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MCC and Habitat for Humanity discuss the housing crisis no one is talking about

Expert panel says poverty reduction is tied to secure land rights

WASHINGTON (Nov. 13, 2008) — Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO Ambassador John Danilovich joined Habitat for Humanity International Board Chair Ron Terwilliger today to host a public forum discussing the importance of land tenure and how it affects global poverty and economic development.

“The security of knowing that property rights are protected matters not only to Americans, but also to individuals, families and communities in the poorest parts of the world. Having a place to call home or a piece of land to farm or a place to start a business matters to the poor and non-poor alike,” said Danilovich. “MCC is pleased to partner with Habitat for Humanity, a leader in the fight to end global poverty, to discuss the importance of securing access to land rights and tenure.”

“Secure tenure—this freedom most of us take for granted—the right to live without fear of being thrown out of your house or off your land today or tomorrow—is needed to lessen the misery of 1.6 billion people living in substandard housing,” added Terwilliger. “Habitat for Humanity is working to change that because of our continuing commitment to working toward decent, affordable housing around the world.”

Land tenure experts who discussed the link between poverty reduction and secure land tenure, include:

• Karol Boudreaux, senior research fellow, Mercatus Center.
• Ted Baumann, director, international programs, Habitat for Humanity International.
• Jolyne Sanjak, managing director, implementation support, MCC.

A large percentage of individuals in the developing world have no legal documentation of their property rights or the legal right to stay in their homes. The absence of clear, enforceable rights is often a roadblock on the pathway from poverty to prosperity for the world’s poor.

The discussion centered on creating efficient systems in which transparency and good democratic governance protect property rights for all members of a society. This means creating effective property laws, titling or other legal land records, and reliable land transfer and registration services. Improving real property rights systems will yield long-term dividends by enhancing the climate for investment and finance in both urban and rural areas where market economics is taking hold.

“In the global work of Habitat for Humanity, we are acutely aware of the tremendous barriers a lack of rights and tenure can present to stability and a sound quality of life for poor individuals and families,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO for Habitat for Humanity International. “It is vital that through development assistance and other appropriate channels, measurable goals are set and resources are increased to support access to secure tenure.”

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, an innovative U.S. Government development assistance agency, has already committed more than $278 million toward projects in poor countries worldwide that have themselves identified secure and efficient access to land as a necessary component of their long-term economic growth and poverty reduction.

Habitat for Humanity International continues to raise awareness about the urgent need for tenure security to improve housing conditions for the world’s poor. HFHI recently published “The Shelter Report 2008,” a detailed tenure report with policy recommendations. For additional information about the report, please visit www.habitat.org/gov/take_action/secure_tenure_report.aspx.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government agency designed to work with developing countries, is based on the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces sound political, economic and social policies that promote poverty reduction through economic growth. For more information, please visit www.mcc.gov.

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 1976, Habitat has built nearly 300,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for 1.5 million people. For additional information, please visit www.habitat.org.