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Urban Development

Global housing crisis: Urgent action needed on planning, policy and technology

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The world must act now to address the crisis in affordable housing. According to a new report by the World Economic Forum, Making Affordable Housing a Reality in Cities, about 90% of cities around the world do not provide affordable housing or of adequate quality. The report says that the cost of housing, as well as location, prohibits people from meeting other basic living costs, threatening their employment and fundamental human rights.

In Africa, more than half of the population live in sub-standard conditions, and in India and China, almost a quarter of the population live in informal settlements. Across the world, millennials spend more on housing than previous generations and have a lower quality of life. By 2050, more than 30% of the urban population around the world, about 2.5 billion people, will live in sub-standard housing or be financially stretched by housing costs.

“A world in which only a few can afford housing is not sustainable,” said Alice Charles, Lead, Cities, Urban Development and Urban Services, World Economic Forum. “If cities are to find solutions, it requires a broader understanding of what constitutes affordability and the factors that affect it. This report explores both supply-side and demand-side dynamics affecting affordability and guides decision-makers towards strategic interventions and long-term reforms that can reduce dependence on government support systems and incentivize more commercially viable affordable housing through policies and practices that address systemic gaps in the housing value chain.”

The key challenges to affordable housing include land acquisitions, zoning and regulations that affect land use, funding mechanisms, and design and construction costs. Examples of innovative approaches to support affordable housing include:

· The cities of Chengdu and Chongqing, China, are making land available through tradable land quotas, allowing agricultural land to be converted to urban use.

· The Communities Plus Programme in Sydney, Australia, is partnering with the private sector to develop 23,000 new and replacement social housing units, linking housing assistance with participation in education, training and local employment opportunities.

· Hamburg, Germany, and Copenhagen, Denmark, are pooling publicly owned assets into an Urban Wealth Fund that works with the private sector on affordable housing development projects.

· Employers such as Facebook and Google in the US, IKEA in Reykjavik, Iceland, Lego in Billund, Denmark, Samsung in Seoul and Suwon, Republic of Korea, and Alibaba in Hangzhou, China, are investing in housing developments for employees.

· London, UK, is offering construction training to address the skills shortage in the industry.

· Mexico is deploying bricklayer robots that increase construction productivity.

· Austin, US, Beijing and Shanghai, China, and Eindhoven, Netherlands, are exploring 3D printing to build homes.

· Denver, US, is mandating certain buildings to install green roofs or solar panels to save on energy costs for the occupants.

· Dupnitsa, Bulgaria, and Poznan, Poland, are changing eligibility criteria for social housing projects to support more citizens.

· Bristol, UK, is constructing homes with six types of housing tenure, including build-to-rent, shared ownership and rent-to-buy models.

· MIT’s Media Lab has developed an 18.5 square-metre prototype apartment that uses transformable furniture that can be flipped, moved and stowed by hand gestures and voice commands, increasing the functionality to an apartment three times its size.

The report also outlines recommendations for city governments, the private sector and non-profits, including:

· City governments must develop regulations that emphasize property rights, protect tenants, support mixed-income housing development and enable innovative financing models.

· The private sector should work with local communities to provide affordable housing for employees, support new financing mechanisms and help meet housing costs. Private developers must invest in sustainable, energy-efficient design and use new materials, equipment and technologies to increase productivity.

· The non-profit sector should work with cities and private developers to offer alternative tenure models, provide policy development and technical support, and educate and advocate for citizens.

Ensuring affordable housing is critical to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11, which aims to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. According to the 2016 New Urban Agenda, housing policies can affect health, employment, poverty, mobility and energy consumption.

Making Affordable Housing a Reality in Cities was created in collaboration with PwC.

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Urban Development

BRIDGE for Cities 4.0: Connecting Cities through the New Industrial Revolution

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photo: UNIDO

Organized jointly by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Finance Center for South-South Cooperation (FCSSC), “BRIDGE for Cities 4.0 – Connecting Cities through the New Industrial Revolution” took place in Vienna from 3 to 4 September.

An annual event devoted to encourage knowledge sharing and connectivity among cities, this year’s edition of the event explored the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and how technology-driven innovation can facilitate the transition towards smart city development.

The two-day event attracted around 800 Participants from over 100 countries. Besides high-level plenaries on particular aspects of the 4IR (urban innovation hubs, circular economy, smart mobility), a Mayors Roundtable led to the adoption of a Declaration of Intent by 15 Cities expressing strong interest to work with UNIDO. A Business Roundtable resulted in the formulation of a Resilience Framework for Projects along the Belt and Road.

To enrich the event, two specific sessions were designed to match regions and cities with similar development challenges. One focused on Metropolis GZM, Poland; Sverdlovsk region, Russia and the Ruhr region in Germany. All three region share a common past linked to mining and heavy industry and now are transitioning to an economic model based on knowledge and innovation. The second matched Shenzhen, China and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on the basis of the existing sister city agreement. Shenzhen is nowadays a model for cities in the developing world and Phnom Penh is taking advantage of the expertise available in China while developing its city master plan. This cooperation was sealed through an exchange of letters between the two cities’ representatives.

In parallel, the innovations presented by exhibitors visualized practical solutions, and City-Business workshops facilitated partnerships among previous case cities and other stakeholders. The interaction with the famous humanoid Sophia Robot provided participants with an opportunity to obtain first-hand insights regarding the possibilities and opportunities of artificial intelligence (AI) today.

The event has been the first of UNIDO at the Vienna International Centre to receive the Austrian Ecolabel for Green Meetings and Green Events.

