Habitat for Humanity International is driven by the vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Today we are faced with an unprecedented global housing challenge, which is further exacerbated by an unprecedented climate challenge. In the more than 70 countries around the world where we work, climate change is having far-reaching impacts. The millions of families Habitat partners with are often among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which include increasingly common and severe weather events such as hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes and droughts. These events can result in tragic outcomes for families, including damage to or complete loss of their homes, which may expose them to other threats, such as food insecurity, disease and displacement. At the same time, the United Nations Environment Programme has found that buildings and their construction produce nearly 40% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.1 In this context, Habitat for Humanity International has the potential to impact — and be impacted by — the future of climate change.
We believe that adequate and affordable housing can be built sustainably and will contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by all of the United Nations member states in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 2 We believe we have a responsibility to recognize that climate change has a disproportionate impact on the people we serve, and that to be accountable to them, we must address that impact through resilient housing. We believe we must have the courage to use our voice, experience and influence to create change within communities and the broader housing sector — changes that will usher in more inclusive, sustainable and future focused policies, practices and outcomes. And we believe we must be humble in the face of new opportunities and challenges, recognizing the need to minimize our own environmental impact as we work to ensure that everyone has a decent place to live, now and into the future.
As a housing provider, we have a responsibility to use our voice to raise awareness of emerging housing issues and the important role that housing can play in mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Extreme weather events, which are made more intense by climate change, reduce and degrade the affordable housing stock globally. By partnering with families to build stronger, more disaster-resilient and more energy-efficient housing, we have seen how adequate, safe and resilient shelter can contribute to both the immediate security and long-term well-being of families while reducing a home’s environmental impact. Around the world, Habitat builds and renovates homes with this in mind, increasing the use of sustainable natural resources and construction practices while reducing the emission of greenhouse gases throughout a home’s life cycle.
Supporting resilience also means responding to the increasing numbers of disasters with shelter support so that every family can find safety and security in their home. Another core element of Habitat’s work is engaging with and incorporating the voices of diverse communities. Because we recognize that community-driven approaches are the key to successful and sustainable interventions, Habitat organizations around the world partner with communities to share tools and conduct trainings on resilient construction practices. We seek to use local materials, labor and technical know-how to support local economies and to construct culturally appropriate and environmentally friendly shelter solutions. In addition, we strive to keep housing construction materials out of landfills by creating opportunities for their reuse. As part of all this work, we emphasize equity and inclusion to ensure that the most vulnerable members of a community are integrated in defining the housing needs and realizing solutions for their communities. With these resources, those communities can prioritize their own housing needs, disaster preparedness, and climate adaptability for a more sustainable future.
While we support policies that expand affordability, promote secure tenure rights, enable stakeholder engagement, and foster resilient and responsive communities, we recognize that climate change is reversing gains made in increasing adequate and affordable housing, especially for the people our programs seek to serve. As a result, Habitat also engages in broader policy and system changes to ensure that adequate and affordable housing is attainable by all. As a housing provider, we have a responsibility to use our voice to raise awareness of emerging housing issues and the important role that housing can play in mitigating the impacts of climate change. To support systemic change, we work with stakeholders throughout the housing ecosystem, including governments, academia, civil society groups, multilateral agencies and the private sector — construction companies, housing entrepreneurs and material providers — so that the needs of the communities we work with are acknowledged and addressed. This also leads to more responsive and inclusive markets that allow families to better weather and more quickly recover from disasters and other shocks.
Habitat for Humanity International commits to putting people at the center of our work by educating ourselves and our affiliated organizations about the effects of climate change on the lives of the people we seek to serve through housing. As a global housing organization, we further commit to strengthening our technical expertise in existing and emergent approaches, tools and processes that allow us to pursue climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in programming, operations, and our support of affiliated organizations. Encompassed in this are homebuilding and renovation efforts, disaster preparedness and resilience, disaster response and recovery, volunteer engagement, community education, advocacy, and development of more responsive housing markets.
Finally, we pledge to continually explore the ways in which we can live into these commitments, using them as guideposts for our practices, programs, operations and partnerships. Our commitments are rooted in our pledge to be accountable to the families with whom we partner and the communities we serve, to be courageous and do what is right even when it is difficult, and to be humble in understanding that we cannot win this fight alone. These are the values on which our organization is built. Just as families must adapt to a changing climate, so too must our programming and operations evolve in order to address the housing needs of people around the world.
How do our International Projects work towards helping our partner families prepare for the effects of climate change?
Habitat for Humanity recognises that housing is a human rights issue and works with communities in informal settlements and unsustainable living conditions to access secure housing. Poverty leads people to live in precarious areas, on riverbanks and hills that are subject to landslides, or coastal land that is impacted by inundation. Secure housing where people have access to clean water, food, and livelihoods forms the foundation of disaster resilience and climate change adaptability.
Bangladesh: Habitat Australia and Habitat Bangladesh is involved in two projects, building resilient communities in Dhaka and rural Bangladesh
Urban Resiliency Phase V (DFAT ANCP and SMEC)- High density informal settlements in Dhaka are particularly vulnerable to climate change induced events.The 2-year urban upgrading project is working in informal settlements to improve community infrastructure and strengthen resilience based on community-identified needs. Activities include construction of communal water and sanitation supplies, drainage and foot-pathing, and community training in hygiene and Disasater risk reduction.
Trishal Housing II (DFAT ANCP and ANSA)- The project focuses on construction of housing and WASH infrastructure for vulnerable poor families in Trishal, Central Bangladesh. Having secure housing is foundational in becoming resilient to the effects of climate change. There is a focus on cost effective and eco-friendly construction. Focus on vulnerable groups in the programmatic areas of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM), Participatory Approach for Safe Shelter Awareness (PASSA), capacity building and livelihood enhancement projects.
Cambodia: Habitat Cambodia and Habitat Australia work in Cambodia to secure land and housing, along with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services, to extremely vulnerable families in villages in the Battambang province. Prek Trob village, in Battambang province, is considered one of the most disaster-prone areas in Battambang province, commonly affected by drought, flood, and plagues which destroy crops and bring about animal diseases.
Myanmar: Habitat Myanmar is improving the housing and living standards of communities in Bago, Yangoon, and Dala. Construction, and improvement of water and sanitation facilities in these townships, along with the improvement in housing, builds resilience to the effects of drought and other disasters.
Nepal: Habitat Nepal works in programs to build community disaster resilience by first strengthening government processes and structures, raising community awareness, and facilitating connections with government services by delivering community based PASSA training. The project will improve disaster resilience in most vulnerable and disaster-prone communities through a combined approach of community education, construction technical assistance, vocational training for aspiring and experienced masons.
Vietnam: Habitat Vietnam’s programs work to strengthen Disaster Risk Reduction and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programming to vulnerable communities in Central and Southern Vietnam.
Fiji: The Water for Women programme works to increase community resilience to climate change through improvements in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services.