How decent housing combats poverty
Habitat for Humanity has shown that building homes does more than put a roof over someone’s head. In clean, decent, stable housing:
- Families can provide stability for their children.
- A family’s sense of dignity and pride grow.
- Health, physical safety, and security improve.
- Education and job prospects increase.
Safe, decent housing improves health
Academic research confirms that “Clean, warm housing is an essential input for prevention and care of diseases of poverty like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, diarrhoea, and malaria”1.
An Emory University research study on Habitat for Humanity’s work in Malawi found Habitat housing improved the health of young children as much as water and sanitation programmes. The study found that children under 5 living in Habitat for Humanity houses had 44% less malaria, respiratory, or gastrointestinal diseases compared to children living in traditional houses2.
Housing is a great means of wealth creation
For families, especially those with a lower income, who are able to own a home, ownership is an important means of wealth accumulation in the form of equity and forced savings resulting from mortgage repayment3. In low-income countries, housing construction creates job opportunities for migrants to cities and stimulates the creation of small business. The process of securing land tenure for informal settlements helps to increase access to credit4.
Good housing in communities attracts economic investment and development
Good housing also contributes to thriving school systems and community organisations. It is a catalyst for civic activism and a stimulus for community-based organisations. Safe homes and neighbourhoods, in which residents are satisfied with housing conditions and public services, help to build social stability and security5.
Habitat for Humanity’s methodology assists the wider process of development
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organisations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. They include reducing extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development6.
Whilst the provision of safe, decent housing is our main aim, the way in which Habitat for Humanity operates helps to fulfil many of the MDGs, as demonstrated in a report drawn up by Queen’s University in Belfast.
Housing must become a priority
If action to decrease poverty is to be successful, increasing the housing supply across the globe is essential. Adequate housing is vitally important to the health of the world’s economies, communities, and populations, yet the percentage of people without access to decent, stable housing is rising. The United Nations projects that by the year 2030 an additional 3 billion people, about 40% of the world’s population, will need access to housing7. If we are to prevent such a dramatic escalation of the housing crisis, and if we are to succeed in the fight against poverty, we must support the expansion of housing both as policy and as practice.
1 D. Kissick, et al, Housing for All: Essential for Economic, Social, and Civic Development, a 28 page manuscript prepared for the World Urban Forum III by PADCO/AECOM.
2 Christopher G. Wolff, et al., The Effect of Improved Housing on Illness in Children under Five Years Old in Northern Malawi: Cross-Sectional Study, BMJ vol. 322, 2001
3 Thomas P. Boehm and Alan M. Scholttmann, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Office of Policy Development and Research, Wealth Accumulation and Homeownership: Evidence for Low-Income Households, December 2004
4 Kissick, op. cit.
5 Kissick, op. cit.
6 United Nations, www.un.org/millenniumgoals/bkgd.shtml
7 UN-Habitat, Financing Urban Shelter: Global Report on Human Settlements 2005.