Why Is Habitat Needed

Housing is a Core Issue for Global Poverty

The world is experiencing a global housing crisis. About 1.6 billion people live in substandard housing and 100 million are homeless, according to the United Nations.(1) These people are increasingly urban residents, and every week more than a million people are born in, or move to, cities in the developing world.(2)

In the United Sates alone, 95 million people (one third of the nation) are experiencing housing problems including payments that are too large a percentage of their income, overcrowding, poor quality shelter and homelessness.(3)

The Importance of Clean, Decent and Stable Housing

Habitat for Humanity has shown that building homes does more than put a roof over someone’s head. In clean, decent, stable housing:

  • Families can provide stability for their children.
  • A family’s sense of dignity and pride grow.
  • Health, physical safety and security improve
  • Educational and job prospects increase.

Through our own programs we have witnessed the transformational ability of good housing, and recent scholarly research confirms what Habitat for Humanity has known for so long. A 2006 report issued by the Planning and Development Collaborative International stated, “Clean, warm housing is an essential input for prevention and care of diseases of poverty like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, diarrhea and malaria.”(4) An Emory University research study on Habitat for Humanity’s work in Malawi found Habitat housing improved the health of young children as much as water and sanitation programs. The study found that children under five living in Habitat for Humanity houses had 44 percent less malaria, respiratory or gastrointestinal diseases compared to children living in traditional houses.(5)

Good housing in communities attracts economic investment and development and contributes to thriving school systems and community organizations. Good housing is a catalyst for civic activism and a stimulus for community-based organizations. Safe homes and neighborhoods, in which residents are satisfied with housing conditions and public services, help to build social stability and security.(6)

Housing Must Become a Priority

If action to decrease poverty is to be successful, increasing the housing supply across the globe is essential. Adequate housing is vitally important to the health of the world’s economies, communities and populations, yet the percentage of people without access to decent, stable housing is rising. The United Nations projects that by the year 2030 an additional 3 billion people, about 40 percent of the world’s population, will need access to housing.(7) If we are to prevent such a dramatic escalation of the housing crisis, and if we are to succeed in the fight against poverty, we must support the expansion of housing both as policy and as practice.

Learn How Habitat is Making a Difference

You can learn more about the root causes of poverty housing and how Habitat for Humanity responds by reading region-by-region documentation in Habitat’s Program Milestones report and annual reports:

Additional resources on poverty housing


  • (1) Miloon Kothari, UN Press Briefing by Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, November, 2005.
  • (2) D. Kissick, et al, Housing for All: Essential for Economic, Social, and Civic Development, a 28 page manuscript prepared for the World Urban Forum III by PADCO/AECOM.
  • (3) National Low Income Housing Coalition, America’s Neighbors: The Affordable Housing Crisis and the People it Affects, 2004.
  • (4) Kissick, op. cit.
  • (5) Christopher G. Wolff, et al., The Effect of Improved Housing on Illness in Children under Five Years Old in Northern Malawi: Cross-Sectional Study, BMJ vol. 322, 2001
  • (6) Kissick, op. cit.
  • (7) UN-Habitat, Financing Urban Shelter: Global Report on Human Settlements 2005.

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