UN-Habitat puts the right to adequate housing at the centre of the New Urban Agenda. An increasing number of people worldwide is without adequate housing. Still now the world is recovering from a dysfunctional housing market that treated housing and land purely as a commodity, and caused one of the most severe economic crises in recent history. UN-Habitat ROAS concentrates its efforts on working with its partners on holistic urban strategies that puts human rights and people’s needs at the forefront. Most Arab countries have made significant progress in developing initiatives to increase the supply of affordable housing through targeted programmes. However, particular countries still fail to meet the increased housing demand effectively. Conflicts in Yemen, Libya, Palestine, Iraq, Sudan and Syria have led to waves of displacement, resulting in massive population growth in some municipalities (fourfold in some areas of Syria) as people move to where they feel safer. These demographic shocks are accompanied by rising rent prices and overcrowding with three or four families per apartment to save rental cost. As rents continue to rise, more and more secondary displacement takes place, resulting in some families residing in incomplete or non-residential buildings. The significant shortage of affordable housing in most countries of the Arab region has resulted in continuous informal growth especially on the urban periphery, in undesirable and hazardous locations or in existing older, substandard buildings.

UN-Habitat has provided an analysis of national housing markets through implementing the Housing Profile tool in Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, and Palestine. These have translated into housing policies which in turn identified reforms that are needed to enable a well-functioning housing market to achieve the right to adequate housing for all. UN-Habitat is also active in slum upgrading and has implemented a number of pilot initiatives, for example in Kurani Ainkawa, Erbil, which benefited 2000 families. Learning from such initiatives UN-Habitat has supported citywide and national slum upgrading programmes in Morocco, Iraq and Egypt, and plays now a significant role in addressing housing and shelter needs in crisis situations.

Iraq: Durable Shelter Support for IDPs in Iraq

The project, funded by the Saudi Humanitarian Fund and launched in early August 2014, aims to develop infrastructure and public facilities including 5,339 temporary prefabricated shelter units for 32,034 internally displaced persons (IDPs) as well as medical facilities and schools in three shelter sites located in Dawodye (Dohuk); Barznja (Sulaymaniyah) and Bahrka (Erbil). Historically it was experienced that camps eventually develop into slums, as tents are gradually replaced with more permanent structures, which in turn generate new challenges. Prefab shelter solutions are considered as dignified and durable for fast installation and protection from harsh weather conditions as contrary to tents. Additionally, due to the protracted nature of this displacement crisis, the adopted prefab shelter solution is more economically feasible for the medium and long term sheltering. Most significantly this project has integrated the IDP camps into cities as extensions or urban infills, under the management of municipalities. This provides an exit strategy for the UN, but most importantly it enables IDPs to access employment and basic services as other local citizens, and ensures, through following urban planning principles that the camps will not become future slums.