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Housing the world’s booming population

The world’s population now exceeds seven billion and more than 60% live in urban areas. By 2050, it is expected that seven out of ten people will live in cities. One of the greatest challenges will be how to house the growing number of people.

This growth is mainly occurring in countries least able to cope with the demand for jobs, adequate housing, and urban basic services, but slums are also a major problem in developed nations.

More than half of the world’s population lives in Asia, more than four billion. As the region with the highest growth rate, United Nations projections are that Asia’s population will top five billion by 2050. Africa will need to house more than 2.4 billion people in the next 35 years. Four million housing units are needed each year in order to keep up with the demand in Africa. In Europe, the biggest housing problem is affordability. Many families simply cannot afford even to rent apartments.

It is clear that these housing deficits across the globe need to be tackled decisively now as they will become much harder to solve in the future. Ensuring families live in safe, decent homes helps address poverty. Studies have shown the positive impact that decent housing has on an individual. Overcrowded rooms, dirt floors, bad ventilation and unsanitary living conditions lead to poor health. Having light, a quiet place to work and stable occupancy mean better performance at school and improved income prospects. Citizens living in adequate homes are more productive, creating thriving communities and generating stronger economies.

We will soon have a new iteration of the Millennium Development Goals set to expire in 2015 – to be followed by the Sustainable Development Goals. As this will lay the foundation for the global development agenda for the next 15 years, Habitat for Humanity and other organizations have been campaigning to ensure that ‘inclusive, safe and sustainable cities and human settlements’ is included.

The United Nations Open Working Group on Sustainable Development has presented its first draft of recommendations to the United Nations General Assembly. These contain a call for universal access to adequate affordable housing and basic services, and to eliminate slum-like conditions everywhere.

Let’s put weight behind making housing a priority in the post-2015 agenda. Doing so will help ensure that adequate housing – a basic human right – becomes a reality for millions of people. Let us not wait another 15 years to act.