Global Cities: The Key Role of Housing

by Rebekah Revello

IHC Global attends the NAR Annual Conference and Expo

A better urban world is an ambitious goal to reach. To get there, we need collaboration and cooperation across all sectors, and an integrated and comprehensive approach. With this in mind, IHC Global traveled to Chicago in November for the National Association of Realtors annual conference and expo, to talk with a largely private sector audience about urban issues, especially affordable housing. IHC Global’s session was Global Cities: The Key Role of Housing, building on theme of “housing at the centre” as highlighted in the New Urban Agenda. IHC Global President and CEO Judith Hermanson opened up the session with a presentation on how integral housing will be in achieving both social and economic urban growth, and how IHC Global is taking on challenges like affordable housing and fair property markets, while taking hold of opportunities along the way. Following Judith Hermanson were three guest speakers from within the IHC Global membership and network: Habitat for Humanity International Vice President of Global Program Development & Support Steve Weir, Affordable Housing Institute Principal Vidhee Garg, and former NAR President and IHC Global Board member Richard Mendenhall.

Each of the presenters brought up the range of issues their organizations were addressing. Weir brought the conversation back to a key factor in all urban issues: the exponentially rising urban population. The rapidly growing secondary cities- those with a population of under 500,000 people- and the larger million people-strong metropolises have the potential to create a super-powered urban economy, and investing in housing is a proven economic boost. Weir noted that for every house built globally, five jobs are created. Nevertheless, informal tenure, housing and employment still persist, and 74% of people who live in urban areas live on less than two dollars a day, factors which contribute to the annual trillion-dollar infrastructure gap in cities. Garg talked specifically about the struggle to bring housing finance to a population in India that does not have access to finance in general, and how the lack of formal or secure tenure is the main obstacle in the way of creating a functioning housing ecosystem. And in addition to explaining how important housing is to the economic growth and overall survival of cities, Mendenhall highlighted the personal aspect of the global housing crisis, citing the fundamental need for shelter, and how providing it can reduce violence, criminal activity, and more.

Instead of focusing only on the challenges, each presenter also discussed solutions. Weir presented the number of ways that Habitat for Humanity International is working to address these issues, through projects around the world that aim to incorporate private developers and property markets into the housing rights conversation. Garg detailed how the Affordable Housing Institute is helping to eliminate the country’s housing shortage of 90 million through consulting, thought leadership, and impact investment, while working on the ground to create a strong relationship between the housing supply and the loaning system. And Mendenhall brought the conversation back to IHC Global’s mission, to connect private sector, civil society and governments together through the common goal of inclusive housing and sustainable cities.

IHC Global was glad to have this platform to reinforce that #TheCityWeNeed is affordable, and that effective change in housing policy can happen through collaboration between the private sector, government and civil society.