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Habitat for Humanity and Singapore Institute of Planners to Host First Asia-Pacific Housing Forum

SINGAPORE, 20th September 2007: Habitat for Humanity is bringing together internationally-acclaimed speakers and leading experts in housing to Singapore for the first Asia-Pacific Housing Forum, beginning next Monday.

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Singapore Meeting Brings Together Social Practitioners and Experts to Discuss Private-public Sector Support for Region’s Poverty Housing Needs

Partnering with the Singapore Institute of Planners (SIP), the three-day forum seeks to address the various issues surrounding poverty housing, and discuss how the public and private sectors can help the region meet the housing targets to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals*.

High profile experts involved in the conference include Singapore’s Minister for National Development, Mah Bow Tan, and Secretary of US Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson, who will co-chair a Ministerial and Thought-Leaders Roundtable on 24th September, on “Housing Challenges of the 21st Century”.

Taking place at the York Hotel Singapore, the forum will outline the four keys for developing housing: housing as an economic development priority; housing finance; alternative housing solutions; and housing finance for the poor.

The forum is held in the lead-up to the United Nations’ World Habitat Day on 1st October.

This year is a milestone in the world’s history. Sometime during this year, more people will be living in cities than in rural areas, marking a historic demographic shift, according to the U.N. Population Division report “World Urbanization Prospects: The 2003 Revision”.

Alarmingly, 60 per cent of the world’s slum areas are in the Asia-Pacific region, with most having little or no access to safe drinking water, sanitation and the most basic amenities. By the year 2030, another 1.3 billion people, mostly poverty-stricken, are expected to move to urban areas. Between 40 to 70 per cent of the region’s people are too poor to afford a mortgage. In addition, poverty housing conditions and homelessness have been exacerbated by recent natural disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, which left more than two million people homeless.

United Nations (UN) Habitat recognizes the eminent role that cities play for enhancing a nation’s development, and how policy makers need to make it a priority to establish decent living environment for its populous: rich or poor. Decent housing is one of the key pillars for a proper living environment, preventing a community’s habitants from injury, disease and death, while providing socio-political stability, and increasing household and national incomes.

“2007 is a landmark year as more people will be living in cities than in rural areas. The demand, supply and usage of housing goes to the heart of this region’s development,” said Rick Hathaway, Habitat for Humanity International’s vice president for Asia-Pacific.

“Singapore with its successful public housing program is a good fit to hold an initiative that builds on Habitat for Humanity’s ongoing efforts to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness in the region.”

Dr Belinda Yuen, President of the Singapore Institute of Planners added: “Through the inaugural Asia Pacific Housing Forum, we hope to inspire more knowledge experts and scholars to further policy-oriented research in housing, contribute to the global dialogue and offer more best practice housing solutions as well as to encourage public and private sectors to actively participate in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda”.

At the Forum, high-profile housing experts will share their insights in a series of plenary sessions on the following topics:

Public Housing in Singapore: A Powerful Tool For Urban Rejuvenation
By Liu Thai Ker, former Chief Planner and Chief Executive Officer of Singapore’s Housing and Development Board and Urban Redevelopment Authority

Housing Finance for the Poor: Private Sector Engagement in East Asia – the Road to Nanjing
By Nicholas You, Policy Advisor, UN-Habitat

Creating a Home-Owning Society
By Tay Kim Poh, Chief Executive Officer of Singapore’s Housing and Development Board.

The line-up of distinguished speakers also includes:

Minar Pimple, Deputy Director Asia, UN Millennium Campaign. An initiative of the United Nations, the Campaign supports citizens’ efforts to hold their government to account for the Millennium promise. The Campaign was launched in October 2002, two years after 189 government leaders from the highest political level of almost every country in the world agreed at the September 2000 Millennium Summit to a set of eight time-bound targets that, when achieved, will end extreme poverty across the planet.

Topic: Impact of Housing on MDGs
Duane Kissick, President, Planning and Development Collaborative International (PADCO). PADCO is an international development consulting firm working in more than 100 countries around the world promoting sustainable economic development, reducing human suffering through assistance after natural and man-made disasters, and working alongside decision makers as they undergo the transition to democracy and market-based economies.

Topic: Effective Housing Policy to Address Poverty Housing
Florian Steinberg, Housing and Urban Development Specialist, Asia Development Bank (ADB). The work of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is aimed at improving the welfare of the people in Asia and the Pacific, particularly the 1.9 billion who live on less than $2 a day. ADB is a multilateral development financial institution owned by 67 members, 48 from the region and 19 from other parts of the globe. ADB’s vision is a region free of poverty. Its mission is to help its developing member countries reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of their citizens.

Topic: Housing & Human Settlements
Antonino T. Aquino, President, Manila Water Company, The Philippines – Manila Water Company provides water and sewerage services to 5.1 million residents of the east Zone of Metro Manila.

Topic: Land, Water and Sanitation
As a fitting finish to the 3-day knowledge-filled summit, participants will visit the Housing and Development Board, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and the Pre-Fabrication Technology Centre for a technical review of housing and urban planning in Singapore.

For more information about the first Asia Pacific Housing Forum and the full list of topics to be discussed, visit www.aphousingforum.org

*Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) consists of eight goals set by the UN to be achieved by 2015. The eights goals are: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop global partnership for development. The “Cities without Slums” target set out in the MDGs calls for a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is a global non-governmental organization that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in the USA in 1976, Habitat has built more than 220,000 houses in dozens of countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than one million people with homes they helped build and which they have paid for with affordable, non-profit loans.

About Singapore Institute of Planners
The Singapore Institute of Planners (SIP) is a professional body for town planners in Singapore. The Institute is dedicated to the advancement of urban planning and planning practice as a profession, in both the public and private sectors. It encourages its members to response to the challenges of creating a City of Excellence for Singapore and to share their ‘expertise’ in the regional and international arena.