The World Is on Our Doorstep: Forum Hears Contrasting Approaches to Housing Solutions

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The World Is on Our Doorstep: Forum Hears Contrasting Approaches to Housing Solutions
By: Frances Bula, Vancouver Sun
20 June 2006
 
The United Nations` third World Urban Forum opened in Vancouver Monday with native dancing and drumming, songs from Canadian and Kenyan children, and some sharply differing ideas about how to solve the planet`s housing problems.

U.S. Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson said home ownership is the solution.

"Home ownership will make our cities stronger, safer and more prosperous," said Jackson, emphasizing that his work is aimed at carrying out President George Bush`s vision of a "home-ownership society" because of its capacity to create stability, financial independence, freedom and even improved literacy.

"We have created five million jobs, basically because of the housing industry," said Jackson. "We`re eager to share some of the lessons we`ve learned."

But the head of the Habitat International Coalition, Enrique Ortiz of Mexico, issued a stinging rebuke of how ideals about progressive and collective housing solutions at the 1976 Vancouver Habitat conference have been reduced to discussions of the free market and real estate.

"These reductionary and market-dominated trends are contrary to the spirit of Vancouver in 1976," said Ortiz, whose speech came at the end of a four-hour ceremony and was heard by only about 1,000 of approximately 5,000 people at the opening.

Ortiz said governments` lack of commitment to even the modest goal set in 2000 of reducing the world`s slum population by 100 million by 2020, along with their focus on helping real-estate markets work better as their solution to housing, has resulted in increased homelessness and mass evictions. The current slum population is one billion.

He emphasized that governments can`t rely just on the private sector to solve housing problems. Instead, they need to tap in

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