Category Archives: Housing Events

Boston Report: designing for, and talking about, urban disasters.

by Anya Brickman Raredon

Last week there was talk about disasters and resilience up and down the MBTA Redline – from Harvard University’s Design for Urban Disaster Conference to UMass Boston’s Conference on Disaster Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Sustainable Reconstruction, and MIT’s Sustainability Summit in between. I, along with some of my colleagues here at AHI had the opportunity to attend and present at both the Harvard and UMass events.

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Announcement for AHI UMass Session

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Posters at the Harvard GSD conference.

Our week of conferencing started at Harvard with three days of panels and discussion focused on how designers and humanitarians could work together in disaster response and better understand each other’s professional skill sets.  With over 140 attendees, there were a lot of perspectives and a lot of information to absorb over the course of three days, but several themes emerged and were highlighted in each day’s plenary sessions.  Some of these which I think bear further consideration include:

– How can humanitarians and architects better understand each other’s professional processes, and get away from seeing the other as being “too slow” (in the case of architects), and “too reactive” (in the case of humanitarians)?

– How come discussions of resilience don’t take power structures into account?  And what are the resulting implications of this?

– Has the well-developed humanitarian compliance system stopped organizations from being able to learn from feedback?

– Is humanitarian response (whether design based, or otherwise) evidence and context driven? How can we work towards this as a goal?

AHI also led one session at each conference focused on raising the question of whether we can continue to think of large-scale post-disaster resettlements as temporary (refugee or internally displaced persons camps) or whether it is time to acknowledge that many of these situations are in fact urban conditions that become permanent and should perhaps be thought of as ‘instant cities’.

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Moderating a 45-minute discussion on “Shelter Camp or Instant City?”  at Harvard University

For the UMass session, AHI also invited Chris Ward (Deputy Director of USAID/Haiti’s Infrastructure Office) to speak on specific cases of camp-to-settlement transformations in post-earthquake Haiti, and David Sanderson (Oxford Brookes University, and one of the organizers of the Harvard conference) to offer his perspective on how this idea fit within current humanitarian practices.

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The panels inspired dynamic discussions, raising issues of: land tenure, politics, definitions of ‘urban’, and the different realities of protracted displacement situations based on their causes. We are looking forward to continuing this conversation at the InterAction Forum on June 12th in Washington, D.C.  We will also be writing more on the topic both here and in AHI Innovations over the coming months.

In the meantime, see David Smith’s presentation here, and share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Ben Krause (J/P Haitian Relief Organization) offering commentary during the UMass session.

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Chris Ward (USAID/Haiti), David Smith (AHI), and David Sanderson (Oxford Brookes University) discussing a question during the 2-hour UMass session.

 

 

 

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AHI’s recent study tour to Anchorage and Chicago

As part of its efforts to develop an affordable housing strategy for Ulaanbaatar, AHI conducted a Study Tour to Anchorage, Alaska and Chicago, Illinois for a 10-person delegation of Mongolian municipal and ministerial government officials. Along the way, participants met with nine different organizations and learned how affordable housing is defined, developed, financed, maintained, and accessed in the United States; they also considered what policies and programs may be adaptable to Ulaanbaatar.

Check out a few group shots below!

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The Mongolian delegation meets the Mayor of Anchorage, Dan Sullivan

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The Mongolian delegation on top of Harvest Commons, a Heartland Housing development in Chicago

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Closing event

Photo Report: AHI at UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum (WUF)

By: Molly McGowan

Last week, my colleague, AHI Global Associate Anya Brickman Raredon, and I traveled to Medellin, Colombia, to participate in UN Habitat’s World Urban Forum (WUF). It was a spectacular conference in a spectacular city.

UN Habitat's World Urban Forum

UN Habitat’s World Urban Forum

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Sign in Santo Domingo (a neighborhood of Medellin now served by the recently-constructed metro cable) – “Please take care of the garden and the trees. Put garbage in the trash bins. Thank you. The environment of the park and this lookout depends on you. This is our air. Thank you for taking care of it.”

AHI’s primary reason for being in Medellin was to participate in two events with partners we are working with in Haiti: Cordaid and USAID.

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In the first, Anya spoke about our housing ecosystem approach and a model for housing delivery in Haiti as a part of a panel organized and moderated by Cordaid’s Inge Bouwmans and Marloe Dresens. Anya spoke alongside Margriet Nieuwenhuis (Director, Cordaid Urban Matters), Gerald Jean-Francois (Program Manager, Cordaid Urban Matters Haiti), and Raoul Pierre-Louis (CASEC of Turgeau, Haiti).

