“We all need a safe home. Here’s why we must build better”

By Dr Elizabeth Hausler | August 19, 2021

Dr Elizabeth Hausler is the founder and CEO of Build Change, and a global expert on resilient housing, post-disaster reconstruction, and systems change. She is a social entrepreneur and a skilled brick, block, and stonemason.

Here is her contribution to the Our World in Your Hands project.

Dear world leaders,

Housing is the cornerstone to our lives. Through housing, people have access to basic needs, such as sanitation, power, and a place to sleep. Through housing, people can be protected from disasters — extreme heat, hurricanes, or even COVID-19.

Through housing, people can catalyze economic growth, creating businesses, learning, and developing financial assets.

And yet, by 2030, nearly 40% of the world’s population will live in vulnerable housing. Disasters are increasing in frequency due to the impacts of climate change, and those living in lower income countries feel the consequences of climate change the greatest.

But global investment is not meeting the needs of the qualitative housing deficit. People don’t need new homes, they need better, safer homes. It must start with inclusive climate commitments at COP26 if we are to reach those most vulnerable.

For Eusi in the Philippines, a safe house helped protect not only his family, but much of his community. Eusi explained, “I called my wife and children to get in the bathroom, because it was the only place left to hide…when I went outside, all of the other houses were destroyed. We were given the chance to rebuild our house, and I helped build it.” Two months after they finished building their new home, another typhoon hit. Eusi opened his home to 17 families to ride out the storm; no one was injured.

For Badam in Nepal, it means a climate resilient structure to pass on to his four young grandsons. Badam’s house would rattle in the wind, and rain would frequently wash away the mud-plastered walls. Now, because of the improved connections and cement plaster, Badam knows his house is structurally stable and resilient. He is also grateful he started the retrofitting process, as it revealed the previously hidden rotting wood, which has now been replaced. According to Badam, “Retrofitting has increased the life span of the building.”

COP26 must generate action overcome the barriers to resilient housing: policies which require governments and incentivize homeowners to take action for climate-resilient housing; money to invest in systems change, make resilient housing affordable through subsidies, and to develop and acquire the right materials and tools; and technology, both physical and digital, to ensure safe and resilient housing at scale.

It is time to act now, before the next disaster occurs.

Elizabeth Hausler

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