• Jakarta International MUN

Why the Sustainable Housing Debate is like a House of Cards

by Arielle Ludmilla | 13 August 2021, 18:17 WIB | TIME MAGAZINE | UN-Habitat

We agree that sustainable housing is the right of everyone in every country. And yet, no country here has agreed on what the core issue of sustainable housing is. This is what makes this discussion all the more fragile.

Each country has its own views on what is the most important core of the issue is. LDCs such as Vanuatu think that environmental resilience should be the core of sustainable housing, as their country is a maritime one that is threatened by rising climate issues. UAE has found that there should also be a socio-cultural understanding towards mitigating the problem. I must admit, this discussion did not go anywhere except for statements on what each country thinks the problem is or what each country would like.

Photo: countries debate on what the core issues of sustainable housing are

But I did catch a stimulating debate regarding slum upgrading in the council. There is always a trade-off between slum-upgrading and gentrification. We know that the living conditions in slums are less-than-favorable and even unhealthy for the families living in them. But upgrading slums into better living spaces is hard too, especially for developing countries. When governments upgrade slums, they are increasing the value – and the pricing – of these living spaces, making them even more inaccessible to the low-income families living in them in the first place.

In the council, I saw several developing countries trying to bring this issue to light, as all countries have their own idea of what slum upgrading should be. The delegate of Argentina was one of the first to highlight that slum upgrading should refer to turning them into decent housings. In a private interview where I asked how their government plans on securing decent housing for low-income families without gentrifying the slums to the point of inaccessibility, they answered that 1) they plan on involving community-driven development to point out which aspects of decent housing need prioritizing, 2) financing schemes with generous loans and periods of payment, and 3) establish policies that are pro-lower income policies, including tax breaks for private developers to drive the costs of housing lower. I saw Ethiopia welcoming this statement, and they too, have similar stances.

Chile, one of the first countries in the world to implement public housings, is also in partnerships with private companies and civil societies to provide sustainable housing for all without risking gentrification. The country is currently upgrading non-house factors, such as mitigating violence and increasing microfinance in slums to provide more sustainable housing without driving up the cost too much.

But this issue appears in a developed country such as France, too. France’s urbanized areas are running low on fields on which sustainable housing can be built on. The delegate of France was kind enough to tell me that they plan on reusing the lands they already have and upcycling them into being more sustainable and accessible living spaces, through their 2007 framework on sustainable housing.

Jakarta International MUN 2021