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First Housing Forum opens to look into affordable and sustainable housing for Europe and Central Asia

April 4, 2011

Four organizations hold the first housing forum in the region to explore and share solutions that address the urgent and widespread problem of substandard housing.

Budapest, Hungary (April 4, 2011) – The world economy cannot recover without a turnaround in housing. While the global economic crisis has challenged a popular house-for-everyone model, housing still affects just about every aspect of human existence. Recent research shows that stable and affordable housing is central to education, health, employment, and economic development. Housing is important in creating social mobility and economic growth.

At the same time, the recent devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Japan or last year’s flooding in Central Europe show how vulnerable humans and their houses are to natural disasters. These destructions contributing to the staggering housing need. To address social inequality, bring development, guarantee employment and achieve greater social inclusion of groups like the Roma, Europe needs to find appropriate housing solutions.

The first Housing Forum Europe & Central Asia looks into housing issues and calls onto all governments in the region to find sustainable and affordable housing solutions. It was organized at the initiative of four organizations – Habitat for Humanity in Europe and Central Asia, the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

“The Housing Forum provides a timely opportunity for practitioners and policy makers to address the significant housing-related vulnerabilities in the region”, says Graham Saunders, head of Shelter Department, IFRC.

“Building and repairing houses has always been in the center of Habitat’s work. We know how much impact a decent shelter has on a family’s overall health and well-being, from children who do better in school to parents who are inspired to get training and get better jobs. We hope that through this Housing Forum we will convince politicians and businesses to pay more attention to housing”, says Don Haszczyn, area vice president, Habitat for Humanity Europe and Central Asia.

“This Housing Forum can serve as a starting point for designing policy recommendations that place housing issues high on both national and international agendas of governments, and thus contribute to establishing coherent national and international housing strategies in Europe and Central Asia”, says Sergey Yampolskyi, secretary of the Committee on Housing and Land Management, UNECE.

“Poor people often live in the worst and coldest buildings. Making the buildings energy efficient, first of all, is good for the poor, creates green jobs, accelerates the transition to low carbon development, and is an investment in our children’s future”, says Mr. Jens Wandel, UNDP deputy regional bureau director and director of UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre.

The Forum brings together almost 150 leading housing professionals from the region, among them key NGO actors, private corporations, researchers and policymakers to explore and share solutions to address urgent housing issues.

The first Housing Forum Europe&Central Asia runs for three days in the capital of Hungary that holds for six months the European Union presidency. It is organized under the auspices of the Hungarian government and with the patronage of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary. It is also supported by Habitat for Humanity Hungary.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is a Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built and renovated more than 400,000 homes worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 2 million people. For more information, visit www.habitateurope.org

About International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies
The IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian organization. It works to support and develop the capacities of its member national societies around the world in their humanitarian mission to assist the most vulnerable members of society, without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. The IFRC is the convener of the General Shelter Cluster for natural disasters. For more information, visit www.ifrc.org

About UNDP
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the UN’s global development network, an organization advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States is on the ground in 28 countries and territories in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. For more information, visit www.undp.org

About UNECE
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations. It was established in 1947 by the UN Economic and Social Council. The overall mandate of the UNECE is to facilitate greater economic integration and cooperation among its fifty-six Member States and promote sustainable development and economic prosperity. For more information, visit www.unece.org

About Habitat for Humanity Hungary
In Hungary, Habitat builds, renovates and repairs homes, offers housing microfinance services and advocates for affordable housing. It has been active since 1996 when the former U.S. President Jimmy Carter participated in the building project. To date, is has supported almost 400 families. Find out more at www.habitat.hu