First Housing Forum for Europe & Central Asia
At the beginning of April, the first Housing Forum for Europe & Central Asia took place in Budapest, Hungary. The forum was an initiative designed to encourage housing to be put at the forefront of the political agenda and to address the current lack of cross sector and regional strategy on housing. The event illuminated not only huge regional disparities in housing challenges across Europe and Central Asia, but also common problems and practical solutions which organizations could share and learn from.
Three days of discussion and learning required a move back to basics to explore the dimensions and definitions of housing as a right, process, product and vision. One debate running through the forum examined whether housing is a financial or economic asset or a place to call home and whether the term ‘productive asset’ captures these two opposing ideas adequately. Housing policy was also analyzed in many of the presentation and discussion sessions, in particular, how it can be integrated horizontally across environment, health, poverty and building policy areas, and also be a policy area in its own right.
Increasing housing solutions
The debates permeating the forum led to some agreement of what is needed to increase solutions to the identified problems. First, there is a need to broaden discourse and involve more actors into discussions at the next Housing Forum. Second, the center of housing should shift from an emphasis on business and financial interests to the one focused on human rights, particularly, the right to adequate housing. A change of incentives would aid this, whether through taxation, regulation or another method, and a ‘marrying of opposites’ in the corporate and humanitarian sectors would also bring essential knowledge and expertise together.
Innovative financing was identified as another potential solution, with possible options ranging from group financing to collectives and microfinance initiatives. Fostering participation at all stages of house and community creation is also seen as important, alongside catalyzing change with advocacy programs, research and partnerships. The other areas agreed upon as essential were educating others, including governments and policy makers, and setting benchmarks which the housing sector should be striving to reach. Essential to this is the gathering of data, and making it accessible, to help facilitate accurate and contextualized interpretations of current situations, need and progress.
What is next?
Habitat wants people not only to read about poverty housing but do something to fight it. You can support Habitat’s work in Europe and Central Asia in a number of ways. Here are some examples:
• Visit our donations page to support projects in Europe and Central Asia.
• Go to country profile pages to learn about other programs in Europe and Central Asia.
• Visit the official Housing Forum Europe and Central Asia website
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