6 October 2020  – During the two day Global Observance of World Habitat Day, UN-Habitat hosted a high-level Roundtable on the theme: Housing at the Centre of the COVID-19 Response. The Roundtable looked at challenges and solutions connected to the theme of World Habitat Day -  Housing for All: A Better Urban Future.

The Roundtable was also part of the Housing4All Campaign, launched by UN-Habitat on World Habitat Day, to raise awareness on the crucial role of adequate housing to development, gather solutions to address current gaps and call on all stakeholders to share responsibility in ensuring adequate housing for all.

The panel brought together partners from local and national governments, private sector, civil society, research, and financial institutions and was moderated by Shipra Narang Suri, Chief of UN-Habitat Urban Practices Branch. She highlighted how COVID-19 has been the biggest advertisement for adequate housing, and for collaborative action towards housing for all.

“At a time when universal access to adequate housing is a frontline defence against the coronavirus, nearly 1.8 billion people live in overcrowded or inadequate housing, slums and slum-like conditions, or in a state of homeless­ness, with acute risks of exposure. The pandemic has shown how deeply housing relates to people and communities’ health, dignity, wellbeing, inclusion and safety,” she said.

The Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Right, Mexico, and President of the UN-Habitat Assembly Martha Delgado reiterated the role of housing in the overall realization of Economic Social and Cultural Rights and people’s wellbeing.

The Senior Advisor for the Directorate for Housing, Urban Development and Landscapes of the Government of France, Yves-Laurent Sapoval, highlighted that COVID-19 has shed light on pre-existing housing inequalities.

“Quality of housing has massive impacts on everyone’s quality of life including family relationships, conflicts, work capacity and education. We should rethink the links between housing, work, public transportation and urban amenities” he said.

This was reiterated by Anacláudia Marinheiro Centeno Rossbach, Regional Manager for Latin America and Caribbean of Cities Alliance who stated that fiscal resources should be allocated to improvement of housing conditions and in-situ slum upgrading. The need to equip neighbourhoods with cultural social and economic facilities to provide for basic and key services during pandemics was highlighted by Grzegorz Gajda, Senior Housing Specialist at the European Investment Bank.

Marissa Plouin, OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, reiterated that the housing challenges pre-existed COVID-19, but that we now have an opportunity to build on the new political will to work on housing that has arisen from the pandemic. “A lot of progresses were made in an incredibly short amount of time and we cannot reverse these achievements, ” she said.

Annika Wahlberg, Secretary General, International Union of Tenants highlighted that contract workers and young people among others are at particular risk of eviction, during and after the pandemic, due to loss of income and job insecurity and therefore actions are needed from governments to respect, protect and fulfil the right to adequate housing for all.

The Director of Housing Finance at the Ministry of Public Works and Housing of Indonesia, Prof. Arief Sabarudin

shared his experience on a subsidized, low-income housing programme in Indonesia where all stakeholders, including government, banks and developers work together to ensure allocation of affordable housing. Residents can access the programme through an online app (“SiKasepp”) that guides the applicants through the process, including the choice of the financing institution and location of house.