New Urban Housing Practitioners’ Hub Takes Shape in Latin America
Cities Alliance is supporting development of the Urban Housing Practitioners Hub (UHPH), a platform that combines a digital space with in-person interactions where people can connect and access information about housing in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region as they implement the New Urban Agenda.
Inadequate housing remains an acute political, social, and economic problem in the LAC region, where roughly a quarter of the population lives in slums. And each year, the housing need continues to grow. As one of the most heavily urbanised regions in the world, cities are especially affected by the lack of affordable, well-located housing.
Over the past 20 years, a broad range of urban and housing policies have promoted considerable progress in the region, especially in countries with more progressive or pro-poor policies. New housing supply has increased in some countries, but not at the scale and range needed to address the entire housing deficit and demand. National and local governments still face considerable challenges in reaching their poorest residents and providing employment opportunities as well as access to services.
A regional mobilisation towards implementing the urban agenda
With the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and New Urban Agenda now in place, efforts are underway within LAC region to support their implementation, and housing is a key focus area. Stakeholders are mobilised, and many activities are taking place at the regional level.
One of the most significant is a regional action plan for the New Urban Agenda led by the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America, widely known by its Spanish acronym CEPAL, in collaboration with UN-Habitat and the General Assembly of Ministers of Housing and Urban Development of Latin America and the Caribbean (MINURVI).
The action plan aims to foster regional cooperation among stakeholders working in urban development at the planning and policy level with a series of instruments for planning, monitoring and implementing the agendas.
While specific needs vary by country, there are regional housing trends that the action plan seeks to address, including new and diversified instruments to improve access to adequate housing, greater resilience to natural disasters, increased collaboration on housing policies and implementation, and in some cases, better data on housing.
A hub to connect practitioners
The next step is to link the policy and planning efforts surrounding the action plan with housing practitioners on the ground. To that end, the Cities Alliance has supported the establishment of the Urban Housing Practitioners Hub, a platform focused on urban housing that brings practitioners at all levels into the discussion and connects them with policy planning.
The UHPH is an open-source network for organisations committed to improving housing conditions for the urban poor in LAC, and to do so in ways that align with SDG 11 and other Goals, as well as the New Urban Agenda. Its community includes local and national governments, civil society, academics, and other development partners. Cities Alliance Board member Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), which is very active and has a strong presence in LAC, is a key partner in the hub.
The UHPH platform
The UHPH platform has been designed with four modules: labs, best practices, a virtual social media-type space for discussion, and the Third Regional Conference on Housing and Habitat 2018. Several of the modules are already being tested on a pilot basis.
MODULE 1: Labs for on-demand assistance
The most advanced of the four UHPH modules, the labs are the intelligence of the hub, where research and practice converge. They bring people together with experience on a specific topic to reflect on current models and offer responses to the challenges of urban housing in LAC.
The challenges discussed in the labs are demand-based and informed by the global agenda. For example, at a recent event to promote the UHPH labs in São Paulo, the government of Bolivia shared a draft programme on rental housing, and participants from across the region provided feedback. Other virtual and semi-virtual labs were held on an on-demand basis by organisations in Argentina, El Salvador, Paraguay, and Peru.
MODULE 2: Best practices database
The aim of this module is to create a database of experiences on housing for practitioners. There are many databases in the LAC region related to housing – such as Chile’s Quiero mi barrio initiative, CAIXA’s municipal management, and INFONAVIT, Mexico’s federal institute for worker’s housing – but they are scattered and separate.
UHPH seeks to consolidate the information in these disparate databases into a single second-tier database so that practitioners can access information on robust experiences that might be useful for the changes required by the New Urban Agenda and the SDGs, information about the process, stakeholders, as well as political and technical contexts. The database is currently under production.
MODULE 3: A virtual space for housing
This module of the UHPH will provide a digital platform for everyone involved in housing to connect, a sort of social media for housing. The idea is that a person working in a small municipality in northern Brazil, for example, can connect directly with a peer in Argentina and share knowledge, ideas and challenges. This module is in the preliminary stage of development
MODULE 4: The Third Regional Conference on Housing 2018
All of the UHPH modules will converge at the Third Regional Conference on Housing, which will take place 12-16 June 2018 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The modules will be showcased and presented, with a combination of labs, best practices, experiences from the database, and high-level political dialogue. Cities Alliance is on the steering committee for the conference and is also a strategic partner.
What’s next for the hub
The UHPH was initially kicked off in October 2016 during the Habitat III process in Quito, with funding from Cities Alliance and strong leadership from Habitat for Humanity in collaboration with members and partners including CAIXA, the Chilean Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MINVU), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), UN-Habitat, the World Bank, and regional local governments associations, such as FLACMA.
The hub was endorsed by MINURVI in June 2017, and officially presented at a major regional Cities Conference in Santiago, Chile 2-6 October 2017 in recognition of its importance as a regional knowledge platform.
While the UHPH is still in the pilot phase, the response so far has been very positive, notes Anaclaudia Rossbach, Cities Alliance Regional Adviser for LAC who has been active in establishing the UHPH. Ms Rossbach also helped organise the pilot testing for the labs in São Paulo and Asuncion, as well as a series of virtual labs in September and October.
“The labs are a terrific model that work really well. Participants appreciate the nimble, on-demand technical assistance the labs provide, and the fact that they bring political endorsement as well as technical knowledge,” Ms Rossbach said.
Partners are in the process of identifying best practices that can be showcased in the hub’s modules. In addition, a series of reports are being produced to capture the knowledge gleaned from the labs.
Cities Alliance support
The Cities Alliance partnership has actively supported the hub since its inception. We provided funding for a first mapping of housing research in the region and the design of the UHPH business model. Cities Alliance also facilitated the initial kickoff at Habitat III, and the partnership has worked to bring participants together in support of the hub at events around the region.
Rossbach sees Cities Alliance continuing to play a key role in supporting the hub as it grows and develops. “We have a role in identifying institutions to participate in the UHPH through collaboration, partnership, and coordination. Cities Alliance is also testing how to use the hub to respond to real demands and as a technical arm linked to multilateral investments,” she noted.
Most importantly, Cities Alliance can tap its membership and play a unique convening role. “As a recognised partnership with a solid track record in LAC, Cities Alliance has access to many of the stakeholders and venues. We open the doors to our members.”