well as technological innovations to address the challenges, bearing in mind the following:
Future housing and related infrastructure need to be resilient to the impacts of climate change and disasters, reducing the risk of displacement in vulnerable areas.
Housing policies need to encourage the construction of affordable housing units, ensuring accessibility for those in need by considering their purchasing power.
Sustainable urban planning practices need to be revisited to accommodate the growing population and improve equitable access to housing.
In all renovation and regeneration processes, local communities need to be engaged in the planning and implementation of housing solutions, considering their unique needs and perspectives.
Innovative construction methods need to be used to accelerate the building process and reduce costs, making housing more accessible.
Both quality and quantity of housing should be addressed.
Under the #HousingMatters campaign, we will encourage collaboration among organizations to share best practices, pool resources, and develop strategies for addressing global housing challenges.
The "Housing Matters" global campaign strives to adopt a comprehensive approach by addressing interconnected topics to raise awareness and devise solutions.
Addressing the Housing Crisis: At the core of the campaign lies the housing crisis, encompassing issues such as inadequate and unaffordable housing, homelessness, and the lack of housing options for vulnerable populations. The campaign urgently emphasizes the need to tackle these challenges, ensuring universal access to safe, secure, and dignified housing. Special attention is given to the critical issue of homelessness, with a focus on preventing it, providing emergency shelters, and creating pathways to housing for those in need.
Decarbonizing Housing: Recognizing the role of housing in contributing to carbon emissions amid global climate change concerns, the campaign advocates for a just transition to sustainable and energy-efficient housing solutions. By highlighting promising technologies, the campaign aims to scale up the adoption of environmentally friendly practices within the construction sector. Additionally, it acknowledges the economic potential of the construction industry in post-crisis recovery and job creation.
Inclusive Housing: Inclusivity takes center stage in the campaign, promoting housing solutions that cater to diverse populations, including the elderly, differently abled individuals, low-income families, and marginalized communities. Breaking down barriers to ensure equal access to housing for all is a key goal. The campaign advocates for inclusive urban planning that benefits both existing and incoming communities.
Housing, Health, and Safety: The campaign underscores the profound connection between housing, safety, and health. It highlights the impact of substandard housing on physical and mental health, emphasizing the need for housing solutions that promote well-being and create environments conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Adequate housing is positioned as a cornerstone of personal security and stability. The campaign draws attention to the potential societal consequences of housing insecurity, including social unrest, crime, and instability.
Livable Homes and Neighborhoods: Focusing on the broader concept of livability, the campaign advocates for housing solutions that not only provide shelter but also essential services contributing to a dignified quality of life. This includes strategically located housing to facilitate easy access to employment, education, healthcare, and public transportation, aiming to reduce urban sprawl and improve overall livability.
Overall, tackling the unprecedented housing needs requires a holistic and collaborative approach. By combining immediate relief measures, long-term strategies, and innovative solutions, we can work towards creating resilient, adequate and sustainable housing systems that prioritize the well-being of communities worldwide.
 Towards a just transition: the climate crisis and the right to adequate housing (2022)