The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | October / November 2001
The Habitat
US / Canada
Latin America /
Euope / CIS
Africa / Middle
East Region
Asia / Pacific

…threatens the health and welfare of millions around the world. More than a billion people around the world live in inadequate shelter without access to piped water, electricity, roads or long-term security. Up to 60 percent of the world’s residents live in illegal settlements and 100 million are homeless. At least 600 million city dwellers in Africa, Asia and Latin America live in “life and health threatening” homes and neighborhoods that lack sanitation, drainage, garbage removal and health care. Such conditions constantly expose residents to overcrowding, poor sanitation, contagious diseases, environmental disasters, evictions and other sudden threats.

…in the United States is not limited to the inner cities. Rural families suffer the same shortage of affordable housing as families in metropolitan areas. One in every five households in a nonmetropolitan area is “cost burdened,” paying more than the federal standard of 30 percent of income for housing costs. “Health-threatening” substandard housing affects millions of rural families, particularly along the U.S.-Mexico border, on Native American reservations and in regions such as Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta. About 1.8 million rural homes are moderately or severely inadequate, with structural problems, leaky roofs, faulty wiring and no indoor plumbing.

…is a form of social oppression. One out of every four countries in the developing world has a constitution or national law that prevents women from owning land or taking mortgages in their names. Legal or customary constraints to women owning property are most restrictive in Africa, parts of the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. In the United States, more minority, elderly and single-parent households, which are primarily headed by women, have low incomes and face severe housing cost burdens. People with disabilities are likely to pay more than half their incomes for rent, and it is estimated that more than 1.4 million disabled Americans may have worst-case housing needs.

…is the only option for most low-income households. In 1970 there were twice as many low-cost housing units as there were low-income households in the United States. Today there are twice as many low-income households as there are affordable housing units, meaning two households compete for every available unit. In developing countries around the world, at least 21 million housing units are required annually in developing countries to accommodate the projected growth in urban areas during the next decade. The current housing shortage in Latin America is estimated at 40 million units. Of the existing 90 million homes, 25 million do not have access to drinking water and more than 30 million do not have access to sewer systems and basic sanitary infrastructure.

…is in everyone’s back yard. The gap between income and costs for basic necessities is growing in the United States and around the world. The hourly wage required to afford housing in every state and U.S. metropolitan area exceeds the federal minimum wage. In 29 states the housing wage is more than twice the minimum wage. Around the United States the number of households with worst-case housing needs—those who live in substandard housing or pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing—has grown to a record 5.4 million. Households in cities of developing countries need an average of eight times their annual income to buy a house; it takes 12.5 times the annual income for a house purchase in Africa.

…is not a legacy to leave the world’s children. More than one billion people around the world—the majority of them children —live in inadequate housing or are homeless. In the United States more than 12 million children live below the federal poverty level. The U.S. child-poverty rate is nearly double the rates of Canada and Germany and at least six times higher than rates in France, Belgium or Austria.

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