Being a long-standing partner of UNECE, especially of its Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management, Habitat on Humanity International has cooperated with UNECE on several projects already. Most recently, we have contributed to a new issue of Guidelines on Condominium Management and several of our projects were published in UNECE Compendium of Best Practices. Apart from the publications, our Policy and Advocacy Associate Director, Gyorgy Sumeghy, has been a member of the UNECE Real Estate Market Advisory Group since 2016. This team of specialists assists the Committee on Housing and Land Management and the Working Party on Land Administration to develop stronger real estate markets, addressing the energy efficiency of building stock, affordable and social housing, housing finance, property valuation and registration and land markets and administration.
Affordable housing and urban infrastructure for all groups of the population
During the first week of October 2019, annual UNECE’s Sustainable Cities Week took place in Geneva. In the name of “Affordable housing and urban infrastructure for all groups of the population”, the discussions of the week were held about the progress and challenges related to the implementation of recent international agreements such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New Urban Agenda and the Geneva UN Charter on Sustainable Housing. Representatives of national and local governments, private sector, academia and civil society met together to present and discuss with the wider public, as the Sustainable Cities Week is open for everyone interested in the topic.
Ensuring access to decent, adequate, affordable and health housing for all
Among other participants, Gyorgy Sumeghy representing Habitat for Humanity International likewise got an opportunity to speak on a panel dedicated to “Ensuring access to decent, adequate, affordable and health housing for all”. He presented main lessons learned from Habitat for Humanity and USAID’s REELIH project implemented in Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia, where 30 % to 70% of existing housing stock consists of pre-fabricated multi-storey apartment buildings built between 1960s and 1990s.
Residential energy efficiency for low income households (REELIH) project
There are several key challenges that the REELIH project faces in the countries where it is implemented, when trying to create a functioning market for residential energy efficiency refurbishments. Among others, these are low level of income in general, lack of “ownership” among home-owners, weak legislation for Home-Owner Associations (HOAs), limited access to finance of HOAs and energy poverty in the family and multi-family housing.
REELIH project succeeded in delivering initiatives that helped solving the challenges of residential energy efficiency (REE) in project countries by:
- community training and facilitation of decision-making in HOAs
- cooperation within home-owners associations
- renovation of multi-apartment buildings
- testing financing models – subsidies and loans
On advocacy level, two areas of influence were recognized:
- National level: improving HOA regulations
- Local level: making REE subsidies possible
Thanks to this project, EU-level awareness raising takes place. REELIH project practice is used as an example for further knowledge sharing such as in UNECE Compendium of Best Practices.
In spite of all hard work and successful stories from REELIH project, energy poverty is far from being defeated. Most of all, it is crucial to define the relation mechanisms between residential energy efficiency and alleviation of energy poverty.
This task is challenging due to lacking data from many regions and high share of solid fuels, like wood and coal, used in countryside. Another influencing factor is the nature of HOAs which in fact have mixed social composition and apart from supporting just renovation of buildings, it is important to support individual households, too.
For the research of energy poverty and residential energy efficiency, we have cooperated with Metropolitan Research Institute, Budapest and Building Performance Institute Europe, Brussels. We plan to present the completed research at the regional REELIH conference early next year in Brussels, so stay tuned!