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Habitat for Humanity urges Congress to devote more funds, research to urban housing crisis in Africa

WASHINGTON (May 4, 2006) – Habitat for Humanity International urged Congress today to allocate more funding to U.S. foreign assistance programs that address affordable housing and to support a study of the critical link between adequate housing and poverty reduction. Habitat for Humanity’s CEO, Jonathan Reckford, testified at a hearing on Housing and Urbanization Issues in Africa held by the Subcommittee on African Affairs of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, chaired by U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-Fla.).

“Within the next 20 years, more than half of Africa’s nearly 750 million people will live in cities, most of them living in informal housing settlements, in poorly constructed houses, overcrowded conditions and with inadequate infrastructure services,” said Reckford. “Yet the provision of adequate housing would present a key instrument for generating wealth and stability in Africa and thereby alleviating urban poverty.”

Reckford cited three critical changes that can impact urban poverty housing: improved land tenure and property rights systems for the poor; local government-provided services and infrastructure in informal settlements and slums; and the provision of secure, affordable urban land in appropriate settings so Habitat for Humanity and other organizations can build communities with affordable housing.

Habitat for Humanity urged the committee to reestablish housing and shelter issues as a major priority of the U.S. government foreign aid package and to create a commission that would both study the impact of housing on poverty reduction and establish a monitoring process to support policies around the world that encourage increased access to affordable shelter.

“This hearing is an important step in what could be a significant and successful effort to address poverty housing in Africa,” Reckford told the committee. “Habitat for Humanity looks forward to working with this committee to ensure that people in Africa and around the world have access to safe, decent and affordable homes.”

Habitat for Humanity has been building decent homes with African families for 30 years. One of the first Habitat for Humanity houses was built in Zaire – now the Democratic Republic of Congo – in 1973. As of January 2006, 235 local Habitat for Humanity affiliates had built more than 35,000 houses in 21 African countries. Habitat’s successes in Africa are based on community engagement, mutual help, sweat-equity labor from volunteers and homeowners, inflation-linked housing finance, and appropriate housing design.

Habitat for Humanity was joined on the panel by Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, executive director of UN-HABITAT, and representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in Americus, Ga., in 1976, Habitat has built more than 200,000 houses in nearly 100 countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than one million people. For more information, visit www.habitat.org.

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