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Getting housing back onto the development agenda in the time of COVID-19

David Satterthwaite

Briefing, 6 pages

This Brief considers the large range of services and other benefits that should ideally be associated with housing residence or title – and their importance for health and wellbeing, safety, social and political inclusion, accessing employment and much else besides. But COVID-19 brings new or heightened housing-related risks that need addressing, and many housing characteristics and housing-related services are central to controlling the virus and limiting its impacts.

Housing should provide its residents not only a safe structure but also access to piped water, toilet, bathroom and kitchen facilities, and electricity within the accommodation;sufficient living space for privacy, quiet space and homework; secure tenure; and a registered address. It should be accompanied by street lighting, policing/rule of law, connection to the internet, managed local public space and regular solid waste collection. Its location should allow access to labour markets, shops, access roads,healthcare and emergency services and disaster risk preparedness, provided by a supportive and resourced local government.

Where households and communities have most or all of these features, there is a strong foundation for rapidly addressing COVID-19 at scale. The above list contains many housing characteristics that are central to this task and to minimizing the health, social and economic costs. They certainly make selfisolation and high-quality hygiene much easier. A registered address may also be needed to receive small food parcels at the door, especially for self-isolating households and vulnerable groups. The large overlaps between addressing their housing needs and addressing COVID-19 are quickly evident – overlaps that should be addressed in informal settlement upgrading programmes

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