Housing and economic development -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Housing and economic development

By Susan Aspinwall


A child peers through the slats of a church at a Habitat for Humanity Uganda training in Mayuge, Uganda.


What do we mean by “Housing and Economic Development”? In the Habitat for Humanity context, we generally approach it from two angles: the community level and the family level.

On a community level, how do improved housing and neighborhood revitalization affect economic development? Taking the opposite view, in what ways can economic development hinder or even destroy neighborhoods? How can we find the best balance of these two outcomes of economic development? And how should decisions be made to create viable neighborhoods that complement economic development, encouraging people to live and work in a community?

On a family level, housing is frequently the base of entrepreneurs to create a business. Particularly in the developing world, the home is a business asset. A report on the informal economy published by Sida in 2004 finds that home-based workers and street vendors represent 10 to 25 percent of the work force in developing countries. What economic development policies can encourage this type of entrepreneurship?

We also should consider a broader scale. How can housing affect a national economy—positively or negatively?

This issue of The Forum explores many of these questions and offers real examples of how Habitat for Humanity’s work can affect — or be affected by — economic development.

You will see a discussion on housing as an economic stimulus from the Philippines and around Asia-Pacific, an advocacy view from Hungary and, finally, a perspective from Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina on the impact of incremental housing improvements. In addition, we have a literature review exploring the root cause of the housing crisis from an international perspective.

I am also pleased to provide a Q-and-A with Dr. Eric Belsky, managing director of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, which is Harvard’s center for information and research on housing in the United States. The center analyzes the relationships between housing markets and economic, demographic and social trends, providing the knowledge needed to develop effective policies and strategies. We are fortunate to be able to include Belsky as an external voice in our dialogue on this subject.

A change at the helm

With this issue of The Forum, we say goodbye to Karan Kennedy as senior adviser. Karan wonderfully guided this publication from its inception but has moved into the Resource Development Department of HFHI to lend her talents and expertise on international issues to engaging donors in the work we do. Thank you, Karan, for all of your work to advance The Forum.

I join Habitat for Humanity International’s International Programs department after some time in Resource Development on the corporate programs team. I look forward to interacting with the readers of The Forum as part of my new role as adviser. I will continue to work to expand the publication’s reach by providing you with even more in-depth programmatic content, including making connections with external subject matter experts applicable to our international audience.

You will start to see some of these changes in this issue on Housing and Economic Development. I hope you find the content thought-provoking and applicable to your work. Please be in touch with any

feedback on this issue and suggestions for the future by e-mailing me at theforum@habitat.org.

Susan Aspinwall is international programs project manager and adviser to The Forum.