Currently, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and this figure is expected to rise to seventy percent by 2050. According to the United Nations, an estimated 1.6 billion people live in sub-standard housing and 1 billion people live in slums globally. In recognition of World Cities Day, “Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities”, Habitat for Humanity International continues to emphasize through its Global Urban Approach the importance of facilitating increased access to adequate and affordable housing and slum upgrading in urban areas through a comprehensive, integrated and collaborative approach that not only improves the living conditions and quality of life of low-income communities, but also contributes towards systemic change enhancement to housing market systems and policy environments. This comprehensive approach supports the creation of a more enabled affordable housing environment for all community, public and private stakeholders to function in and contribute towards achieving the objectives of the global development frameworks, including the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

Habitat for Humanity International is living into building sustainable and resilient cities through the lens of housing. One such example is the Cities Alliance led Liberia Country Program, or CALCP, which aims to address the complex urban development needs of the greater Monrovia. Seventy percent of the population live in informal settlements and lack access to basic services and finances to improve their living conditions. Habitat for Humanity International is tasked with facilitating increased access to affordable housing and supporting slum upgrading initiatives.1 To achieve this, Habitat for Humanity International focused Phase 1 on building strategic people, public, private partnerships and conducting various assessments to design community, market and policy level interventions. This comprehensive approach to urban programming provided a better framework to co-create interventions that are more holistic and contextually relevant and provided a foundation to target investments in a coordinated manner. One of the key successes so far of the program, in terms of systemic institutional and policy shifts, has been the establishment of a Slum Upgrading Unit within the National Housing Authority of Liberia to increase access for low-income families to basic services, housing and community infrastructure.

The CALCP, also includes the implementation of a water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH, project specifically for Peace Island, an informal settlement in dire need of upgrading and home to 30,000 people. The settlement profiles conducted by Slum Dwellers International and their local YMCA partner, established that the community only has one functional water point; three toilets of which two are non-functional causing widespread open defecation, 87 open wells which are not all safe for consumption, and no solid waste collection, resulting in open dumping and contamination. The fact that Monrovia is the wettest capital in the world only further compounds these issues when there is no proper drainage and sewage network.To meet this need, Habitat for Humanity International applied for and received a USD $420,000 grant from OPEC Fund for International Development, called OFID. This additional OFID funding allows Habitat for Humanity International to leverage its WASH expertise in a manner that directly affects the health, well-being, and upgrading at the community level.

Phase 2 of the Liberia Country Program entitled, “Facilitating increased access to affordable housing through market approach” was approved in March 2018. To structure the implementation of the program with the government of Liberia and key partners, Habitat for Humanity International held a workshop in April to outline and agree on the systems and structures necessary for an effective implementation period. With a detailed work and monitoring plan in place, Phase 2 was officially launched in May. This phase focuses on, “testing viability and sustainability of selected interventions at various levels that include policy enhancements and market development, while delivering institutional capacity building to pubilc and private sectors as well as communities as a long-term sustainable strategy.”3 

The Liberia Country Program has identified and is currently working on the following interventions:

 On a policy level:

1. Gender-sensitive voluntary relocation guidelines
2. Gender-responsive slum upgrading guidelines
3. Potential-land regularization pilot project for a slum community

On a market level:

1. Housing finance product development
2. Solicitation of firm-led initiatives

On a community level:

1. Participatory safe shelter awareness exercise; which will produce a gender-responsive community action plan and implementation of a community project.
2. Pilot diverse shelter solutions

The Cities Alliance Liberia Country Program has already seen some success towards these initiatives, starting with Habitat for Humanity International signing a four-year memorandum of understanding with the National Housing Authority, cultivating a stronger relationship that ensures an inclusive and collaborative effort among all stakeholders on the three levels presented above. Further, key Habitat for Humanity International staff conducted a training, which included a specialist from the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter for the region. Overall, the training, “focused on inclusive housing market development approach and housing microfinance loan creation for low-income households.”3

The key challenges facing implementation continue to be the limited capacity in the public and private sector, and low affordability levels. Habitat for Humanity International and its partners will continue to coordinate with the National Housing Authority to further implement Phase 2 of the Liberia Country Program and address these challenges. Stay tuned for updates!

Sources:
1 FPA. (2017, September 28). NHA, UN-Habitat Partner to Improve Living Conditions of Monrovia Slums. Retrieved October 23, 2018, from https://frontpageafricaonline.com/news/2016news/nha-un-habitat-partner-to-improve-living-conditions-of-monrovia-slums/
2 The Economist. (2012, September 11). The Rain in Monrovia. Retrieved October 23, 2018, from https://www.economist.com/blogs/baobab/2012/09/liberia’s-capital
3 Jackson, O. (2018, October 02). 5-Day NHA, Habitat for Humanity Workshop Ends in Monrovia. Retrieved October 23, 2018, from https://www.liberianobserver.com/news/5-day-nha-habitat-for-humanity-workshop-ends-in-monrovia/