Urban Wire Building the evidence base to support low-income housing policy in Latin America and the Caribbean
Sara McTarnaghan, Carlos Martín
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In 2009, the world’s urban population surpassed its rural population for the first time in history. Yet, much is still unknown about the housing needs of this increasingly urban population. This evidence gap exists in all housing contexts and in every region of the world, but is particularly important in middle- and low-income nations. Without empirical evidence, housing deficits cannot be assessed, interventions cannot be evaluated, and appropriate policy and programs cannot be designed.

To that end, Habitat for Humanity International and Cities Alliance created the Global Housing Research Initiative to examine how housing programs could address the needs of a growing urban population, and particularly the poor among that population. As the first phase, the Urban Institute conducted an evidence scan of housing programs and policies across Latin America and the Caribbean, where housing affordability is emerging as a critical problem.

The literature review demonstrates marked growth in the rate of research, evaluation, and monitoring in housing, land use, and related subjects for this region over the last two decades. The research highlights the role housing plays in the well-being of families and communities in the region and the barriers to ensuring access to adequate housing for all. Despite the volume of publications, there is still a paucity of rigorously produced evidence around housing issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. Certain subregions, especially the Caribbean, continue to be overlooked.  

Urban identified several areas that need more research, including the following:

  • Pathways into and supportive policies for the formal rental housing market
  • Outcomes of past homeownership programs
  • Gaps in affordability in dense urban areas
  • Alternatives for housing finance and subsidies for low- and moderate-income households
  • The impact of ethnic segregation, mobility, and spatial “mismatches”

Next week in Quito, Ecuador, government leaders, urban development practitioners, researchers, and advocates will come together at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, better known as Habitat III. The goal is to ratify and develop commitments around the New Urban Agenda, a plan for sustainable urban development that has housing at its center. In cataloging and synthesizing existing research and highlighting future research needs, Urban’s literature review serves as a building block for new evidence-based policies and programs that can help meet the goals of the New Urban Agenda.

For those attending Habitat III, please join us for a launch of the report and discussion of research inputs to the New Urban Agenda at the official side eventEvidence from Practice for Action: Ensuring Informed Implementation of the New Urban Agenda” on Monday, October 17, 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. in the Urban Future Room. 


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Research Areas Global issues Housing
Tags International housing and land markets Housing affordability International development and governance
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center