Housing: Access, Affordability and Informality



Benjamin Gianni, Carleton University, Canada

Allan Cain, Development Workshop, Angola

Access to housing is among the most difficult challenges facing cities.  Is housing a right or a commodity? Among the issues are supplied, quality, location, affordability, title, tenancy and security of tenure, and the infrastructure required to support housing.  Problems of affordability are as likely to affect stable, wealthier cities as they are those in rapidly urbanizing countries.

This session will compare housing access and affordability as they play out in cities in Canada, Africa, Asia and Latin America.  The conclusions drawn and the strategies formulated will depend on how the issues are framed, i.e., whether housing is seen as primarily as a need, as a right, and/or a means of wealth creation and social mobility.

Approaches will depend on those for whom the housing is intended, and whether it is considered a private/domestic affair, a matter of public concern and social responsibility or as a vehicle of speculation and a commodity to be traded in the marketplace.  It will depend on whether housing is treated as a noun or as a verb.

The session will distinguish between various categories of housing and the various agents that produce them.  Among the questions this session will address are…

  • The social production of housing vs. the production of social housing (top down vs. bottom up; role of community) *
  • Role of governments, direct and indirect
  • Cooperative housing sector
  • Public/private partnerships in the production of housing
  • Impact of escalating land and construction costs on affordability
  • Supporting the infrastructure necessary to support housing (utilities, roads, schools, etc.)
  • Land tenure rights, land value capture and role of property taxes in the functioning of municipalities
  • The availability and cost of financing -- for both builders and buyers
  • The informal vs. the formal housing marketplace
  • Issues, strategies, and challenges related to informal settlements and their upgrading

*: “Social production of housing” refers to housing being produced and under the control of families and communities themselves. “The production of social housing” is a process normally lead by the government to produce mass housing as a commodity to deliver to the poor.

Two sessions:

  1. Panel Discussion: Participants will compare and contrast issues of housing supply and affordability in Canada, Africa, China and Latin America:
  • Kecia Rust - Director of the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (TBC)
  • Fellow from CMHC (or minister) (TBC)
  • Zhi Liu, Senior Fellow and Director of China Program, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Pekin University, China
  • Edesio Fernandes - Brazilian Lawyer - DPU Associates (TBC)
  1. Paper Session(s): Papers related to the topics listed above.