Minister of Water and Housing, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, has pointed out that financing social housing has been a “perennial problem” for governments worldwide, and is becoming even more challenging as countries grapple with the present global economic crisis.
Addressing the 18th Assembly of Ministers and Lead Authorities of Housing and Urban Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (MINURVI), at the Rose Hall Resort and Country Club, in Montego Bay, St. James, on July 16, Dr. Chang, who is also Chairman of MINURVI, said that one main output of the conference should be “practical innovative housing finance initiatives that target the poor.”
“More often than not, it is the poor who live in sensitive areas plagued by environmental and social risks. If we are able to solve the dilemma of social housing, we will be in a better position to tackle the matter of housing in risky situations,” the Minister argued.
He noted that every year the region spends billions of dollars to repair the damages that arise as a result of housing in high risk areas.
“This disrupts fiscal targets, further reducing our ability to deal with social housing. As a result, the number of persons living in informal settlements increase. Most of these settlements are in high risk areas and the downward spiral continues. I trust therefore that these deliberations will be fruitful. The success of this conference will not only benefit the countries represented, its impact will be felt worldwide,” Dr. Chang said.
Minister of Water and Housing, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang (left), consults with Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding at the 18th General Assembly of Ministers and High Level Authorities on Housing and Urbanisation in Latin America and the Caribbean (MINURVI), at the Rose Hall Resort and Country Club in Montego Bay, St. James on July 16.
Giving the keynote address, Executive Director of UN HABITAT, Dr. Anna Tabaijuka, said that the Latin American and Caribbean region was “a living laboratory of housing and urban development and a place where wealth and national Gross Domestic Products (GDPs) were better compared to other developing regions.”
“But, it is still a place where large segments of the population live in relative or extreme poverty. It is a region where the political, economic and cultural history is strongly rooted in rural hinterlands, yet it is the region with the highest rate of urbanisation in the developing world. It is a region that has been torn by violence and conflict, yet it is also the region where democracy and good governance have made tremendous gains,” Dr. Tabaijuka observed.
“These contrasts form part of the Latin American and Caribbean experience in urbanisation and development. Lessons learnt from this region are critical to furthering our understanding of how these processes inter-relate with one another. This understanding and the knowledge that goes with it are of paramount importance to other developing regions that are experiencing rapid urbanization,” she said.
She expressed the hope that part of the outcome of the 18th Session would be support for the call to the General Assembly to convene in 2016, the third United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat 111), to be devoted to affordable housing and sustainable urban development.
Activities at the three-day conference, which ended yesterday (July 17), were carried out under the themes: ‘Financing social housing in view of the world economic crisis’, and ‘Housing in risky situations’.