The challenge

By 2030, UN-Habitat estimates that 3 billion people, about 40 per cent of the world’s population, will need access to adequate housing. This translates into a demand for 96,000 new affordable and accessible housing units every day. Additionally, an estimated 100 million people worldwide are homeless and one in four people live in harmful conditions that to their health, safety and prosperity.

Access to housing is a precondition for access to employment, education, health, and social services. In order to address the current housing challenges, all levels of government should put housing at the centre of urban policies by placing people and human rights at the forefront of urban sustainable development.

Impact

350
families affected by Typhoon Yolanda in Philippines offered loans for site development and housing construction
60
war veterans in Wau State, South Sudan, were the first beneficiaries of houses built as part of the peace-building process and reintegration of veterans
1,600
Estate Worker households living in substandard housing in Sri Lanka benefitted from basic infrastructure facilities for houses that they constructed using a people-centered community-driven approach.

Having realised how successful UN-Habitat has been in supporting other African countries such as Malawi, Ghana, Zambia and Liberia in developing Housing Profiles, we approached [them] to develop the Lesotho Housing Profile. We further approached UNDP… and I am delighted that today we form a tripartite which radiates how significant housing is to all of us. I wish to impress to all key stakeholders involved to continue our concerted efforts to make the review of the National Housing Policy and the development of a strategy an equal success.”

Hon. Dr. Pontso Matumelo Sekatle, Minister of Local Government and Chieftainship, Government of Lesotho

Leaving no one and no place behind

Human rights icon
Gender icon
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Hover over or touch the icons to learn about UN-Habitat's work on social inclusion here.

The human right to adequate housing is recognized in international human rights law as component of the right to an adequate standard of living, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, adopted in 1948) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, adopted in 1966). It is also enshrined in other UN treaties’ provisions of which all states have ratified at least one.

The realization of the human right to adequate housing of all urban residents is a prerequisite for inclusive and sustainable urban centres for all. Yet, almost 1 billion people of the world’s urban population live in inadequate housing conditions in slums and at least 2 million people in the world are forcibly evicted every year, while millions are threatened with forced evictions. Violation of the right to adequate housing leads to spatial fragmentation and increases the risk of a deficit of also other human rights, by groups who are discriminated, marginalized and excluded.

Adequate housing has many implications on the enjoyment of human rights or lack thereof. Thus, realizing the human right to adequate housing depends, wholly or in part, on the fulfilment of other rights, such as the right to an adequate standard of living, the rights to water and sanitation, the right to health, the right to food, the right to education, freedom of expression, the right to hold property, the right to be free from arbitrary interference with one’s home, privacy and family, and the right to work.

UN-Habitat promotes adequate, affordable and safe housing though the NUA, SDG 11 and the Housing at the Centre Approach.

Women represent an important proportion of those who are inadequately housed — facing discrimination because of their gender and many other factors such as poverty, age, class, sexual orientation or ethnicity — and tend to be disproportionally affected by forced evictions. UN-Habitat takes a strong stance on security of tenure and promoting access to housing rights for women as, without control over housing, land or property, women can enjoy little personal or economic autonomy and are more vulnerable to overall abuse.

Housing plays a crucial role in a child’s development. Children’s health, educational advancement and overall well-being are deeply influenced by the quality of housing in which they live. Lack of adequate housing, forced evictions or homelessness tend to have a profound impact on children due to their specific needs, affecting their growth, development and enjoyment of a whole range of human rights, including the right to education, health and personal security. UN-Habitat promotes legislation that ensures children have protection against forced evictions and access to adequate housing, education and health facilities.

Persons with disabilities generally experience several barriers to the enjoyment of their right to adequate housing, including lack of physical accessibility; ongoing discrimination and stigmatization; institutional hurdles; lack of access to the labour market; low income; and lack of social housing or community support. Accommodating to disabled persons is central for UN-Habitat’s work on housing. In our projects, disabilities is an important aspect to consider in order to ensure that accessible housing contributes to a better quality of life for all in urban areas.

Related Sustainable Development Goals

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SDG 3 logo
SDG 7 logo
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SDG 10 logo
SDG 11 logo
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Donors and partners

UN-Habitat supports all levels of government in formulating and implementing progressive sector reforms and policies that contribute to the creation of inclusive and affordable housing for all. We provide our expertise to support the sound analysis of the housing sector and, in particular, the review of key legislation affecting affordable housing provision.

Since 2002, UN-Habitat works with OHCHR on the United Nations Housing Rights Program (UNHRP), which supports governments, civil society and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in advancing the right to adequate housing. UN-Habitat also collaborate closely with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing on forced eviction prevention and housing rights advocacy.

Together with UN Environment, UN-Habitat also works on the Sustainable Buildings and Construction Programme (SBC) which aims to promote resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation efforts, and the shift to SCP patterns in the buildings and construction sector by improving knowledge of sustainable construction, develop sustainable solutions, and share that knowledge and those solutions globally.

Our Experts

Christophe Lalande
Housing Unit Learder
Housing Unit, Housing and Slum Upgrading Branch, UN – Habitat
Urban October