Housing has increasingly become a critical problem with the increased migration of people into urban centers. Cities have increasingly succumbed into bad habits of housing policy (Sullivan et al., 1988). It is estimated that about 900 million individuals globally live within slums, lack access to sufficient water and sanitation (Zhang & Ball, 2016). Zhang and Ball (2016) also estimate that by 2025, 1.6 billion people, translating to about 20% of the global population, will not have access to adequate, safe and affordable housing. The major approach adopted globally, including in the United States, is the construction of large-scale subsidized programs within slums that are consigned to the peripheries of cities. However, evidence suggests that such housing policies only have a perverse impact. This paper seeks to explore the housing issue using a social analytic framework.
Housing: Problem Statement
There is inconclusive data to substantiate the extent of the housing problem because of the lack of sufficient data, especially in developing states. However, it is estimated that by the end of 2017, 33% of the urban dwellers globally, about 1.2 billion individuals, did not have access to secure and affordable housing (Timberlake, 2017). Other studies suggest that at least 330 million households globally could not access adequate and affordable housing. It is also estimated that this figure is poised to increase by 30% by 2025 (Loseke, 2017). However, this study failed to show the anticipated increase in subsequent years. Despite the proportion of the world population living within slums globally declining during recent decades, the number of people found living within the urban slums globally has increased from 700 million during the 1990s to about 880 million by 2014 (Timberlake, 2017). China and India have 25% of their population living within slums while more than 50% of the African population is under substandard living conditions (Drakakis-Smith, 2012). The inadequate housing gap is mainly experienced in the middle and low income nations. In these countries, some of the cities expand at an unprecedented rate to an extent that the governments are unable to plan and provide services and infrastructure in a prompt way that could accommodate the ever-increasing population. The consequence is that large numbers of people live in inadequate conditions that cannot support life in a sustainable way.
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The housing problem has various negative consequences, but the main effect is the long-term effect on both mental and physical health. The worrying aspect is that the health impacts associated with poor housing disproportionately impacts the susceptible people, including the young, older individuals living alone, people without support networks and adults living with disabilities. With such poor health effects, the result is a reduced life expectancy. Poor housing is also a major source of pollution that pollutes many of the streams, rivers and general urban environment (McKay & Cox, 2016: Sullivan et al., 1988). Due to the large populations brought about by urbanization, informal settlements come up. Such settlements consist of poorly constructed structures that are not connected to safe sewer lines. There is also insufficient water because cities cannot meet the demand of the growing population. Apart from health, pollution and water scarcity, the other consequence of inadequate housing is the rise in crime and crime-related activities and homelessness. Consequently, these devastating effects imply that it is crucial to understand and address the housing problem. It is important to change the status quo to reverse the worrying trend in urban centers globally.
Vision of Change and Goal Clarification
Addressing the inadequate and unaffordable housing problem would be crucial for reducing the number of homeless people. It would also play a crucial role in enabling people to afford houses, thus ensure that they live a decent life. The availability of many affordable houses would help many people who earn low incomes to be able to buy or rent houses. This would reduce the number of informal settlements in urban centers and the menace associated with them. The specific goal for achieving the desired change is to ensure that low-income earners live a decent life that is free from diseases. In case the envisioned change is realized, the disabled, elderly, disadvantaged and the poor stands to gain. Cities will also spend less in managing the high health costs that are associated with the lack of decent housing. All stakeholders and entities stand to gain if the envisioned change is realized.
Historical Background and Current Conditions
Structural and economic contextual factors are the dominant factors that influence the housing problem. Structurally, cities have been unable to come up with adequate planning to accommodate the ever-growing population. It has been a pervasive problem in many cities globally. Economic factors that contribute to the housing crisis are poverty and inadequate income (Drakakis-Smith, 2012). The functionalism theory suggests that cities serve various beneficial functions, but still have dysfunctions. The implication of this theory is that cities are both good and bad, and the housing problem is one of the reflections of its bad sides. Contrarily, the conflict theory highlights that cities are managed by economic and political elites who use resources for enriching themselves and take resources from the poor and disadvantaged. Due to the diversity in cities, there is a resultant conflict over values and norms (Zhang, 2016). It implies that elites use cities as the foundation for accumulation of their power and wealth.
Possible Directions to Achieve Desired Change
A bottom-up approach is required for achieving the desired change. The approach could be curtailed to become preventive, reconstruct and reform the society while factoring in the intervention aspects. Organizations such as Slum/Shack Dwellers International are currently working on such approaches in Africa and Asia to empower and involve communities in urban change (Zhang, 2016). Low-cost approaches led by the communities, such as Pakistan’s Orangi Pilot Project, can be instrumental in bringing about desired change because they are holistic in nature. Housing is only one of the problems of urbanization, and solutions need to focus on an integrated approach that addresses the urbanization menace. To support the desired social change, stakeholders should be included in the relevant stages to provide their input on the need for social change.
Future Prospects: Suggested Strategies to Alleviate the Problem
Cities should set up programs that channel government funds to the poor communities directly. These communities should plan and implement improvements for their housing and basic services. Poor communities should then collaborate with local governments and other institutions to enhance all communities living in the specific cities (Zhang, 2016). After finalization of the city-wide plans, responsible agencies or institutions should then channel loans and subsidies directly to communities. The major strength of this proposal is that the community will fully support the programs, but the major limitation is that some stakeholders and elites may feel that they are left behind. However, this should not be a concern since it does not affect the program.
Overall, urbanization has become a common phenomenon in many cities globally. It has contributed positively to the development of towns, but also played a role in the rise of urban housing problems. Today, a significant number of people cannot afford to buy houses or rent decent houses. The major negative consequences of the housing issue are ill health, squatter settlements, pollution, insufficient water, crime and homelessness. Addressing this problem would be important for minimizing homelessness, improving the living standards and number of informal settlements. This paper has described economic and structural factors as the dominant ones that influence the housing issue. The functionalism and conflict theory best describe the housing problem experienced in many cities globally. For desired change, this paper proposes an integrated and holistic bottom-up approach. This would be successful because the affected communities would be involved directly in the decision-making process. In other words, housing is a complex problem that requires a holistic, integrated and people-driven solution.
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