SAFE AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING
The United Nations has declared access to housing a human right because it is required for a standard of living conducive to health and well-being (Housing Rights Watch 2016).
Planning policies affect access to housing and its affordability which particularly impacts marginalized people struggling with poverty, disability, citizenship and security of tenure (Leisk and Moher). Access to affordable housing within central locations of the city, close to employment and services, is essential. In many cities, affordable housing is only available at the periphery, requiring long commutes to jobs and services. It also contributes to urban sprawl, contradicting ecocity principles that aim to achieve access by proximity.
Cities, such as Vienna retain ownership of land that is leased. These lands are developed as cooperative or rental housing and the leasehold on individual units can be sold for a time equivalent to the remaining lease. Vienna, has provided 60% of its population with social housing that requires a financial commitment limited to 30% of a resident’s income (Bula 2016).
In other cities developers of privately owned land are required to contribute a percentage of their project toward building affordable homes, and zoning permits existing land owners to build additional units on their propriety for the purpose of expanding the rental housing pool.
National governments, can also contribute funds towards the construction of affordable housing. An example can be found in Singapore, where public funding enables residents to purchase a home without spending more than 25% of their income. Grants coupled with a home owner protection plan ena- ble people who have lost the ability to earn an income or who earn below the minimum capacity to afford a home (Government of Singapore 2016). Be- cause this plan is implemented nation-wide, housing is managed across the income spectrum and attention is given to building community capacity and maintaining renewal of infrastructure and services, thereby eliminating the amassing of marginalized people in specific areas of the city (Government of Singapore 2016).
The ability to address housing affordability requires social cohesion of the community and transparent and accountable government. These qualities are reflected in the Ecocity Standards addressing Community Capacity/ Governance and Healthy and Equitable Economy.
Bula, Frances. 2016. The Vienna Model for Housing Sanity. The Globe and Mail, May 26, 2017. (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/vancouver/what-vancouver- can-learn-from-the-vienna-model-for-affordablehousing/article35128683/).
Housing Rights Watch. 2016. UN Housing Rights: Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (http://www.housingrightswatch.org/page/un-housing-rights#UDHR).
Leisk, Signe and Moher, Sophie. 2017. Can we plan for affordable housing? Plan Can- ada, 57, 2: 33-5.
Government of Singapore, Housing and Development Board. 2016. Public Housing – a Singapore Icon. (http://www.hdb.gov.sg/cs/infoweb/about-us/our-role/public-housing–a- singapore-icon).