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UN-Habitat looking to improve on the lives of slum dwellers by 2020

by Archives July 8, 2003

Housing seems to be on everyone’s minds nowadays, from the single parent trying to find an affordable apartment in Montreal to the even less fortunate in developing countries trying to find homes. In an effort to help out the housing crunch around the world, some of the world’s best engineers met at Concordia to share ideas.

Concordia hosted the 31st International Association for Housing Science (IAHS) congress last June 23 to 27, where engineers and architects from around the world converged to exchange ideas on every aspect of housing from design to sustainability.

One of the keynote speakers of this congress, Dr. Dinesh Mehta of UN-Habitat, expressed the urgent need for associations like IAHS to help UN-Habitat solve a growing culprit affecting the world: slums.

It is estimated today that out of a total global population of 6 billion, almost 1 billion are living in slums or slum-like conditions. By 2030, the numbers of slum dwellers, in the world, are forecasted to double approximately to 2.2 billion,” said Mehta, coordinator of the urban management program of UN-Habitat.

By the year 2020, UN-Habitat must achieve significant improvement in the lives of the 100 million slum dwellers. According to Mehta, “slum formations are encouraged by a perception that the poor have nothing to contribute and by lack of effective land use planning that would anticipate population growth. The formation of slums today is very much like an epidemic not a disease. (Slum formation is) an anti-urban bias that finds expression in national policies of urban neglect.”

Stimulation of job creation, development and management of urban revenue base, urban infrastructure improvement and provision of attractive amenities. These are only some of the strategies UN-Habitat has outlined in order to eradicate slums.

But the challenge of these strategies, according to Mehta, relies not only on national governments and international agencies, but also on domestic institutions and finance institutions in the private and public sector.

Furthermore, Mehta noted that slum upgrading has nothing to do with shelter but has everything to do with strong community organization and ownership. He stated that empowering the poor with pro-poor initiatives that improve access to basic services and put emphasis on finance systems that are better tailored to deal with unstable collateral will help improve the slum affected communities.

On a local level, the IAHS week-long congress ended with a tour of Montreal housing projects. The city of Montreal is working in partnership with Renovation Quebec to build low cost housing. One of the projects visited in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is new wood-frame construction of 25 units amid at affordable homeownership. The total cost will be of $1.6 million with a subsidy under the Renovation Quebec program for $125,000.

The goal, according to City of Montreal urban planner Fran

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