The provision for housing is identified as one of the basic right of the people by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 25 as early as 1948, at par with the need for food, clothing, and medical care. This is clearly something that has been recognized long time ago, but now after more than 65 years from that declaration, we are still struggling to fulfill this basic human right that is supposed to be guaranteed to everyone. If anything, this need is less fulfilled than it was when the declaration was made, and the crisis is getting worse!
This increased need for housing, especially for the lower income groups is evident from three contributing and compounding factors. First, the significant growth in global population. Second and more important, the center of high growth of this population is in the countries which have lesser capacity to provide or invest in housing or in other infrastructures. Third, a lot of the new and existing population is moving to cities (urban or sub-urban areas), creating immense demands for housing, business places and supporting facilities. Traditionally in most developing countries, villages and rural areas have provided the people with local and indigenous way of living there, which has been there for centuries and that works as long as they stay in rural areas; but when they move to towns or sub-urban areas, that particular indigenous technology does not work. This creates a need to provide formal housing to them, in staggering numbers. Lack of such housing creates slums, and highly un-livable environment, leading to social imbalances and related issues.
It is obvious from so many studies that the livable housing available through market mechanisms is not affordable for the low income groups, and the housing they can afford, or is sometimes given to them is un-livable. There have been, and there still are many initiatives, by many stakeholder to come up with solution to this staggering issue. What are we missing then? Does this require re-thinking of the way housing solutions are provided? Do we need to find new ways to increase affordability and reduce the price of housing? Do we need new policies, new ways of the planning of housing communities, more innovative financial models to create viable mechanisms involving many stakeholders, newer technologies for design and construction of disaster resilient, environmentally sustainable communities?
Will the tackling of these challenges require a continued, consorted, integrated and innovative effort by the international and regional organizations, national and local governments, academia and the researchers, planners, architects and engineers, developers and contractors, financial institutions and corporate sector, and most important, the communities themselves?
Will doing all of the above solve this universal, unfulfilled basic need for billions of people, or are we missing something fundamental in solving this issue?