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Why is safe and decent housing matters

Urban October 2016 kick starts on 3 October with World Habitat Day and will end on 31 October with World Cities Day. Habitat for Humanity is raising awareness this Urban October of the need, and right to safe and decent housing for all.

Why Urban matters

This year, Urban October is building up to and following the Habitat III Conference taking place from 17-20 October in Quito, Ecuador, when the New Urban Agenda will be adopted. Urban October will mark one year since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. Here 17 goals were outlined to transform the world. This includes Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Although adequate housing was recognised as part of the right to an adequate standard of living in international instruments including the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the 1966 International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, access to a safe and decent home is not always as straightforward as it may seem.

The need for safe and decent housing

Access to safe and decent housing is a growing concern and challenge in the face of rapid urbanisation around the world. Urban population growth is outpacing the rate at which cities can respond to the need for housing and as a result, many low-income families are often forcibly evicted and pushed to the edge of cities to unplanned and poorly serviced areas.

Globally, one quarter of the world’s urban population lives in slums and informal settlements and this number is growing. Of this includes many poor and vulnerable groups including women and children, the elderly, people living with disabilities and displaced persons to name a few.

As land and building materials are expensive, low-income families tend to use cheap materials and build fewer rooms to accommodate their households, resulting in overcrowding and lack of durability. Without a durable home to withstand the elements, families are vulnerable to natural disasters such as flooding, fires and earthquakes. Inadequate housing is also characterised by a lack of access to basic services and utilities such as water, sanitation and electricity and insecure land tenure.


The solution to this lies in preventing and replacing inadequate housing by providing families with the opportunities they need to overcome the circumstances that allow poverty to fester including a lack of clean water, sanitation or access to education.

When it comes to building a home in the developing world, 50 to 90 percent of construction is done in incremental or progressive stages. Building a home incrementally allows families to save their money and gradually put it toward improving their home. Housing microfinance, consisting of small, non-mortgage backed loans, along with construction and other support services, allows families to progressively add value to their home and address housing problems.

This puts in motion changes that will improve quality of life and speed up construction of adequate housing.


Healthy homes, with cement floors, better ventilation, clean water and sanitation facilities have immediate health benefits; reducing the level of infectious and chronic illnesses for families. Productive homes are a place where people otherwise unable to access formal, paid employment, especially women, can make a living. It offers children the security to go to school, clean homes give them a place to study and lights mean that can work even after the sun sets.

Globally, a billion new houses are needed by 2025 to accommodate 50 million new urban dwellers per year. The need is great, but together we can make a difference. World Habitat Day, and throughout Urban October is a time to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world that we all
have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns.

What is Solid Ground?

Around the world, many people have no rights to land on which to live. In fact, at least 1 billion people in cities around the world lack secure land rights. In many countries, land systems are broken and most people in the world who lack adequate housing are not able to secure title to land. Habitat for Humanity is dedicated to helping families most in need of housing, but first they must have access to land on which to build a home.

Solid Ground, our global advocacy campaign, was created precisely to address this fundamental issue of access to land for shelter.

Solid Ground’s mission is to change land policy and systems to ensure that more people around the globe can have a decent home.

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