The Global Housing Need

The world is experiencing a global housing crisis. About 1.6 billion people live in substandard housing and 100 million are homeless1. These people are increasingly urban residents, and every week more than a million people are born in, or move to, cities in the developing world2.

Today, a billion people, 32% of the global urban population, live in urban slums. If no serious action is taken, the United Nations reports that the number of slum dwellers worldwide will increase over the next 30 years to nearly 2 billion3.

Bad housing has its greatest impact on children. As Lisa Harker, a British housing expert, explains,

Childhood is a precious time when our experiences shape the adults we become―but children who grow up in bad housing are robbed of their future chances….(they have) lower educational attainment and a greater likelihood of being impoverished and unemployed as adults.” 4

Poor living conditions lead to poor health, which in turn limits a family’s ability to earn an income. Education and healthcare are not free in many countries, and so a limited income means that these are jeopardised; consequently, a family’s ability to escape poverty is reduced. Poverty housing perpetuates the poverty cycle for generations.


1 Miloon Kothari, UN Press Briefing by Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, November, 2005.
2 D. Kissick, et al, Housing for All: Essential for Economic, Social, and Civic Development, a 28 page manuscript prepared for the World Urban Forum III by PADCO/AECOM, June 2006.
3 UN-Habitat, Global Report on Human Settlements 2003: The Challenge of Slums.
4 Lisa Harker, "Chance of a lifetime: the Impacts of Bad Housing on Children's Lives", Shelter, September 2006.