Sustainable Development and Affordable Housing.
Lets face it, not everybody knows what sustainable development really means so it isn’t always clear how sustainable development and affordable housing are linked. We need to start with the official definition of sustainable development because it is a term that conjures up all types of thoughts when used too loosely and depending on your point of reference may even draw opposing points of view. While consulting at the UN on the RIO+20 processes in 2012 I became immersed and very interested in what the world had to say about sustainable development. Even amongst the various official participants in Rio+20 of whom most are politicians or diplomats it wasn’t always clear what sustainable development meant. This is an interesting observation since RIO+20 is all about sustainable development. Unfortunately these opinions and points of view tend to make the term too vague and seem irrelevant to the average person. So, the official definition of sustainable developments is? Well I haven’t found an official definition so I’ll use the one most often quoted by the United Nations when discussing Sustainable Development which says sustainable development is, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
That wasn’t too bad so lets look at what the official definition of affordable housing is. Well you guessed it, there isn’t just one definition and the definition on wikipedia says this: “housing deemed affordable to those with a median household income1 as rated by country, State (province), region or municipality by a recognized Housing Affordability Index.”
In the USA the definition by the US government says, “families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened.” So it is quite shocking to discover that , “over half of Americans (52%) have had to make at least one major sacrifice in order to cover their rent or mortgage over the last three years, according to the “How Housing Matters Survey”. This particular survey, which is focused on the US housing market suggests that affordability is out of reach for millions of Americans. From my own experience and dealings with people from all across the globe the situation is actually even much worse in the developing world. Some United Nations statistics indicate that a new city to house 5 million people each week is needed to keep the current deficit at par. That means not only houses are needed but schools, places of worship, retail establishments, roads, and all other infrastructure. It doesn’t take long to recognize that this is not happening. All one need do is look at the US market and see that new housing starts continue to be down from years past which means fewer houses are available for purchase which pushes housing prices even higher.
The Link between Sustainable Development and Affordable Housing
So, millions of people in the US and billions of people across the globe are caught in the grips of unaffordable housing and finding ways to meet their needs today without compromising future generations is going to be a difficult task. It should be as obvious to us as it is to the ones who can not afford housing that the notion of sustainability has not been practiced in the past. If it had been then fewer people would be having difficulty securing affordable housing.
Is there a solution?
At IADDIC, we believe the answer is yes. Fortunately there are existing technologies and methods of construction that have been proven and in use that hold many of the keys to significant progress toward affordable housing for the majority of people. Materials and building systems that can scale to meet the growing demand for affordable housing while being affordable already exist. In addition to being affordable and scalable they hold with the tenets of sustainable development in that they support all three pillars of sustainable development. This material and building system is know as SIP Panel (structural insulated panel) technology.
Our focus is and will continue to be to bring ever increasing levels of adoption of the technology across the globe and expand beyond the millions of square feet of buildings built each year and increase their application and use beyond the US and Canada and parts of Europe. This technology, first developed in the 1950’s, not as a sustainable product but as a quick building solution, holds the key to building fast, building sustainably, and being both economical and good for the environment.