MANILA, Sept 7, 2009 - (ACN Newswire) - The 2nd Asia-Pacific Housing Forum co-organized by Habitat for Humanity International with principal sponsor the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, opened today with almost double the number of participants as compared with the inaugural event in Singapore two years ago.
The three-day forum in Manila has gathered together nearly 450 participants and speakers to address the pertinent need to maximize urban housing solutions to achieve greater results.
Opening the forum, Hon. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate Majority Floor Leader and immediate past chair of the Senate Committee on Housing, spoke of the challenges of socialized, low-cost housing, especially in the current global economic downturn. He highlighted recent new Philippine legislation and policies designed to address these challenges in such areas as housing finance and rent controls - which forum participants could adopt in their own countries and markets.
The senator praised many of the groups involved in working on socialized and low-income housing for the poor. They were motivated by more than money. "It is the difference between having to do it and wanting to do it. The latter showing your sincerity to make the lives of our less fortunate brothers and sisters a lot better."
Setting the pace for the rest of the conference was an animated discussion around urbanization by a distinguished panel including Asian and foreign representatives from academia, government, civil society and the private sector. There was agreement that affordable resettlement housing built far from city employment opportunities and relying on costly transport links was not an effective "affordable" housing solution.
Therefore there was a need for integrated urban planning -- many Asian cities have grown up with little planning, the panelists said.
Asia is also home to many of the world's worst natural disasters. Engineer Jo de Silva of British-headquartered international engineering group Arup, outlined the tension between building more homes that were unsafe and building slightly fewer but spending an additional 5 percent to make the structures, for example, earthquake resilient.
Another panelist, Mr. David Smith, founder of the Affordable Housing Institute, a US think-tank, spoke of the importance of involving the poor in solutions for housing. "The poor have independent rights to negotiate their participation. They are an integrated part of the discussion and projects need to work not for the poor but with the poor."
The forum is structured to maximize dialogue, interaction and networking among participants. For the following two days, its plenary sessions and discussion groups on housing the urban poor will focus on policy and strategy; technology and finance; sustainability and disaster mitigation; indicators, impact and support services; and UNESCAP Quick Guides on Housing the Poor.
About Habitat for Humanity Philippines
Habitat for Humanity Philippines, is a non-profit Christian Ministry that helps build responsible and self-reliant communities by enabling Filipino families in need to acquire affordable, decent and durable homes. It also partners with organizations, institutions and individuals in transforming lives and promoting people's dignity through building homes and conducting community development programs.
Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Habitat for Humanity builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses with the help of homeowner families. Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit, finances with affordable, inflation-adjusted mortgage loans. The homeowners' monthly mortgage payments go into a local revolving fund and are used to build more Habitat houses. In addition to monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest their own labor - "sweat equity" - into building their Habitat house and the houses of others, increasing the pride of ownership and fostering the development of positive relationships within a community.
To date, Habitat for Humanity Philippines has helped rebuild the lives of over 24,000 families and built over 200 school classrooms nationwide.
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Topic: Press release summary
Source: Habitat for Humanity International
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