UN High-Level Political Forum: Habitat urges world leaders to prioritize adequate housing for all amid COVID-19 pandemic

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ATLANTA – RealEstateRama – As United Nations member states hold their annual meeting to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, Habitat for Humanity is calling on world leaders to assure COVID-19 does not derail progress toward the goal of assuring adequate housing for all by 2030.

“Stay at home, save lives” has emerged as a mantra in the fight against COVID-19, underscoring how central the home is to public health. Yet even prior to the pandemic, an estimated 1.6 billion people already lived without adequate shelter.

“We know from decades of working in communities around the world that safe, adequate and affordable housing leads to benefits in health, education and economic opportunity,” said Chris Vincent, vice president of government relations and advocacy at Habitat for Humanity International. “Unfortunately, the pandemic has reminded us that the opposite is also true: lack of decent housing is a threat to health, education and entire economies.”

For the next 10 days, leaders joining the U.N. High-Level Political Forum — held remotely this year due to the pandemic — will focus on the 17 SDGs, which set ambitious goals for improvements in a wide range of areas, from poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability to gender equality and human rights. Habitat for Humanity knows that achieving SDG 11 — to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable — is only possible by forging public-private partnerships among corporations, nonprofits, academia, faith communities, broad civil society and local communities in every part of world. That’s why in February, at the World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, Habitat launched a campaign to increase the number of national governments working and reporting progress on SDG 11. We are specifically focused on Target 11.1: to ensure that slums and other forms of inadequate housing are upgraded so that everyone has access to safe, affordable housing as well as basic services such as water and sanitation.

Housing is a major driver for achieving five of the SDGs, those focused on: poverty (SDG 1); gender equality (SDG 5); clean water and sanitation (SDG 6); affordable and clean energy (SDG 7); and, of course, sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11). Housing also serves as a platform that contributes to a wide range of health, well-being and educational outcomes found in eight other goals, such as: SDG 3, good health and well-being, and SDG 8, decent work and economic growth, among others.

“The process of housing improvement itself is often a ladder out of poverty for families,” Vincent said. “These changes benefit the larger community, reducing inequality and building resilience against economic and natural disasters. That’s why it’s so critical that we don’t let COVID-19 yank that ladder out from under the very people who need it most.”

The U.N. has projected that the pandemic will push an additional 130 million people into severe poverty by 2030, deepening the housing crisis. Habitat is reminding world leaders to work with urgency to ensure they meet the housing needs of diverse communities — women, children, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees, the elderly and indigenous people. Shelter not only means safety and stability but also an important piece of housing markets that can help drive larger economic recovery.

Specifically, Habitat for Humanity calls on governments at all levels to establish policy responses that: protect the adequacy, affordability accessibility and stability of housing; address the immediate financial needs of individuals; respond to the specific needs of informal settlements; ensure inclusions and representation of communities in responses and plans; and recover from crisis, building a more secure future through housing.

During the 2020 U.N. High-Level Political Forum, we look forward to hearing how member states are progressing in all these areas and ensuring no one, even amid a pandemic, is left behind.

About Habitat for Humanity
Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The Christian housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org

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