The International Housing Coalition
The International Housing Coalition (IHC) was organized by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) to promote the goal of “HOUSING FOR ALL” as an essential element to ending poverty worldwide. The IHC was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in August 2005 and was granted tax exempt status in October 2006. In addition to its three founding sponsors, 33 other organizations, including private companies, non-profit groups and academic/research institutions have joined the coalition and continue to contribute to its work.
What We Do
The Issue. More than a billion people live in slums in sub-standard shelter without access to clean water and sanitation. In developing countries more than a million people are born in or move to cities every week, and as of 2010, the world urban population has exceeded the rural population. While urban growth may be inevitable, the dire living conditions of the urban poor are not. The case for a robust effort to address urban slum conditions has been well developed, and becomes only more relevant as the developing world becomes more and more urbanized. Investing in housing and urban services has many benefits:
- It can spur economic advancement of the poor.
- It can accelerate economic growth.
- With the right policies, modest public investment can stimulate private housing investment.
- Decent housing addresses a multitude of basic human needs, especially health.
- Slum upgrading engages the urban poor, one of the most marginalized groups.
Despite an ever more urbanized world and a growing appreciation of the role of cities in economic growth, actual funding for shelter and urban programs from the development agencies has been declining. The reasons for this decline are varied but at least in part reflect an assumption that urban slums are self-correcting and that scarce donor resources are best spent elsewhere. In fact there is ample evidence that strategic investments in improving living conditions of the urban poor pay widespread dividends.
The IHC Approach. The IHC strategy is to effect policy and programmatic change in foreign assistance through an advocacy program based on a broad coalition of varied organizations. The advocacy efforts are integrated with and draw strength from the Organization’s active engagement in housing and urban development applied research, information sharing, and policy advice in selected countries.
Advocacy. The IHC is involved in a range of advocacy activities and methods:
- Direct contact with members of Congress and their staff;
- Lobbying Congress in tandem with groups with similar concerns and the efforts of the IHC’s founding sponsors to influence policies, programs, and funding;
- Membership in larger multi-sectoral advocacy groups (e.g. One Campaign);
- Engaging foreign assistance agencies directly on program policies and design; and,
- Educating policy makers about housing and urban issues.
Applied Research. The IHC undertakes or participates in applied research and information dissemination that contributes to a better understanding of housing issues and solutions in developing countries while enhancing the credibility of the IHC as an effective advocate. Issues of concern include:
- Housing conditions as they relate to basic human needs (e.g. access to water, clean air).
- The relationship of slum conditions to other world development issues from global warming, to HIV/AIDS, to economic growth opportunities.
- Demographic trends, focusing on the world urbanization phenomenon.
- Allocation of donor resources to housing and urban development.
Partnerships. The IHC seeks collaboration with complementary organizations and individuals. This can take the form of participating in short-term lobbying alliances; establishing more formal organizational partnerships, such as with an established research institution; and lending the IHC name to broader foreign assistance reform campaigns.
Policy engagement in selected countries. The IHC supports direct engagement in a small number of developing countries concerning broad housing and urban development policy at the national or city level (e.g. land tenure laws, housing finance systems). As part of its overseas work, the IHC engages new and existing shelter advocacy groups in individual countries, building an international advocacy network.
The IHC and the Future of U.S. Foreign Aid. The IHC and the Future of U.S. Foreign Aid. The Obama administration has in the past two years examined foreign aid programming and is considering new approaches and assistance levels. The IHC, with partner groups, has organized a coalition to engage the administration on incorporating urban issues into a rejuvenated foreign assistance program.
One of primary goals of the IHC is to raise the profile of shelter issues on the United States development agenda. To this end, the IHC publishes reports, hosts events and meets with members of Congress and Congressional staff to raise awareness of the critical role shelter plays in sustainable economic and human development worldwide. The IHC’s current policy priorities are:
1. Foreign Aid Reform: Congress has not updated its foreign assistance bill since 1961. The field of international development has made great changes in the past 50 years, and it is imperative that the bill governing the United States’ foreign involvement is updated as soon as possible to reflect current challenges and opportunities.
2. Federal Funding for Foreign Aid: The United States is facing difficult decisions about the federal budget which likely will include making budget cuts. Foreign aid is often seen as an easy area to cut funding, despite representing less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget. Programs that provide funding for shelter and urban projects are at particular risk, as funding for these areas has been declining in recent years without the increased pressure to reduce the federal budget. The IHC continues to push for adequate funding for development related foreign aid programs including those related to housing and housing -related services.
3. Emphasis on Shelter and Urban Issues within Foreign Aid Programs: The IHC believes that access to safe and affordable shelter is the foundation of successful development. Without a safe and healthy place to live, health, education, literacy, civic engagement and employment opportunities are all harder to achieve. For US funding to be as effective as possible, the IHC believes that shelter programs must be an integral part of the US development agenda, especially in the rapidly expanding cities of the developing world.