Making affordable, safe, sustainable housing a global reality

By Matthew Boms, Communitas Coalition communications manager

Communitas advocates for a new urban agenda that meets the growing needs of urbanization in a way that benefits people — whether in a bustling metropolis or in a city still under construction.

As the coalition for sustainable cities and regions seeking to ensure the inclusion of transformative targets on urbanization in the United Nation’s new development agenda, Communitas has proposed urban targets based on insights and research from lead experts in close consultation with a multi-stakeholder advisory committee. Habitat for Humanity International is among a broad range of partners in the coalition’s advisory committee.

Millennium Development Goals

In 2000, the U.N. adopted eight Millennium Development Goals that guided the next 15 years of finance and implementation of international development policy. While the expiring MDGs did not include a goal on cities, each included several correlated targets, and the single distinctly “urban” target among the MDGs has drawn significant criticism from the international housing community. That target aimed to achieve “significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers” by 2020.

This target wasn’t clearly defined — after all, what does “significant improvement” really mean for 100 million people? While the target has technically been reached, it’s been far overshadowed by the 828 million people living in slums today.

Sustainable Development Goals

With the MDGs slated to expire next year, the 193 member states of the U.N. are inching closer to a successor set of Sustainable Development Goals. These goals, placed at the heart of the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda, will seek to eliminate poverty around the world. The SDGs are mandated to be “action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries.”

An Open Working Group on SDGs has been tasked with officially recommending goals and targets in advance of September’s U.N. General Assembly. The group is composed of 70 member states sharing 30 seats, where blocs are encouraged to agree on specific goals and targets to be reached by 2030. There are currently 17 Sustainable Development Goals in draft form.

The goal to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe and sustainable,” currently appearing 11th on the list, has been strongly defended by members of the Communitas Coalition. It has drawn a groundswell of enthusiasm — including from national governments — calling for the first ever worldwide goal on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements. As the Open Working Group formally concludes its work this month, the vast majority of its 70 member-states have expressed their explicit support for the goal.

Encouraged by this progress, the Communitas Secretariat recently published its second draft targets for an SDG on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements. On universal housing, the proposed target reads: “By 2030, eliminate slum-like conditions everywhere and ensure universal access to affordable, equitable and sustainable land, housing and basic services for all rural and urban dwellers.”

The Communitas Coalition recognizes that improving conditions for some is no longer an option. A goal on human settlements must address the thorny issues of land tenure, access to services and the universal right to housing. If the emerging SDGs are to achieve sustainable urbanization, then they must eliminate slum conditions, ensuring that everyone on the planet has a decent place to live.

Learn more about Communitas and its members, and add your voice to the call for this proposed SDG target by signing petitions to the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and to the U.N. itself.