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Urban Development

São Paulo to Host International Conference on Sustainable Cities

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The city of São Paulo will host the conference “Catalyzing Sustainable Urban Futures” from September 16 to 20, 2019 at Ibirapuera Park, bringing together mayors, public managers, and urban practitioners from across Brazil and abroad. Made possible by a partnership between the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities (GPSC) led by the World Bank, São Paulo City Hall, and the Sustainable Cities Program, the event will host the 3rd Global Meeting of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities and the 2nd International Conference on Sustainable Cities.

Press are invited to sessions on September 17 afternoon, opening day (September 18) and throughout the rest of the week. Register by September 6:

The event will feature a Mayors’ Roundtable on the opening day (September 18) chaired by São Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas, where Brazilian and international city leaders will discuss their unique approaches to sustainable urban development.

“São Paulo is moving towards an increasingly sustainable future by enacting strategic measures to benefit our population. Hosting the 3rd Global Meeting of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities to discuss the topic with domestic and international experts and officials helps us achieve our goal of further contributing to the sustainable urban development of our city,” stated Mr. Covas.

“Cities are where the future is being built. Rapid urbanization brings opportunities – but also unprecedented challenges such as increasing disaster risks exacerbated by climate change – to cities and their residents, especially the poor and vulnerable,” says Sameh Wahba, Global Director, Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice, World Bank.“The 3rd Global Meeting of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities will bring together cities around the world to share innovative and integrated solutions to address those challenges. We look forward to working with our partners in Brazil and worldwide to link knowledge to investment in building low-carbon and sustainable cities for all.”

In the span of one week, nine thematic sessions will focus on topics central to city planning and management, including: biodiversity; financing sustainable urban development; gender and race inequalities; generating opportunities, work, and income for residents; geospatial data; inclusiveness and affordable housing; social participation; transit-oriented development; and urban regeneration. These topics are closely aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the GPSC’s three knowledge pillars: sustainability, integrated urban planning and management, and municipal finance.

“For us who work with a focus on municipal management, the opportunity to bring together cities that are taking action and creating policies toward the 2030 Agenda in different parts of the world has a unique meaning. We strive to share the most modern initiatives to improve the sustainability of our urban development processes and residents’ quality of life in Brazilian cities. We believe these practices can also be inspiring elsewhere in the world and we look forward to sharing this knowledge at the conference,” said Jorge Abrahão, General Coordinator of the Sustainable Cities Program.

In addition to participants from Brazil, the event will gather representatives from GPSC’s 28 cities in 11 countries, along with its knowledge and investment partners. The estimated audience is 800 people, including urban leaders, civil servants, urban practitioners, academic researchers, journalists, experts from financial institutions, international organizations, the UN, private sector leaders, and civil society organizations. The conference “Catalyzing Sustainable Urban Futures” is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

WHAT
Catalyzing Sustainable Urban Futures:
3rd Global Meeting of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities and
2nd International Conference on Sustainable Cities

WHO

  • Bruno Covas, Mayor of São Paulo
  • Jorge Abrahão, General Coordinator of the Sustainable Cities Program
  • Sameh Wahba, Global Director, World Bank Group

See a full list of speakers here.

WHEN: September 16–20, 2019
Open to press starting Sept 17 afternoon; official opening on Sept 18.

WHERE: Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo, Brazil

  • Sept 17 afternoon – UMAPAZ (Av. Quarto Centenário, 1268 – Vila Mariana, São Paulo – SP, 04030-000)
  • Sept 18 morning – Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer
  • Sept 18 afternoon – Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer and Bienal Foundation
  • Sept 19 – Bienal Foundation
  • Sept 20 – Site visits by registration

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Urban Development

UN and civil society team up to make cities more sustainable and inclusive

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Salt Lake City in the US state of Utah, is hosting the United Nations Civil Society Conference. Image: Visit Salt Lake

How can we make sure that cities become more inclusive, with a smaller environmental footprint, and leave no-one behind? These questions will be tackled at the UN Civil Society Conference, which is due to take place in the capital of Utah, Salt Lake City, at the end of August.

Representatives of civil society will have the opportunity to meet with senior UN officials, and discuss a wide range of solutions to the challenges of urban life.

The theme of this year’s conference, “building sustainale and inclusive cities and communities”, reflects the fact that over half of the world’s population, some 55 per cent, now live in urban areas, with that figure expected to rise to 68 per cent by 2050.

Conference sessions will discuss topics connected to the main theme, including climate change; opportunities for youth; and emerging technologies and innovation.

Leaders of large urban centres, such as Salt Lake City in the state of Utah, the communities that live in them, as well as the private sector, are at the forefront of finding sustainable solutions to poverty; climate change; clean water and energy; and many of the other challenges connected to urban living.

Salt Lake City’s sustainability credentials include the development of a Climate Positive Plan, laying out a path for a transition to 100 per cent clean energy by 2032, and an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2024. In addition, the nearby Utah Valley University, works to educate the campus and larger community on the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and has been an affiliate member of the UN’s Department of Global Communications (DGC) since 2017.

“As a city committed to being inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, it is an honor to be the first US host city of the UN Civil Society Conference outside of New York,” said Mayor Jackie Biskupski in a statement. “I can think of no better time and no better place than Salt Lake City, for the UN and the world’s NGOs to expand awareness in this country of sustainable development goals and the value of global unity.”

Highlights include interactive thematic sessions, NGO-sponsored workshops, exhibits and a youth hub. Speakers and attendees will include leaders and other representatives from NGOs, UN agencies, academia, faith traditions, the public and private sectors and youth from around the world.

The UN Civil Society Conference is described by the UN as the Organization’s “premier event in the civil society calendar”, focusing on UN topics of interest to civil society and NGOs, where issues of global concern can be discussed.

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