Housing affordability is a global issue. In the quest to find the right housing that can not only meet demand, but also the right price points, this research says the focus shouldn't be on home ownership. The report suggests that new rental policies can be put in place that will solve more affordability issues more efficiently than building new homes.

The affordable housing crisis — a source of headlines in many U.S. cities — takes on fresh urgency when you consider the global figures. According to a new paper from the World Resources Institute, 330 million households, or roughly 1.2 billion people, lack access to secure, affordable spaces to call home.

“The rapid shift toward urban housing makes it all the more challenging for cities to grow equitably and sustainably,” the paper states. “These challenges are most acute in the global south (India, Africa, Asia, Latin America) where the lack of affordable, adequate and secure housing in cities is projected to grow the fastest.”

The paper spotlights three key challenge areas “to providing adequate, secure and affordable housing in the Global South,” as well as suggestions for tackling them. They include the growth of informal or substandard settlements (i.e., slums), policies and laws that push poorer residents out of the city, or to its fringes, and, interestingly, an overemphasis on home ownership.

That last one might seem counterintuitive. At least in the U.S., property ownership is usually viewed as a boon to the economy as a whole, not to mention a key facet of upward mobility. But look at housing through a public health lens, and you see more opportunity for more people by boosting the rental market, the paper contends.

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