1)Preparing for the Cordaid panel. From left to right: Gerald Jean-Francois, Raoul Pierre-Louis, Anya Brickman Raredon, Margriet Nieuwenhuis, Marloe Dresens, Inge Bouwmans

Preparing for the Cordaid panel. From left to right: Gerald Jean-Francois, Raoul Pierre-Louis, Anya Brickman Raredon, Margriet Nieuwenhuis, Marloe Dresens, Inge Bouwmans

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See the full presentation here.

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AHI Global Associate Anya Brickman Raredon speaking on AHI’s ecosystem approach

In the second, we presented a poster (see it here) during USAID’s event on Haiti, where our friends Chris Ward (USAID), Anna Konotchick (UC-Berkeley), Rose-May Guignard (CIAT), Odnell David (UCLBP), and Kate Crawford (University College London’s Centre for Urban Sustainability and Resilience) were speaking.

Chris Ward (USAID) introduces the USAID panel on Haiti. From left to right: Odnell David, Anna Konotchick, Rose-May Guignard, Chris Ward, Kate Crawford

Chris Ward (USAID) introduces the USAID panel on Haiti. From left to right: Odnell David, Anna Konotchick, Rose-May Guignard, Chris Ward, Kate Crawford

Building Permanence: Self-Recovery after Disaster

Building Permanence: Self-Recovery after Disaster

With our presentations finished on Tuesday, we were able to spend the rest of the conference taking it all in, meeting interesting people, and learning about the fantastic work taking place on housing all over the world.

Adriana Navarro-Sertich (UNOPS) speaking on how to build more than a roof

Adriana Navarro-Sertich (UNOPS) speaking on how to build more than a roof

Claudio Acioly moderating a panel on slum upgrading programs in Brazil, South Africa, and Kenya

Claudio Acioly moderating a panel on slum upgrading programs in Brazil, South Africa, and Kenya

AHI Senior Advisor Deidre Schmidt and MIT Professor Reinhard Goethert speaking on land tenure at a panel organized by Loeb Fellow Matt Nohn

AHI Senior Advisor Deidre Schmidt and MIT Professor Reinhard Goethert speaking on land tenure at a panel organized by Loeb Fellow Matt Nohn

PCI’s project manager presenting on Barrio Mio – a 24-month collaboration between PCI and USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance designed to transform a high-risk urban neighborhood in Guatemala into a resilient, safe, and productive community

PCI’s Ernesto Paiz presenting on Barrio Mio – a 24-month collaboration between PCI and USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance designed to transform a high-risk urban neighborhood in Guatemala into a resilient, safe, and productive community

The Barrio Mio team. From left to right: Local team leader, Kathy Vilnrotter (Enclude), Jim DiFrancesca (PCI)

The Barrio Mio team. From left to right: Jose Murguia (PCI), Kathy Vilnrotter (Enclude), Jim DiFrancesca (PCI)

JP/HRO’s Lora Vicariot and Benjamin Krause talking about the learning, growth, and adaptation necessary to design and implement an effective emergency relief and reconstruction program

JP/HRO’s Lora Vicariot and Benjamin Krause talking about the learning, growth, and adaptation necessary to design and implement an effective emergency relief and reconstruction program

‘Africa Incorporated’ – AHI at Harvard Business school

‘Africa Incorporated’: first thoughts on the HBS Africa Business Conference

Evans Essienyi, AHI West Africa Associate

Left: The auditorium starts to fill.
Right: Evans and David

This past weekend, March 2-4, it was exciting to be at the Spangler, Burden and Aldrich Halls of the Harvard Business School (HBS) for the 14th edition of the annual African Business conference. The theme was “Africa Incorporated”.

More than 1,300 participants came from countries across the globe. When I first met a student from Stanford, I was impressed they had come from such a distance. Then I met others from Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa and felt the true intensity and commitment of attendees. While some were Harvard students, many were Africans with actual businesses and initiatives in Africa.

The participants comprised students, industry practitioners, and academics from various fields including social entrepreneurship, banking, agribusiness, entertainment, real estate, mass media, health care, education and telecommunications.

I attended three panel discussions – ‘How I did it’, ‘Real estate investing’, for which AHI’s Founder David Smith was a panel leader and ‘Social Entrepreneurship.’ At these sessions, experts shared their insight into how social issues can be addressed with for-profit and non-profit business models, how Africans and non-Africans from the Diaspora have gone back to Africa, and have surmounted all the seemingly-insurmountable challenges the continent presents to building thriving businesses. Finally, real estate experts, including David, shared their thoughts on the metrics they use for evaluating deals of various kinds in Africa, and the pleasant surprise that await all who dare to invest in real estate in Africa.

