Housing is a key to COVID-19 recovery

Emerging economies struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic may be significantly underestimating how much their housing sectors contribute to gross domestic product (GDP). 


BRATISLAVA (Oct. 5, 2020) – Emerging economies struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic may be significantly underestimating how much their housing sectors contribute to gross domestic product (GDP) and, as a result, missing opportunities for economic and social revival, according to a report released by Habitat for Humanity to mark World Habitat Day.

Existing datasets in low- to middle-income countries are often incomplete or inaccurate, and efforts to measure housing’s contribution to the economy have largely focused on developed countries, according to the report commissioned by Habitat’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter and co-authored by Arthur Acolin, assistant professor of real estate at the University of Washington, and Marja Hoek-Smit, director of the International Housing Finance Program of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center.


Source: International Monetary Fund

But including the often-overlooked housing services and informal housing components reveals housing to account for up to 16.1 percent of GDP on average across 11 emerging economy countries analyzed in the report. That places housing on par with sectors such as manufacturing that often draw far more attention in economic recovery plans. In the Philippines, assuming official statistics count half the informal housing market — whereby families improve homes via an incremental process — housing’s actual share of GDP is 17.3 percent, the report found.

Inclusive financial interventions in the housing sector, particularly through construction or rental assistance, can stimulate economies in these countries while also improving the wellbeing of families through healthier housing conditions, according to the report, titled Cornerstone of Recovery: How Housing Can Help Emerging Market Economies Rebound from COVID-19.

“Look beyond the blind spots in the data and you see that housing can make or break a recovery,” said Patrick Kelley, vice president of the Terwilliger Center. “Investments in healthy, secure housing have greater-than-expected benefits, creating jobs, generating incomes and, critically, helping alleviate the overcrowding that makes communities more vulnerable to threats such as COVID-19.”  

The authors recommend stimulus policies that, in cooperation with the international and private sectors, focus on middle- and lower- income families while also including formal and informal markets, rental housing, and community organizations. They emphasize short-term actions to: make good land available for housing; open access to finance for developers, households and landlords; provide equitable subsidies to households; and offer incentives to lenders and builders. 

The report is the subject of a live panel discussion titled “+You: Is housing the secret to economic recovery from COVID-19?” The World Habitat Day panel includes Kelley and Hoek-Smit and can be viewed at www.habitat.ngo/economicrecovery.  


Find out more

COVID-19: Housing at the Center

Since COVID-19 pandemic first broke out in China in December 2019, affecting over 199 countries to date, it has brought the plight of poverty, inequality and the lack of services and opportunity into the spotlight and underscored one glaring reality.

Read more

Habitat CEO: Coronavirus pandemic calls for a world where we care for each other

In recent days and weeks, a wave of closures, cancellations and postponements has unfurled as the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged. Those decisions — taken individually, totaled in the aggregate — have been stunning acts of solidarity, expressions of concern and collective responsibility for the health and well-being of our communities and our neighbors.

Read more

Habitat for Humanity and COVID-19

Now more than ever, Habitat for Humanity’s work is critical. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to work tirelessly toward our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

Read more
Show area edition bottom section
Teaser title
Housing is a key to COVID-19 recovery

Affordable Housing

Housing is one of the basic human needs: the World Health Organization defined it as a “residential environment which includes, in addition to the physical structure that man uses for shelter, all necessary services, facilities, equipment and devices needed or desired for the physical and mental health and social well-being of the family”.

Teaser title
Affordable housing in developing countries

Energy poverty

Despite the fact energy is the engine of civilization, nowadays access to adequate and affordable sources is not equally distributed on the planet.

Teaser title
Energy poverty: effects on development, society, and environment

Habitat for Humanity and Somfy Foundation extend partnership

A new housing project of Habitat for Humanity and Somfy Foundation aims to help 30 vulnerable households in Egypt in need of housing.

HFHE family

Bratislava, (May 21, 2020) - A new housing project of Habitat for Humanity and Somfy Foundation aims to help 30 vulnerable households in Egypt in need of housing.

In 2014, Somfy and Habitat for Humanity started a pilot project in Brazil with the objective to improve the living conditions and quality of life of single mothers. Following the successful pilot and vision of a decent place to live, this partnership has gradually expanded to seven countries: Australia, Brazil, China, Lebanon, Poland, USA, and now Egypt.

  • Somfy Foundation and its local subsidiaries supported more than 250 people with better homes.
  • 750 people assisted with community projects.
  • Housing renovation projects help beneficiaries live in decent conditions and healthy space.
HFHE Woman

Habitat for Humanity Egypt helping families in Egypt.

In times when home has become a front-line defence against the coronavirus, Habitat’s mission of providing access to safe, decent and affordable shelter has become more important than ever. In Egypt, nearly 20 million people live in substandard housing, which endangers safety of families and causes severe health problems.  

Renovation and housing projects with partners like Somfy Foundation allow Habitat for Humanity to help the most vulnerable to have healthier living conditions, provide access to clean water and keep them safe.

HFHE Renovation

Worksite in Egypt.

Habitat for Humanity International
Driven by the vision that everyone deserves a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort. The housing organization has since grown to become a leading global charity working in more than 70 countries. Habitat for Humanity works in partnership with families and individuals in need of a hand-up to build or improve a place they can call home. Learn more at habitat.org/emea or follow @HabitatEMEA

About Somfy

Founded in 1969 in the Arve Valley, in the Haute-Savoie region of France, and now operating in 58 countries, Somfy is the preferred partner for window and door automation and a pioneer in the connected home. The Group is constantly innovating to guarantee comfort, wellbeing and security in the home and is committed to promoting sustainable development. Somfy Foundation aims to give everyone the dignity they deserve.

Weaving a better future

Senghouch’s relationship with her husband has improved after they moved into a spacious home where she can continue her weaving livelihood. What is more, her children are healthier.

Read more

Inner peace

Free from the fear of eviction, Bunthoeun and his wife feel  secure in their own home.

Read more
HFH Egypt
Show area edition bottom section
Teaser title
Habitat for Humanity and Somfy Foundation extend partnership
Subscribe to