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Housing in Europe and Central Asia needs to change from finance and profit to human rights and needs

April 7, 2011

To provide sustainable and affordable housing solutions in the region, policies should pursue people-centered models that focus on the importance of housing to development, declare four international organizations at the end of the first Housing Forum for Europe and Central Asia.

Budapest, Hungary (April 6, 2011) – Housing should be about need and social engagement. During recent years, housing and housing-related risks have increased. However, available solutions still heavily depend on the developers and financial institutions which have the power to influence housing policies. To provide sustainable models, the housing agenda needs to focus on people and their needs and look at housing as a fundamental human right.

These were the conclusions of the first Housing Forum Europe & Central Asia that finished on April 6, 2011, in Budapest, Hungary. It also underlined a number of challenges that housing faces in the region and globally: it is politically unattractive; financially expensive; solutions are non-standard; and infinitely complex. At the same time, it is possible to catalyze change and find innovative housing solutions. This can be achieved through joint work of the NGO community, businesses and governments.

“We are committed a common vision for housing. By 2020, we would like to see our children grow up in inclusive, secure, diverse and energy-efficient places, safe against natural disasters. One way of achieving this vision is through increased collaboration”, said Don Haszczyn, area vice-president for Habitat for Humanity.

“We are at the beginning of this conversation. It was the first event, and it is really surprising that we have not had anything like that up to this moment”, said Graham Saunders, head of Shelter department at the IFRC and one of the co-organizing partners of the first Forum.

“We will go back and look at the people-centered models we can support. Then, we will be looking at the available financial means to keep them going. The energy-efficiency component should also be prioritized, as it really can help solve many problems for poor households in this region”, said Jens Wandel, UNDP deputy regional bureau director and director of UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre. “Energy efficiency in housing offers the double benefit of safeguarding our environment and reducing fuel poverty of many in the region.”

The three-day gathering brought together almost 150 delegates from 48 organizations and countries. They came to discuss key issues of the housing sector and to create an evidence-based agenda for promoting and achieving a vision for sustainable housing for all in the region. The Forum was organized by four international organizations – Habitat for Humanity International, the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

Organizing partners also promised to start laying the groundwork for the second housing forum for this region in two years.

Full resolution pictures from the Forum are available here

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

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Katerina Bezgachina Zsuzsa Kurucz
Media Manager, Habitat ECA Habitat for Humanity, Hungary
Tel: +421 911 045838 +36 70 601 8587
E-mail:
kbezgachina@habitat.org kurucz.zsuzsa@newsbreakers.hu