To me, the conference was exciting, the learning and insights were helpful, but nothing compares with the warmth and thrill of meeting so many Africans, in one location – Boston. I couldn’t make it to the banquet and after party, but I am reliably informed that they were the real climax to all that had happened during the day. I cannot wait for the next HBS African Business Conference, and am sure there will be much to report.

On MENA affordable housing

By Janaki Blum, AHI Staff

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) asked AHI’s MENA Advisor, Maysa Sabah Shocair, to talk about the lack of affordable housing in the  Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by for their October 1 news video Shortage of low-cost housing adds to Mid-East unrest.

Maysa explained that the provision of affordable housing is only now appearing on the radar of MENA governments, who for reasons of bureaucracy, lack of resources, political instability or corruption, have had limited, or no, active involvement in this field up to now.  Meanwhile, developers of housing have concentrated exclusively on the upper end of the market. Governments could learn from other regions and introduce incentives for these developers to produce more housing for lower income people. These incentives could be financial and take the form of debt, for instance, or they could be non-financial ones such as access to land, tax breaks, and other supportive measures that could help underwrite the development process.

The interview followed upon her contribution to a special report on affordable housing in the MENA region published by Jones Lang LaSalle, a leading real estate investment and advisory firm. Why Affordable Housing Matters? for MENA shows that demand far outpaces supply of affordable housing across the seven major markets surveyed, causing a shortfall of over 350 million dwellings. It calls for more targeted government involvement, urban planning and community development.

Maysa was filmed during the first Future Cities Conference where she presented a talk on Delivering sustainable affordable housing strategies. This meeting was held alongside Cityscape Global 2011,  on 27 – 29 September, 2011, in Dubai, UAE.

AHI speaks on upgrading slums

Janaki Blum, Affordable Housing Institute Staff

This week, AHI Founder David Smith is at Tulane University, New Orleans, where he is invited to kick-off the new Fall lecture series “Urban Innovation” with his talk Turning Slums into Assets on Monday, September 19, 2011, 6:00 PM. David’s experience is expected to “offer insight into how to handle similar problems in New Orleans,” said Scott Bernhard, the director of the School of Architecture’s Tulane City Center in an article on the lectures.

On September 21, Deidre Schmidt, AHI’s Executive Director, will be at day 2 of the Impact Investing Summit where she will chair a panel on Investment Strategies that Will Scale up Affordable Housing, with Sasi Thumuluri , Global Business Strategy Manager, International Housing Finance, Habitat for Humanity, and  Daniela Carrera, Chief Financial Markets Division Structured & Corporate Department, Inter American Development Bank.

What’s happening in Affordable Housing?

Janaki Blum, Administrative Director at AHI

Next week, the 3rd Asia Pacific Housing Forum and Exhibition 2011 will take place in Bangkok, Thailand. On the heels of current environmental calamities, this convening of practitioners engaged in providing urban poverty housing solutions will concentrate on “Sustainable Shelter in an Age of Climate Change and Disasters,” sharing experiences around the problems of substandard housing, and looking to integrate disaster mitigative strategies into ‘bottom-up’ development planning processes.

Other news and opinions from around the world:

Kenyan Government to resume Kibera slum upgrading
KBC NewsPrime Minister Raila Odinga has announced government plans to resume the construction of more housing units under the stalled slum upgrading project in Kibera. Major roads rehabilitation projects were factored in the current financial year also.

Dismal progress in social housing
The HinduData released recently by the Indian government shows a distinct lack of progress in providing housing for the poor. Only by exploring innovative practices from other regions, and radically changing the approach to the provision of social housing, can the vision of making cities slum-free be realised.

Labor Day Milestone for AFL-CIO HIT: Union Pension Capital Helps Create More Than 11,000 New Construction Jobs in Two Years
Market WatchThe AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust (HIT) is putting construction workers back on the job: The HIT created more than 10,000 union construction jobs during the past two years, and set a new goal of reaching 15,000 jobs by year-end 2012. It is already on its way to meeting this new objective with more than 11,000 jobs created to date.

Social Impact Investment Opportunity Looks To Tackle Housing Crisis
RealwireEqufund, the social investments and finance specialist, has opened an investment opportunity to use private investment to tackle the growing housing crisis, and is appealing to investors to fund community self-build projects in some of the UK’s most deprived areas. Through the scheme, those who cannot afford to buy a home can invest their own time and effort in building or renovating a property in return for a deposit and financial support.

Affordable housing? Borrow a page from NYC
Jerusalem Post
Israel’s affordable housing crisis can be fixed by adapting New York City’s combination of public financing incentives to attract private capital, land disposition strategies to promote economically diverse communities, and a wide range of private and nonprofit developers to construct and manage properties. An essential ingredient is government leadership in creating these tools..