Mortgages that allow poor people to buy housing will soon be needed to curb the worldwide growth of slums and improve living standards, the head of the United Nations agency charged with promoting socially and environmentally sustainable housing has warned, saying that her organization has already begun testing various financing methods.
In several rapidly urbanizing countries, slums are growing at a rate almost equal to that of urban population growth, Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), Anna Tibaijuka, told the General Assembly’s Second Committee on Thursday.
She also said that recent research showed that more than one billion people living in slums suffered from levels of malnutrition that were similar to or worse than those found in rural areas. The sense of urgency was heightened by the combined trend of rapid urbanization and the urbanization of poverty, she added.
This means that poverty now threatens the living standards of many in the world’s cities. She told the Committee the future of the world was urban, noting that Latin America was now 75 per cent urbanized – a process that had slowly taken place over the last 30 years, and by 2030, Africa would cease to be a rural continent, as would Asia by 2040.
UN-HABITAT must strengthen its work in urban living, especially in the establishment of affordable, pro-poor mortgage financing systems, she said, adding that it was now field-testing mechanisms to deliver such financial systems because conventional social housing solutions were not realistic due to a lack of funds.
But she said that there were some signs of progress, noting in particular that new rules, effective since August, meant that UN-HABITAT could finally act as a catalyst, enabling countries to meet the slum upgrading and water and sanitation targets of 2015.