By Akanimo Sampson
Despite the untiring efforts of Family Home Funds, more urgent action is still needed in Nigeria to provide low-income families and vulnerable populations more secure affordable housing and easy access to water, sanitation, transport and other basic services.
At the moment, Family Home is aggressively pursuing the development of 500,000 homes for people on low income. Over the next four years, the company is aiming to invest up to N1.3trillion, around $3billion in the development of .5 million homes. In the process, it is also aiming to create up to 1,500,000 jobs and enable homeownership through its creative products.
Family Home has realise that even with the lowest-priced homes, affordability is still a problem for many Nigerians due to the inability to access finance at affordable rates. There is also the informal sector who cannot access traditional finance easily. Through strategic partnerships, we are driving creative products which empower these groups with the right structure that leads to homeownership
However, UN chief, Antonio Guterres, says “access to clean water and sanitation, along with social distancing, are key responses to the pandemic. Yet in slums it has proved difficult to implement these measures.
“This means an increased risk of infection, not only within slums, but in whole cities, many of which are largely serviced by low-income informal sector workers living in informal settlements.”
Globally, more than a billion people live in overcrowded settlements with inadequate housing, and the number is expected to reach 1.6 billion by 2030.
To meet that demand, more than 96,000 housing units will need to be completed every day – and they must be part of the green transition, UN Secretary-General says, urging greater partnerships, pro-poor policies, and regulations needed to improve housing in cities.
Adding, he said, “as we strive to overcome the pandemic, address the fragilities and inequalities it has exposed, and combat climate change, now is the time to harness the transformative potential of urbanisation for the benefit of people and planet.”
Marked annually on the first Monday of October, World Habitat Day focuses attention on the state of the world’s towns and cities, and the right to adequate shelter. This year’s observance highlights the centrality of housing as a driver for sustainable urban development.
The World Day was established by the UN General Assembly in 1985.
According to the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), with urban areas accounting for 95 per cent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases, housing is now widely recognised as a frontline defence against the disease, with residents across the world being told to stay at home and wash their hands.
However, these simple measures are “impossible” for over a billion people, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, said in a separate message.
“We have seen hospitals overflowing, jobs disappearing, schools closed and movement restricted. But we can, and we will recover, and use our experiences to build back better and greener”, she added.
Noting that towns and cities moved quickly to provide emergency housing solutions and shelter for the homeless, quarantine spaces, truck in water and postponed evictions, Ms. Sharif urged that these achievements must not be reversed, once the pandemic is over.
“These temporary measures need to lead to long term policy changes,” she said.
“Otherwise, poverty and inequalities will be further exacerbated, and millions of people are at risk of losing their homes, once temporary bans on evictions are lifted, or when the lack of the stable income results in missed rent or mortgage payments.”
In a message marking the World Cities Day, commemorated annually on 31 October, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the importance of close-knit communities.
“Cities have borne the brunt of the pandemic”, said Mr. Guterres.
“With the pandemic often overwhelming public health and support services, communities have organized to keep their neighbourhoods safe and functioning, engaging with local and national governments to support the official response”, he added.
Innovation and resilience
Neighbours shopped and cooked for the sick and elderly, residents cheered health workers, and local volunteer and faith-based groups supported the vulnerable, across the world. Communities also came together, formed self-help networks, developing apps to link up those in need, with those offering help.
“Communities are innovative, resilient and proactive”, said Mr. Guterres.
In addition, with forecasts predicting that around 68 per cent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050, up from the current 55 per cent, the UN chief highlighted that communities will be all the more important for the rapidly urbanizing world to respond effectively to the pandemic and prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks.
“Let us maintain this recognition of their value [and] put our communities at the heart of the cities of the future”, he said.
Communities bring sustainable solutions
“We must recognize that communities must be at the centre of designing their own, longer term solutions and we must listen to them as their on-ground experience will help us build resilience and equity in the future”, she said.
“Valuing our communities is an important first step towards the transformational change we need to build back better and build back greener”, added the head of UN-Habitat.
Designated by the UN General Assembly in 2013, World Cities Day recognizes the significance of urban basic services as a foundation for the overall social and economic development. The Day also ties into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with Goal 11 aiming to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
This year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the theme of the World Cities Day is “Valuing Our Communities and Cities.”
The 2020 Global Observance, on October 31, will take place in the Kenyan city of Nakuru – the first time it is being hosted in Africa. The event will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alongside, commemorative events will be held across the world, including a special event, on 29 October, supported by World Health Organisation (WHO) featuring health leaders and mayors on the urban response to COVID-19. UNESCO will also be hosting an “Urban Dialogue” on October 30, with the academia, public and private sectors, and civil society.