The New Housing Entrepreneurs at WUF7: Join Our Session!

Published: Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 by Lenora

About a billion people globally live in substandard housing. One billion people in shacks, on pavements, in temporary shelters, in stilt homes, in informal houses, in deteriorating housing blocks and in other unhealthy, insecure conditions that are nonetheless home to city dwellers. Although these homes often house the poorest, lower income workers and emerging middle income households also find themselves with no options because few housing products serve those who could afford to improve their home, to formally rent a house or apartment or to buy a low cost single family home or apartment.

Smart City or Inclusive City? Why Choose? Urbanization is now at the top of the global media agenda. But is it the smart city or the inclusive city? Indeed, just as smart meters and smart lighting and smart sensors and smart security have now become part of the urban Zeitgeist, spectacular housing market failures have now plagued the global economy for several years from the US subprime crisis to Spain and Ireland’s empty subdivisions to the defaults last year of Mexico’s large listed homebuilders. Just yesterday, two years of prognosticators’ warnings on a housing bubble forming in China finally yielded up the default of a larger developer, which has begun to reverberate through financial markets. In Brazil, no less than the great Robert Shiller has suggested another housing bubble, even in the shadow of large scale and controversial urban redevelopment projects ahead of the World Cup and the Olympics.

Amid the turmoil and challenge, most DFI and philanthropic funders have withdrawn from initiatives aimed at directly increasing and improving housing supply, citing long timelines, few partners, tough financing, bureaucracy, corruption and more. Increasingly, those sources of funding appear to be leaning towards the demand side through housing finance, urban service delivery and community initiatives for physical rehabilitation, regeneration, engagement and participation. Private investment capital has largely moved toward commercial and retail development, if not higher end residential segments.

Seizing Opportunity and Building Community. What better time, then, to host a session at the World Urban Forum in Medellin on new entrepreneurial models for housing in emerging markets? Investors may not agree right now, but, as many have said, the crisis creates the opportunity. The opportunity at hand is to rethink urban housing for the majority across the value chain from design to finance, construction to materials and labor to facilitators.

This re-visioning of housing enterprise models relates directly to the WUF7 theme of urban equity in development. Although housing can certainly be a means of upliftment, it has been as much a tool for perpetuating poverty and inequality. International investors, likewise, will no doubt view housing investments in developing markets with skepticism for some time to come. In that light, it is all the more timely to consider how ethics, equity, transparency and sustainability can be integrated into housing enterprise models and help transform the way investors evaluate this pressing opportunity.

The New Housing Entrepreneurs at WUF7. Throw off the gloom and doom. Join this call to action and this invitation to explore the creative entrepreneurial energy that has crept into affordable housing markets. Tomorrow, check out our list of top elements of the new entrepreneurial housing models. Also keep an eye out for enterprise profiles here in coming days ahead of the session. Until then, mark your calendars for our event:

The New Housing Entrepreneurs: Business Models

That Integrate Inclusion, Well-Being and Sustainability

City Changer Room

Wednesday April 9

8:30a – 10:15a


Partners involved in this event include Smart Cities Advisors, the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa, One Roof Global and Global Communities. We also thank the African Union for Housing Finance for disseminating this opportunity to their members and UN-Habitat and the Private Sector Advisory Board for supporting the concept and providing space in the City Changers Room.

We look forward to meeting you in Medellin to discuss the emerging urban housing enterprise!