Reflections from the joint AUHF and IUHF 2019 conference in Cape Town

It’s the first time that we have attended a joint African Union of Housing Finance and International Union of Housing Finance conference, and it was an excellent first-time experience. We extend our thanks to the organisers from AUHF and IUHF, as well as the Centre for African Housing Finance (CAHF), all of whom put a significant amount of effort into arranging an inspiring event – including great speakers and an excellent range of delegates.

The range of presentations provided strong insights into the genuinely exciting initiatives being implemented by organisations in Africa, as well as across the globe, to tackle affordable housing initiatives in a wide range of environments. This set-up a range of ongoing discussions between delegates on what practical ideas could be taken forward. Below is a summary of our key reflections on the conference.

Kecia Rust from CAHF set the scene for the two day event with an introductory presentation highlighting the fact that ‘affordability is now a global housing crisis’, whether this be in Africa, Europe, Asia or the Americas – often caused by different drivers – there is still a growing need in all regions for more high quality affordable housing. With such as complicated environment, it was also highlighted that crisis, traditional methods were no longer as effective and there is a need for all to develop new forms of innovative interventions, and including a need for genuine collaboration between the public and private sectors. The following two days demonstrated a range of real practical examples of those innovative approaches now being deployed.

This includes the large government backed agendas in Egypt and Kenya, where through different approaches there are strong aspirations to develop a significant number of new homes in the coming years. As well as the many examples provided across the two days of close working between the private and public sectors at a local level to bring forward new housing schemes at low cost – such as the notable example provided by Casa Orascom of a scheme in Senegal to replace slum housing with new high quality properties for existing residents at nil cost.

I myself, spoke on behalf of Altair International, and talked through key reflections from UK housing sector, identifying the important takeaways which other countries could learn from when developing their own affordable housing sectors. There is no single silver bullet and there is a need for a strong focus on the whole housing value chain including a robust regulatory environment and the enablement of a range of actors with differing approaches to housing provision.

This was supported by Anaclaudia Rossbach from the Cities Alliance who talked through a range of innovative housing solutions from across the globe. One point which stuck was the fact that Mexico has built 7m houses since the 1990s but 4m remain empty as there was insufficient focus on ensuring that the new homes were close to employment and other amenities. A point well made that to be successful, housing schemes are reliant on the wider environment being suitable.

Another strong theme that came through the various sessions was power of data to inform more effective decisions being made on how best to develop, structure and implement housing initiatives. David Gardner from CAHF provided an overview of the excellent work that has been completed by CAHF to help understand the economic impact of housing across Africa. Information provided on the housing markets of various countries was particularly thought provoking – especially when drilling down into the data to fully understand which elements of building a home are primarily responsibility for driving up cost (and hence enabling a more targeted focus for cost reduction interventions).

The conference also highlighted that technology is also playing an integral role in new housing initiatives. Whether this be using blockchain technology to help tackle land and title issues, which are a significant problem in many African countries, through to the use of biometric technology (by organisations such as Sohco in South Africa) to help with security of properties and provide an opportunity to drive discussions on rent arrears.  

Whilst there are good examples of innovative interventions, the common theme in the context of Africa from the presentations and discussions was the lack of enabling conditions to attract private capital to fund affordable housing on a large scale. In essence there is a growing gap between housing need and supply. A possible solution from our discussions with a number of participants is for the wide range of actors especially development finance institutions in spite of their different mandates to come together country by country to develop a joint offer to governments to create incentives for creating enabling conditions to stimulate volume delivery of affordable housing.

Overall an excellent event, and great to see so many good ideas being put into practice. We’re looking forward to hearing the next updates on progress made by all next year.

For further information about the work of Altair International or to have a more detailed discussion please either visit our website www.altairltd.co.uk/altairinternational or contact michael.appleby@altairltd.co.uk or altairinternational@aquilaservicesgrp.co.uk