In Latin America, housing advocates set their sights on Habitat III

In May at the second Latin American and Caribbean Forum on Adequate Housing, more than 500 representatives from the public and private sectors and civil society agreed to promote the right to adequate housing. (Habitat for Humanity)

While much of the discussion around next year’s Habitat III cities conference has focused on urbanization, the official title of the event is the U. N. Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urbanization. Shelter was front and center at Habitat I in 1976, and housing activists are now gearing up to ensure that their voices will be heard again 40 years later.

Over 500 people from 28 countries gathered in Monterrey, Mexico, last month for the second Latin American and Caribbean Forum on Adequate Housing. The event was organized by Habitat for Humanity, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Federation of the Red Cross, the Habitat International Coalition, Cities Alliance and UN-Habitat.

“The right to adequate housing must be integrated into all relevant discussions within the Habitat III process. Housing is absolutely central in people’s lives, so it must be central to Habitat III,” Leilani Farha, the U. N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, urged at the event.

Ines Magalhães, Brazil’s national housing secretary, and Henry Cisneros, a former U. S. secretary of housing and urban development, also gave remarks.

The forum’s aim was to build a regional agenda that promotes decent housing as the cornerstone of sustainable, prosperous and inclusive cities. Participants addressed topics such as secure tenure, resilient communities, healthy housing and market development.

Attendees reached a number of preliminary conclusions about the New Urban Agenda, the intended outcome document for Habitat III. The agenda will set a new global strategy around urbanization for the next 20 years.

Participants in Monterrey emphasized that inadequate housing should be addressed locally, using innovative ideas and programmes generated by academia as well as the private and nonprofit sectors. Activists also called for a constructive dialogue among multiple sectors in order to develop a new urban paradigm that is equitable, inclusive and sustainable.

Perhaps most centrally, the forum argued that adequate housing needs to remain a key element in the New Urban Agenda, despite the many other issues the agenda will need to cover.

The forum “met its goal of generating agreements and proposals that include strong, safe and sustainable housing models which will allow us to think of housing as a social development engine,” Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity’s chief executive, said after the event.

At the housing conference, groups of women from Brazil, Mexico and Bolivia recounted how access to land for housing has improved their families’ quality of life and helped them create more sustainable communities.

Such grass-roots experiences are at the heart of Habitat for Humanity International’s new global advocacy campaign for secure land tenure, Solid Ground, which will launch in October.

The special rapporteur’s report this year will also focus specifically on the issue of housing and the Habitat III process; it will be delivered to the U. N. General Assembly in October. Public input for the report can be submitted via questionnaire until 30 June.

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