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Habitat II Conference                      [ Back to Habitat II ]

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IV Global Plan of Action

B. Adequate Shelter for All

1. Introduction

60. Adequate shelter means more than a roof over one's head. It also means adequate privacy; adequate space; physical accessibility; adequate security; security of tenure; structural stability and durability; adequate lighting, heating and ventilation; adequate basic infrastructure, such as water-supply, sanitation and waste-management facilities; suitable environmental quality and health-related factors; and adequate and accessible location with regard to work and basic facilities: all of which should be available at an affordable cost. Adequacy should be determined together with the people concerned, bearing in mind the prospect for gradual development. Adequacy often varies from country to country, since it depends on specific cultural, social, environmental and economic factors. Gender-specific and age-specific factors, such as the exposure of children and women to toxic substances, should be considered in this context.

61. Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the right to adequate housing has been recognized as an important component of the right to an adequate standard of living. All Governments without exception have a responsibility in the shelter sector, as exemplified by their creation of ministries of housing or agencies, by their allocation of funds for the housing sector and by their policies, programmes and projects. The provision of adequate housing for everyone requires action not only by Governments, but by all sectors of society, including the private sector, non-governmental organizations, communities and local authorities, as well as by partner organizations and entities of the international community. Within the overall context of an enabling approach, Governments should take appropriate action in order to promote, protect and ensure the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing. These actions include, but are not limited to:

(a) Providing, in the matter of housing, that the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;

(b) Providing legal security of tenure and equal access to land for all, including women and those living in poverty, as well as effective protection from forced evictions that are contrary to the law, taking human rights into consideration and bearing in mind that homeless people should not be penalized for their status;

(c) Adopting policies aimed at making housing habitable, affordable and accessible, including for those who are unable to secure adequate housing through their own means, by, inter alia:

(i) Expanding the supply of affordable housing through appropriate regulatory measures and market incentives;

(ii) Increasing affordability through the provision of subsidies and rental and other forms of housing assistance to people living in poverty;

(iii) Supporting community-based, cooperative and non-profit rental and owner-occupied housing programmes;

(iv) Promoting supporting services for the homeless and other vulnerable groups;

(v) Mobilizing innovative financial and other resources - public and private - for housing and community development;

(vi) Creating and promoting market-based incentives to encourage the private sector to meet the need for affordable rental and owner-occupied housing;

(vii) Promoting sustainable spatial development patterns and transportation systems that improve accessibility of goods, services, amenities and work;

(d) Effective monitoring and evaluation of housing conditions, including the extent of homelessness and inadequate housing, and, in consultation with the affected population, formulating and adopting appropriate housing policies and implementing effective strategies and plans to address those problems.

62. Because it leads to the full mobilization of all potential indigenous resources, a shelter strategy that is based on an enabling approach greatly contributes to the sustainable development of human settlements. The management of such resources must be people-centred and must be environmentally, socially and economically sound. This can occur only if policies and actions in the shelter sector are integrated with policies and actions that are intended to promote economic development, social development and environmental protection. A fundamental objective of this chapter, therefore, is to integrate shelter policies with policies that will guide macroeconomic and social development and sound environmental management.

63. A second fundamental objective of this chapter is to enable markets - the primary housing delivery mechanism - to perform their function with efficiency. Actions to achieve this objective and at the same time contribute to social goals, including, where appropriate, market-based incentives and compensatory measures, are recommended. Further objectives and recommended actions address the components of shelter-delivery systems (land, finance, infrastructure and services, construction, building materials, maintenance and rehabilitation) in the private, community and public rental sectors, and ways of making them serve all people better. Finally, special attention is given to all those, including women, who are at considerable risk because they lack security of tenure or are inhibited from participation in shelter markets. Actions are recommended to reduce their vulnerability and enable them to obtain adequate shelter in a just and humane way.

64. International and national cooperation at all levels will be both necessary and beneficial in promoting adequate shelter for all. This is especially needed in areas that are affected by war or by natural, industrial or technological disasters, and in situations in which reconstruction and rehabilitation needs surpass national resources.

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