Current Problem
1 billion people lack adequate shelter/100 million are homeless.

Preferred State/What the World Wants
Adequate housing for 100% of humanity.

“Access to safe and healthy shelter is essential to a person's physical, psychological, social and economic well-being and should be a fundamental part of national and international action.”
 —UN Human Settlements Report
“Today, our cities and towns are filled with street children and people living in ‘spontaneous settlements', sprawling slum settlements without water sewage, garbage collection or electricity.”
—Anne Kajimulo Tibaijuka, Executive Director, UN Centre for Human Settlements
The need for housing is a basic human need— the lack of which the homeless are constantly reminding us.  Typically, the “homeless” are defined as people who sleep outside in parks, on streets, under bridges, in train stations, subways, tunnels, shelters supplied by charitable organizations, or in self-constructed shelters made from flimsy materials such as cardboard, packing crates, and flattened cans, and which lack basic services such as water, sanitation, garbage disposal, storm drainage, public transport, and electricity. 
The rapid and huge growth of cities in the developing world has been accompanied by a similar explosion of slums and squatter settlements on the outskirts of these cities.  These settlements are usually on lands not owned by the settlers, making them vulnerable to eviction and socially marginalized.
Homelessness became apparent to many in the United States when homelessness reached disturbing levels in the 1980’s—and has unfortunately continued unabated into the 2000’s.  Although determining exact numbers is impossible, the best estimates say that there are over 3.5 million homeless men, women, and children in the United States.[1]  1.35 million are children,[2] half are families.[3]  10% of the U.S population that live in poverty (1% of the entire U.S. population) is homeless. Rates of homelessness tripled between 1981 and 1989, and doubled yet again between 1987 and 1997 in the cities where surveys were conducted.[4], [5] 
To much of the world, homelessness and inadequate housing have long been widespread problems.  Currently, over a billion people lack adequate housing,[6] including roughly 100 million who are completely homeless.[7]  There are close to a billion people living in urban slums[8]— the favelas of Brazil, the bustees of India, the katchi abadis in Pakistan are among the local names given to the areas where the urban dispossessed are forced to live. This total is one-third of the world’s total number of people living in urban environments.[9]
Housing Humanity Strategy 1: Self-Help Housing
One of the most encouraging approaches to housing shortages has been self-help housing.[10]  By providing building materials, tools and training to the homeless and the inadequately housed, self-help programs have been highly successful in offering people the opportunity to build homes to meet their needs.  A global effort at self-help housing would gear up to offer all of the estimated one billion people in need the opportunity to live in adequate housing—and by doing so, many additional problems would be alleviated.  For example, “adequate housing is strongly correlated with progress in health, literacy and longevity and with the social stability of communities.  Improvements in housing boost material and psychological well-being and health—and thus work productivity and school performance.”[11] 
The Self-Help Housing strategy would cost $20 billion per year for ten years.  It would be modeled after an orders-of magnitude larger and global version of Habitat for Humanity.  It would work with traditional forms of shelter wherever it was located, but would also bring the latest low-cost building technology and utility options to bear on the problem. The Self-Help Housing Agency would work closely with the Global Hunger Relief Agency, the Global Energy Extension Agency, and the Global Water and Sanitation Agency, coordinating these in areas that needed housing.
“… migrants are leaving farm land which is unable to support them, and arriving in cities unprepared to deal with them.”[12]
Housing Humanity Strategy 2: Housing Tenure
The value of informally owned houses (so called squatter settlements) and farms in just Africa is estimated to be over $1 trillion.  This is three times the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa.[13]  Transforming squatter settlements into legitimate parts of the urban environment through the legalization of land ownership and the provision of basic services would do a lot more than just put a roof over people’s heads. Protecting people by law against unfair eviction from their homes or the land on which they are living does more than just protecting human rights. Transforming slums into fit habitats, rather than attempting relocations of slum residents, offers the promise of turning slums into engines of economic development, rather than drains that lower the levels of human livelihood, productivity, and humanity.
