Housing poverty turning into a headache for Eurasia

Geneva, Switzerland (April 22, 2013) – Eurasia is often thought of as having more developed housing than many other parts of the world. Recently, however, international attention has focused on several types of housing poverty in the region:

Fact 1: Housing related expenditure is the biggest component of consumer spending in the EU. According to the International Union of Tenants, housing expenditure was the biggest component of consumer spending in 2011, accounting for 23% of total expenditure. For 12% of the population, housing accounts for 40% of expenditure.

Fact 2: Previously, construction and heating methods did not focus on energy efficiency. Families pay more for energy and many live in energy poverty. Every 10th person in the EU lives in a household which was unable to pay utility bills in 2010, according to the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions.

Fact 3: In Romania, 43% of the population suffers from housing deprivation, with deprivation most acute for disadvantaged Roma populations.

Fact 4: The Eastern part of the region faces more serious problems. In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, around 70% of dwellings lack a bath or a shower. In Kyrgyzstan, only 34% of rural homes have piped water, according to WHO/UNICEF.

These problems prompted four international organizations – Habitat for Humanity International, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) – to organize the Housing Forum: Europe and Central Asia. This Forum is a platform for decision-makers to explore solutions to housing challenges in Europe and Central Asia.

In April 2011 in Hungary, in the midst of the economic and financial crises, the partners developed a vision for creating a space for professionals in all areas of the European and Central Asian housing sector to come together and work toward establishing a common approach to housing in the region.

From 22 to 24 April 2013 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, the four organizers are holding the second Housing Forum: Europe and Central Asia. This time they are joined by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) as a fifth strategic partner, and to support the regional roll out of the UN Global Housing Strategy. The Forum will look at ways to address housing problems, develop affordable housing solutions for the poor on national and regional levels and bring together businesses and the public sector.

“If we are to impact the housing deficit throughout the world, we need to partner with groups and organizations committed to this same vision. The Housing Forum is the ideal way to bring like-minded people and groups together to share, to dream and to create ways to address the housing issues facing not only this region, but throughout the world,” says Greg Foster, Area Vice President, Habitat for Humanity International.

“Sustainable housing is a requirement, not an aspiration, if we are to ensure a future for all,” states Graham Saunders, Head, Shelter & Settlements, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

“With strong Government commitment and a proper legal framework, each country can establish enabled property markets which provide a sound basis for economic growth,” says David Egiashvili, UNECE Real Estate Market Advisory Group.

“To achieve the goal of adequate housing for all UN-Habitat has launched a Global Housing Strategy, a collaborative global movement, aiming at improving access to housing in general and the living conditions of slum dwellers in particular. Its main objective is to assist UN member States in working towards the realization of the right to adequate housing,” says Mohamed El Sioufi, Coordinator of the Global Housing Strategy, UN-HABITAT.

The Housing Forum brings together leading housing professionals from the region, among them key NGO actors, private corporations, researchers and policymakers.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is a Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built and renovated more than 600,000 homes worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 3 million people. For more information, visit .

About International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization. It works to support and develop the capacities of its member National Societies around the world in their humanitarian mission to assist the most vulnerable members of society, without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. The IFRC’s work focuses on four core areas: promoting humanitarian values, disaster response, disaster preparedness, and health and community care. For more information, visit .

About UNDP
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the UN’s global development network, an organization advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States is on the ground in 28 countries and territories in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. For more information, visit .

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations. It was established in 1947 by the UN Economic and Social Council. The overall mandate of the UNECE is to facilitate greater economic integration and cooperation among its fifty-six Member States and promote sustainable development and economic prosperity. For more information, visit .

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT, is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. UN-Habitat programmes are designed to help policy-makers and local communities to get to grips with the human settlements and urban issues and find workable, lasting solutions. For more information, visit .