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Sue Bridge: Launch of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat) Housing Matters Campaign

Everyone has a fundamental human right to housing, which ensures access to a safe, secure, habitable, and affordable home. The world faces a huge challenge in housing its population. By 2030, UN-Habitat estimates that 3 billion people, about 40 percent 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 are detrimental to their health, safety and prosperity.

An affordable home is a precondition for access to employment, education, health, and social services. Providing housing is also about enabling people to live in dignity and security. To address the current housing challenges UN Habitat launched its #Housing Matters campaign as a parallel event during COP28 at the American University of Dubai. The campaign aims to bring together government, businesses, professionals, education, and research leaders to find ways to address the global housing crisis and to achieve more resilient and sustainable cities, Sustainable Development Goal 11. You can find out more about #HousingMatters at

The campaign was launched by Her Excellency Maimunah Mohd Sharif MRTPI(Hon), and I was invited to speak on a panel discussing ‘What needs to happen to decarbonise the housing sector while making cities more socially, environmentally and economically more sustainable – therefore more liveable’. Each panelist covered an aspect of the topic, mine was of course the role of planning policy in transforming and regenerating housing. 

I saw for myself on my visit to Cape Town in November the extent of the housing crisis in just one city in the Global South. The population of Cape Town has grown with the number of households increasing from an estimated 1.07 million in 2011 to 1.46 million in 2021. The City Council provides 96% of households in informal settlements (not to be confused with formal settlements) with free and unrestricted access to water via communal water points within 200m of each household and access to toilets, one per every 5 households. 4% of households in informal settlements do not have this free and unrestricted access to these necessities. In addition, there are numerous households living on the streets and in backyard dwellings where they may be subject to exploitation and worse. This was the subject of much of the discussions during our visit to the City of Cape Town planning department. The City Council has a Five Year Integrated Development Plan July 2022 to June 2027(amended for 23/24). This is a central strategy for the City setting out the long term vision and how it will be achieved. The document is the principal strategic planning instrument that guides all municipal planning across all the council’s departments. The long term vision is to be a ‘City of Hope’ for a prosperous, inclusive and healthy city for all. I wish them every success.

Housing provision and affordability is a global challenge and we must all do better.

The City of Cape Town IDP is just one example of the importance of planning and the role that planners must play in making our towns and cities more sustainable and adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change. During the panel discussion I was pleased to be able to showcase the Silver Jubilee Cup winners in 2022, York City Council for their Housing Delivery Programme, a regeneration scheme in and around the city on mainly infill, brownfield sites building affordable homes to Passivhaus standards. 

The people I have met from the Global South during 2023 cannot understand how G7 countries like ours can have a housing crisis. However, housing provision and affordability is a global challenge and we must all do better. The #HousingMatter campaign is an opportunity to mobiles energies and focus attention on this important issue. Compare 300,000 homes a year target with 96,000 affordable homes a day needed globally. Compare the Cape Town Integrated Development Plan for 2022-2027 reviewed for 2023/24 with our own progress in making and updating local plans. Draw your own conclusions.

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