Author(s): Choguill CL
Housing policies have passed through many permutations in the last 50 years, based on differing, even conflicting, approaches that, if we were totally truthful, have not really solved the housing problems faced by the majority of the world's population. For most people, remembering that over half the world's population subsists on less than $2 per day, the challenge of housing is a simple one: the need for a healthy shelter at an affordable price. In recent years, the concept of sustainability has become central not just in housing policy, but in the consideration of human settlements, employment, infrastructure, transportation and urban services. In fact, the concept of sustainability may be one of the most overused and misunderstood urban policy component in use today. This paper attempts to clarify the concept of sustainability, leading to what is hopefully an operational definition that can be used to measure progress toward this desirable state. The ideas developed are then applied to the field of housing policies, that is, the guidance that governments can give to housing providers, whether they be commercial, public or self-builders, placing housing activity within the overall framework of the sustainability of human settlements and national and international economic activity. In the course of this discussion, certain criteria for sustainability will emerge, including the need for poverty reduction and slum eradication, as well as the broader goal of environmental preservation and the importance of developing channels for making viable finance available. Of course, without improvements in employment opportunity and incomes, whatever is done within the housing policy area is likely to lead to disappointing results.