29 April 2020. UfM took stock of Covid-19 challenges and best practices in housing at a virtual meeting hosted by the Secretary-General of the Union for the Mediterranean, Nasser Kamel, on Wednesday, 29 April 2020.
“Exchange of best practices and policy transfers in inclusive, adequate and sustainable housing during this pandemic will also help build resilience, in particular to climate change, in the Mediterranean.”
Nasser Kamel, Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, Leilani Farha, explained that under international human rights law the right to adequate housing covers measures that are needed to prevent homelessness, prohibit forced evictions, address discrimination, focus on the most vulnerable and marginalized groups, ensure security of tenure to all, and guarantee that everyone’s housing is adequate. She underlined that housing is adequate only if it is affordable, if it has potable water, sanitation facilities, electricity and other basic services and if it is close to schools, health services and employment opportunities. The UN Special Rapporteur emphasized that financial burdens of the recovery from this pandemic must be shared fairly and proportionately to the resources of households. She indicated that 30% of household income is generally regarded as an ideal proportion of household expense on housing.
“The COVID-19 crisis has, the world over, completely exposed the vital importance of adequate housing to our safety, health, dignity, financial security and family and community lives. Never before has the need for universal access to adequate housing been so clear. Housing is the first line of defence against diseases such as the coronavirus“.
Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing
The moderator of the meeting, Dr Darinka Czischke Ljubetic, called on the participants to specify challenges faced, policies introduced and practices established to facilitate adequate housing during the pandemic.
“The impacts of COVID-19 on housing worldwide exposes a number of structural shortcomings of current housing systems. While devising emergency measures to face the challenges posted by the pandemic, we should use this crisis as an opportunity to rethink our housing systems so as to make them more resilient and inclusive”.
Dr. Darinka Czischke Ljubetic, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology,The Netherlands.
As keynote speakers: Firstly, Konstantin Kholodilin gave an overview of his research at the German Institute for Economic Research on housing policies and responses of governments in 59 countries, including state support for the housing market; Secondly Marissa Plouin explained the long-term, holistic perspective of OECD’s Horizontal Housing Project in building an OECD Housing Strategy; and finally, Andor Urmos introduced the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative of the European Commission.
Participants observed that Governments around the Mediterranean have taken measures, such as bans and moratoriums on evictions, caps on rents and mortgage payments and social rent. They noted that post-pandemic recovery could be challenging for households that benefit from those measures when payment of arrears are resumed, since several of those measures are temporary.
Fifty-four participants attended the meeting, including representatives from 20 UfM countries, United Nations, European Commission, OECD, universities, research institutes, international development cooperation agencies, IFIs and NGOs.