Nairobi, 7 May 2020 - The third online COVID-19 Urban Thinkers Campuses, focusing on housing, was organized by the World Urban Campaign with Habitat for Humanity and Compass Housing Services, the two lead partners of the event and attracted over 80 participants.
The Director of International Affairs and Programs at Habitat for Humanity, Jane Katz, pointed out the challenges for the 1.6 billion people in need of adequate housing particularly now when people are told to stay at home to protect themselves.
“Unforeseen impacts are tremendous for families living in inadequate conditions, deprived of livelihoods, food, education, medical services, access to transport, increasing domestic violence, and evictions,” she said.
The President of the Habitat International Coalition, Lorena Zarate, told participants that COVID-19 pandemic amplified pre-existing inequalities in terms of housing.
‘In the last three decades, housing has been increasingly treated as a commodity,” she said.
David Adamson, Development Manager at Compass Housing Services, reminded participants that inadequate housing is strongly linked to poor health. He said in the current COVID-19 crisis, poorly homed families have become more vulnerable and the homeless are seen as potentially responsible for spreading the disease. This has led to some governments have provided accommodations to people without homes.
Katherine Kline from the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse described how governments have to deal with the population of older people saying many were at risk living in overcrowded homes without protective gear and staffed with underpaid workers.
“We have little data on the conditions on these institutions,” she said. She also drew attention to those living in refugee camps and prisons and other institutions where she said conditions are inadequate.
Giulia Lavagna, Housing Expert at UN-Habitat outlined the immediate actions that should focus on containing the spread of infection, as well as the longer term interventions that call for a shift towards a human right-based approach to housing.
She said housing provision should be recognized as a shared responsibility and the private sector, a key provider of housing, should be part of the response to provide sustained affordable housing solutions for all.
Participants agreed that an effective response to the pandemic will rely on ensuring adequate, affordable, accessible and stable housing during and after the crisis. They said all those involved should establish clear strategies towards building a more secure urban future by putting housing at the center of policies. Stakeholders need to ensure access to adequate, affordable housing, promote the right to secure tenure and an equitable access to land for shelter, foster resilient and responsive communities for planning and implementation.
A total of nine Urban Thinkers Campuses on COVID-19 are being held online in May to discuss current actions on the ground in different contexts, analyze good practices and solutions, extract lessons from the crisis and make recommendations for building resilience. For more information and to register go to https://www.worldurbancampaign.org/urban-thinkers-campus