Part I: Changing the mindset from quantity to quality of affordable housing

Author: Delphine Sangodeyi, AHI Senior Urban Planning Associate

The world is currently witnessing a major change in the economic, social, political and environmental issues relevant to emerging markets and economies. According to recent reports by the United Nations, nearly half the world’s population is already living in cities, while nearly 80% is expected to live in cities and urban sprawls by the year 2030. The economic growth paradigms in these economies are likely to have a major impact on global economic development and future sustainability of the planet.

Most of the time, the question of affordable housing is addressed in a quantitative way: “housing deficit.” The housing deficit is abysmal – with nearly 1 billion of the world’s population living in urban slums. This number is likely to only grow larger as cumulative urban growth across two major continents, Africa and Asia, is expected to double between 2000 and 2030.

In many emerging countries the estimated housing deficit is acute. For example, in Nigeria the housing deficit is 18 million housing units. Demand clearly outstrips supply. The first signs of a real estate bubble burst are showing in many Nigerian cities, such as Abuja.

Under construction and just built apartments, in Abuja, Nigeria, photo: D. Sangodeyi, 2011.

Angola, the “satellite city” of Kilamba–which was supposed to highlight the President’s social housing policy–represents a $3.5 billion development built by a Chinese firm to house about 500,000 people. The apartments in the complex cost between $120,000 and $200,000 according to online advertisements. Today, Kilamba is a ghost town. 

The urgent need for housing and the difficulty for societies to answer to the challenge of “housing for all” impacts the way affordable housing is thought and conceived. The equation is often assumed to be an economical and productive matter: how many homes should or can be built in a year?

Actions have been taken by governments, implying for the private sector to face the issue of “housing for all” by building a certain quantity of homes. Today, we are reaching the point that the question of affordable housing should also be addressed in terms of quality, in a more sustainable and long term vision.

Lagos, Makoko, by Yann Arthus Bertrand (more here)

Lagos, Nigeria: new built social housing. Local government advertizes “pay your tax” to build more affordable housing and infrastructures. Photo: D. Sangodeyi, 2011.

[To be continued in Part 2]

2 thoughts on “Part I: Changing the mindset from quantity to quality of affordable housing

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