UN marks World Habitat Day with launch of “Quick Guides” on urban housing

The Asia-Pacific arm of the United Nations and the UN agency dealing with housing are launching a free on-line “Quick Guides” to help policy-makers deal with the key issues of housing urban poor in the region.

The Quick Guides, jointly developed by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and UN-HABITAT, are in response to the unprecedented growth of slums and squatter settlements that over 500 million people in the Asia-Pacific region call home.

The Guides will be released as part of the observance of World Habitat Day, which falls on the first Monday of October, and will be launched in Nepal (29.September), Cambodia (6 October) and Indonesia (late October).

The work presents inclusive and sustainable policies which are needed to empower the urban poor to climb out of poverty as a critical first step towards attaining the Millennium Development Goal on significant improvement in the lives of slum dwellers.

The seven Quick Guides are presented in an easy-to-read format. They include an overview of trends and key issues, and recommendations of policies and tools.

URBANISATION - The role of the poor in urban development, deals with changing the perspective on urban poor settlements from a drain on resources to a potential resource for their own development. This guide looks at some of the current trends in urbanization and examines housing policies and programmes that have made things worse as well as some that show a new direction and opportunities for improvement.

LOW-INCOME HOUSING - Approaches to help the urban poor find adequate accommodation , describes ways to provide low-income housing and examines alternative strategies to improve slums and provide new adequate and affordable low-income housing on a city-wide scale.

LAND - A crucial element in housing the urban poor , looks at the fact that the inaccessibility of affordable land is the major reason why there are so many slums in Asian cities. The guide examines conventional and more innovative land tenure strategies for governments, community organizations and civil society organizations that help make land available to the poor.

EVICTIONS - Alternatives to the whole-scale destruction of urban poor communities , shows the eviction of poor households and poor communities is increasing in Asian cities, causing displacement, misery and impoverishment for millions. This guide explores several practical alternatives to eviction which are being tested in Asian countries, and presents guidelines to help governments and policy-makers minimize eviction.

HOUSING FINANCE - Ways to help the poor pay for housing , introduces some key housing finance concepts and provides an overview of how housing finance works, especially as it relates — or fails to relate — to the urban poor, and looks at new alternative housing finance strategies.

COMMUNITY-BASED DEVELOPMENT - The poor as agents of development , shows that the emergence of community organizations of the poor in Asia has been a very important development allowing poor communities to move from isolation and powerlessness into collective strength. Understanding how they develop, function and what tools they use is of great value to policy-makers.

RENTAL HOUSING - A much neglected housing option for the poor , shows that rental housing is an important option but governments in Asia have done little to support improvement of existing rental housing. This guide discusses issues of demand and supply of rental housing and presents policy options to regulate, promote and expand rental housing particularly for urban poor.

The Quick Guides as well as a set of posters highlighting their key messages can be freely downloaded from http://www.housing-the-urban-poor.net .