Habitat for Humanity and our partners around the world today launched a five-year campaign, called Home Equals, seeking policy changes at the local, national and global levels to increase access to adequate housing in informal settlements.
More than 1 billion people around the world live in slums and other informal settlements, and that figure continues to rise. These communities have very limited access to basic services such as clean water, sanitation and electricity. People living in informal settlements lack land and property rights, often fearing eviction. They face worsening threats from climate change, including droughts and floods.
“When it comes to the places we call home, people living in informal settlements are simply not being treated as equals,” said Jonathan Reckford, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “By advocating for policy changes, our partners in the Home Equals campaign will be increasing access to adequate housing and supporting innovative solutions coming from the residents of informal settlements themselves. Join us in creating a more equitable world. Because home equals health. Home equals safety and security. And home equals an opportunity for a better future.”
At the global level, Habitat for Humanity is calling on G7 member states — a group of leading industrial nations set to meet this weekend in Hiroshima, Japan — to recognize housing as a critical lever for development progress and commit to addressing housing needs in informal settlements as a way to advance international development priorities in areas such as economic growth, health and education.
The economic and human development gains from improving housing at a large scale in informal settlements would be substantial, according to a report released today in support of the Home Equals campaign. The first-of-its-kind report from Habitat for Humanity and our research partner, the International Institute for Environment and Development, or IIED, modeled the benefits that would be realized — in terms of economic production, income, health and education — from those housing improvements.
The report found that GDP and income per capita would increase by as much as 10.5% in some countries and that more than 730,000 lives would be saved each year globally — more than the number of deaths that would be prevented annually by eradicating malaria. As many as 41.6 million additional children would be enrolled in school, according to the modeling. That’s one out of every six out-of-school children in the world.
“Ensuring that people living in informal settlements have access to adequate housing isn’t just the right thing to do,” Reckford said. “It’s the smart thing to do.”
Alexandre Apsan Frediani, a researcher at IIED and one of the authors of the report, said: “Our findings show massive benefits to people’s health, education and income when you make sure they live in suitable housing conditions, have access to basic services like running water and sewage systems, and are free from the threat of eviction or harassment.” In addition, the gains modeled in the report are likely an underestimation. While the researchers couldn’t quantify it, the evidence is clear that environmental, political and care systems improve across entire societies when people in informal settlements gain access to better housing, leading to progress both inside and outside of those settlements, Apsan Frediani said. “There is a spill-over effect,” he said, “because when people in informal settlements do better, everyone does better.”
The Home Equals campaign is already active in more than 35 countries around the world. In Brazil, Habitat for Humanity and our partners are working with the new administration on housing and urban development programs to ensure residents of informal settlements have access to basic services such as water and sanitation. Habitat for Humanity Malawi is calling for enactment of a Disaster Risk Management Bill to ensure homes in the country are resilient to disasters in the face of climate change. In Vietnam, we are working with local partners on sustainable policy solutions that will enable Vietnamese returnees from Cambodia to have a secure home. And in North Macedonia, Habitat is partnering with Roma communities to ensure that they have a voice in municipal and national-level decision making.