9 October, Nairobi - On Tuesday 6 October, at the occasion of World Habitat Day Global Observance, UN-Habitat hosted a high-Level roundtable on the theme: Housing at the Centre of the COVID-19 Response. The Roundtable deepened the discussion around the theme of World Habitat Day, Housing for All: A Better Urban Future.

The panel which brought together partners from local and national governments, private sector, civil society, research, and financial institutions was moderated by Shipra Narang Suri, Chief of UN-Habitat Urban Practices Branch in UN-Habitat. 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.

After sharing challenges and opportunities emerging from the COVID-19 crisis, participants agreed on a set of key recommendations for the promotion and protection of the right to adequate housing in the COVID-19 recovery and post-recovery phase. Participants generally recommended that housing be clearly acknowledged as a fundamental human right and called for governments to prioritize the social function of housing and land by, among other actions, preventing over-speculation on housing assets. This could be done by strengthening regulation on real estate markets and via tax laws that prevent speculation on land and housing.

Participants also called for the rental social housing sectors to be strengthened and further developed with an increased public investment in social housing, specifically low-income housing. They also said there was a need to coordinate, cooperate and collaborate among all global housing stakeholder to find innovative and out of the box solutions to housing challenges and maximise efforts.

Preventing forced evictions and mitigating the social and economic drawback of evictions were other key recommendations. Participants said it was essential to ensure the security of tenure for all especially in informal settlements, including by providing incremental in-situ upgrading and finally they said that self-construction methodologies should be developed to reduce costs and environmental footprint using simple, culturally adequate and standardised structural housing elements.

Closing the meeting, Shipra Narang Suri of UN-Habitat committed the agency to drawing from the insights shared during the meeting to propose a renewed framework for cooperation, coordination and collaboration among all housing stakeholders to maximize efforts and fully realize the right to adequate housing for everyone and leave no one behind.

Participants in the roundtable included Martha Delgado, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Government of Mexico; Yves-Laurent Sapoval, Senior Advisor for the Directorate for Housing, Urban Development and Landscapes, Government of France; Anacláudia Marinheiro Centeno Rossbach, Regional Manager for Latin America and Caribbean, Cities Alliance;  Grzegorz Gajda, Senior Housing Specialist, European Investment Bank; Marissa Plouin, Specialist of the OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs; Danielle Grossenbacher. President of the International Organizations Committee, FIABCI – International Real Estate Federation; Annika Wahlberg, Secretary General, International Union of Tenants and Prof Arief Sabarudin, Director of Housing Finance, Ministry of Public Works and Housing of Indonesia.