Ideally, families who have built a house on unoccupied and unclaimed urban land should be given title to that land after they have lived there for over a year.   The urban and rural poor— the un- and under-employed and no-income groups— should have protection under the law and have access to land, finance, low-cost building materials, water, sanitation and energy supplies. Informal settlements and urban slums and shantytowns should be regularized and upgraded. 
The effort to provide legitimate title to ownership for the poor in developing regions of the world should be a subset of a much more pervasive global effort of providing title to all the “real estate” in our world. A world property record that shows what belongs to whom is a basic official document in most countries but is lacking when it comes to the planet. Such a global document would show all the individual properties, as well as business properties, civil society, religious, municipal, state or province, and national properties. It would also list global or common wealth properties such as the seas and oceans beyond national jurisdiction, Antarctica, the upper atmosphere, the Moon, outer space and the inner core of the Earth.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that deals with patents, inventions and copyrights throughout the world is already a part of the United Nations. Changing this organization to a World Property Organization that covered the full gamut of intellectual as well as physical properties in the world, and made this information transparent by publishing it on the Internet, would not only help the poor gain housing tenure, but would help with everything from absentee slum landlords to money laundering—as well as establishing legal title to the Earth’s common wealth territories.
 The Housing Tenure program would work with in conjunction with the Self-Help Housing program. Both it and the World Property Organization would be funded at $1 billion per year for ten years.
Costs/Benefits—Housing Humanity
The total cost of providing self-help housing to all of the inadequately sheltered and homeless people of the world—primarily in the developing world where the needs are greatest—would cost $21 billion dollars per year for ten years.[14]    This is 2.3% of the world’s total annual military expenditures, 10.5% of illegal drug expenditures or the amount the U.S. spends on hunting and fishing every 7.5 months.[15]
Benefits would include an increase in the quality of life for the people with inadequate or no housing, as well as an improvement in the quality of life for the entire community.  Better health, more stable communities and better lives for children would also result.
Food, water, sanitation, health care— and now shelter.  Our basic human needs are being met, our wealth is going up.  We’re living longer and at a higher quality.  We’re not billionaires yet, but with what are in place the worst vestiges of poverty are eliminated.  Or are they?  Arguably, the most important investment the world can make is about to happen in the next chapter.
[1] Urban Institute, A New Look at Homelessness in America. February 1, 2000; 30% of these people were classified as chronically homeless and the others temporarily homeless. On top of the 3.5 million who were homeless or marginally homeless there are an additional 5 million poor people that spend over half of their incomes on housing, leaving them on the verge of homelessness. A missed paycheck, a health crisis, or an unpaid bill can easily push poor families over the edge into homelessness. The National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty. A more recent report, from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, says that there are 14.3 million households in the U.S. that spends more than half their income on housing.
[2] ibid. Urban Institute
[3] “Gimme a roof over my head,” (The Economist, August 23, 2003, p. 19).
[4] National Coalition for the Homeless, “How Many People Experience Homelessness?”
[5] “Gimme a roof over my head,” (The Economist, August 23, 2003, p. 19).
[6] State of the World 2004, p. 32, and Vital Signs 1995, p. 142 (Washington DC, Worldwatch Institute, 2004 and 1995).
[7] Judith Achieng, HABITAT: Renewed Campaign To Assist The World's Homeless, February 22, 2001 by Inter Press Service
UNDP, Human Development Report 1996 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 24.
UNDP, Human Development Report 1990, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 17. 
[8] “What to do about slums,” (The Economist, October 11, 2003, p. 16).
[9] UNDP,
[10] P. McHenry, “Adobe: New Look at a Centuries-Old Building Material,” Christian Science Monitor, 17 April 1986, p. 20.
[11] UNDP, Human Development Report 1996 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 24.
[12] What to do about slums,” (The Economist, October 11, 2003, p. 16).
[13] “How to make Africa smile,” (The Economist, January 17, 2004, p. 7).
[14] Approximately $200 worth of materials per inadequately sheltered person, $1400 per extended family of 7. $1 billion per year would fund training, education, and tool loans.
[15] U.S. spends $35 billion per year on hunting and fishing; Field and Steam, 2002, as reported in Lexington Herald Dispatch, March 3, 2003.

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