Faced with the grim reality of a world in which up to one-sixth, of humanity- or some one billion people – exist without adequate shelter and basic services, governments around the globe are today pausing to marshall forces against the growing plague called homelessness.
Nigerians live in an age where the world’s population will have grown to over seven billion and where more than half of them live in towns and cities. Projections indicate that this will increase to two-thirds in just over a generation from now. Experts predict that by the year 2050, global population will have increase by 50 per cent.
Every year the United Nations celebrates World Habitat Day on the first Monday of October, marking the official start of Urban October: a month of celebrations and citizens’ engagement in the urban life worldwide. The theme dwells on ‘Housing Policies: Affordable Homes.’
The purpose of World Habitat Day is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns.
For 2017, the World Habitat Day focuses on promoting all levels of government and all relevant stakeholders to reflect on how to implement concrete initiatives to ensure adequate and affordable housing in the context of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda at all levels, as well as the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Essentially, this year’s celebrations are quite special as they coincide with the first anniversary of the New Urban Agenda adopted in Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador. The New Urban Agenda enshrines a new vision of urbanization as an indispensable engine for development and a prerequisite for prosperity and growth, according to Dr. Joan Clos, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Executive Director of UN-HABITAT.
The United Nations wants governments to urgently address the crucial aspect of housing affordability. An analysis of housing affordability over the last 20 years reveals that despite increasing demand, housing –and rental housing- has been largely unaffordable for the majority of the world population.
Handing over housing to the market has proved a failure in providing affordable and adequate housing for all. Today, 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing, of which 1 billion live in slums and informal settlements. And while millions of people lack suitable homes, the stock of vacant houses is gradually increasing.
Clos said: “As we strive to create cities for all, an urgent action for achieving affordable homes requires a global commitment to effective and inclusive housing policies. Ensuring housing affordability is therefore a complex issue of strategic importance for development, social peace and equality.
“Addressing the housing needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, especially women, youth and those who live in slums must be a priority in the development agendas. Promoting sound housing policies is also crucial for climate change, resilience, mobility and energy consumption.”
He stated that for housing to contribute to national socio-economic development and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda calls for placing housing policies at the centre of national urban policies along with strategies to fight poverty, improve health and employment.
A past president, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Mr. Emeka Eleh urged the government to provide enabling environment for the sector.
Eleh believes that the private sector should be left with construction and delivery of houses while the government makes the regulations.
Another estate surveyor, Mr. Pastor Stephen Jagun said that “ there is need for the government to be focused on people oriented programmes and focus on providing basic infrastructure.