Meeting in Geneva, on Tuesday, 8 October, ministers and heads of agencies for housing, urban development and land administration from 55 countries adopted a regional Strategy for Sustainable Housing and Land Management for 2014 to 2020.
Through its 15 objectives and 36 targets, the Strategy addresses the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability in housing and land management. It will serve as a guide for governments and for the work of the UNECE Committee on Housing and Land Management for the seven years to come.
The Strategy recognizes the key role that housing plays for the well-being of the region’s citizens, as well as its important role in climate change mitigation.
The UNECE region is responsible for 40% of global energy consumption, out of which some 40% is consumed by the building sector. Reducing energy use by the residential sector is one of the major challenges and one of the highest priorities for UNECE member States, as highlighted by a recent survey.
Through the Strategy, member States engage themselves to develop policies and legislation to reduce energy use in the housing sector, to introduce more effective management of multi-family housing estates and improve the condition of the housing stock. This will contribute to climate change mitigation and the move towards a low-carbon society. Increasing investments in innovation and new technologies for energy efficiency in housing will also stimulate more jobs and offer new prospects, especially for the young generation.
The UNECE region also contains many areas that are at high risk for natural disasters. For example: it is estimated that in Tajikistan alone, between 2000 and 2006, natural disasters caused the deaths of more than 180 people, damaged more than 48,000 houses and caused economic losses of more than $250 million. In the Strategy, member States commit themselves to improving the resilience of cities and buildings to natural and human-generated disasters.
The 56-country UNECE region is highly diverse in its economic and social development. As a result, some countries face major challenges in housing markets, housing affordability and living conditions.
Denmark, for example, is among the European countries with the highest housing costs. But even so, to buy a new dwelling (70 m2), a Danish household would need to spend just 2.2 times the average yearly income. A household in the Russian Federation, on the other hand, would need to spend around 10 times the average yearly income.
Member States, through the Strategy, commit themselves to “To improve the overall access of all to adequate, affordable, good-quality, healthy and secure housing and utility services, with particular attention to young people and vulnerable groups” (Objective D).
Other regions, such as South-East Europe, are affected by internal migration and rapid and uncontrolled urbanization, which has given rise to many informal settlements. In the whole of the UNECE region, some 50 million people are thought to be living in informal settlements, facing problems of security of tenure and lacking utilities.
Reforms need to be supported by a good governance system. Housing, urban development and land administration engage many stakeholders. Ensuring better coordination of their actions, involving the interested parties in decision-making and improving the capacities of the public sector in housing and land management at all levels are priorities for member States, as reflected in the objectives and targets of the Strategy.
The Ministers and high-level participants see the Strategy as a blueprint for guiding participating countries towards greener and safer homes and more socially inclusive human settlements.
The text is available at http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/hlm/documents/Publications/sust.hsng.strategy.pdf
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Ministerial Meetings on Housing and Land Management
The Ministerial Meeting on Housing and Land Management is the third ministerial meeting organized by the Committee on Housing and Land Management. The first Ministerial Meeting on Human Settlements was held in September 2000. At that meeting, the Ministers adopted the, "UNEECE Strategy for a Sustainable Quality of Life in Human Settlements in the 21st Century".
In September 2006, Ministers responsible for housing, spatial planning and land administration met for the second time and adopted a, “Ministerial Declaration on Social and Economic Challenges in Distressed Urban Areas in the UNECE Region” (ADD LINK). This Declaration reconfirmed many of the goals and challenges contained in the UNECE Strategy. Ministers decided, at the same time, to convene the next high-level meeting after a few years in order to assess progress in the implementation of these commitments.
Committee on Housing and Land Management
The Committee on Housing and Land Management, established in 1947 to provide support to governments in the post-war reconstruction of the housing stock in Europe, is one of the oldest Committees of the UNECE. It is the only body in the region where policies for housing, urban management and land administration are discussed at an intergovernmental level. The Committee’s work is supported by the Working Party on Land Administration, which specifically deals with issues related to land management and real estate markets and by the Real Estate Market Advisory Group, which provides a private sector perspective. For more information, please visit the Committee’s website:
 UNECE (2011), Tajikistan Country Profile on the Housing Sector
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