Washington, DC (November 28, 2023) — Ahead of COP28, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities joined partners to launch a new initiative linking climate action to sustainable development by addressing inequities in access to housing and other core services in urban areas.

REHOUSE (Resilient, Equitable Housing, Opportunities and Urban Services), a diverse coalition of community groups, advocates and researchers, aims to accelerate progress towards more equitable and climate-ready cities through resilient and affordable housing — integrated with basic services in informal settlements. Other REHOUSE partners include BRAC, Build Change, Habitat for Humanity International, Mahila Housing SEWA Trust, and Slum Dwellers International.

“The REHOUSE partnership shows how the world’s cities can deliver climate-resilient housing and urban services equitably to meet the needs of growing urban populations,” said Ani Dasgupta, President & CEO, World Resources Institute. “By working together at the global, national and local level, we can ensure cities provide sustainable housing and urban services that reduce polluting emissions, create prosperity, and build resilience for the most vulnerable residents.”

Most people now live in cities and the world’s urban population is projected to increase by another 2.5 billion people by 2050. Yet about one in three urban dwellers globally – over 1 billion people – do not have reliable, safe or affordable access to basic everyday services and infrastructure like decent housing, running water and sanitation, electricity, or transport to access work, school and healthcare. Meanwhile, climate impacts escalate every day, and research tells us we need transformative change to urban systems to keep global warming below the most dangerous levels. Access to housing integrated with other services in cities is a critical pathway to meeting climate and development goals that is rarely discussed in international climate forums.

“Instead of piecemeal solutions, we need an integrated approach to housing, urban services and climate action, one that supports the world's most vulnerable families as they improve their communities,” said Patrick Canagasingham, Chief Operating Officer of Habitat for Humanity International. “When people living in informal settlements have adequate housing and services, everyone benefits.”  

Action is most urgently needed in today’s fastest growing cities, where urban slums and informal settlements often house the majority of the population. Gaps in access to decent, secure housing, integrated with urban services are acute, creating daily burdens for the most vulnerable urban communities and limiting their lifelong opportunities, while putting millions at risk from extreme weather, and short-circuiting economic growth. “In Bangladesh, 2,000 new residents arrive every day to the already precarious slums of Dhaka city, most driven by natural disasters and climate change,” said Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC. “We need to take urgent action, through a systems approach, to reduce climate risks and prepare cities for these climate migrants.”

Together, REHOUSE partners have established a three-track program focused on 1) data, financing, and knowledge sharing; 2) influencing national policies and programs; and 3) implementing projects on the ground locally, based on analytical but also grassroots lessons.

“Because of climate change, people living in self-built informal settlements in the global south now have to cope with more extreme weather events,” said Sheela Patel, Director of SPARC and former Chair of Slum Dwellers International. “We have an obligation to co-produce solutions for climate-resilient housing and urban services for all, using new materials and construction systems that are designed with climate risks and affordability of the urban poor in mind.”

Based on their extensive experience working on housing and inequality in cities, the REHOUSE partners have crafted eight Shared Principles designed to guide urban decision-makers and stakeholders in advancing the climate and Sustainable Development Goal agendas together with an emphasis on the intersection of equity and resilience through housing integrated with basic services.  

“We are advocating for responsible urban development,” said Bijal Brahmbhatt, Director of Mahila Housing SEWA Trust. “As we have seen through community, women-led solutions in South Asia, we can improve habitats and urban services while making progress on global climate and sustainable development goals.”

REHOUSE partners are dedicated to leading by example and developing the data and knowledge base needed to advocate for the adoption of the Shared Principles through practice. These principles are intended to be the foundation for policies, programs and peer learning across cities and countries.  

“Addressing climate change requires a systemic and equitable approach to housing,” said Elizabeth Hausler, Founder & CEO of Build Change. “By addressing the key barriers affecting access to safe, affordable and sustainable housing – policy, money and technology – we can strengthen the resiliency of cities and reduce the losses and damages impacting the world's most climate-vulnerable populations.”

REHOUSE builds on analytical and collaborative work begun as part of the World Resources Report: Towards a More Equal City, a flagship research series by WRI that explored transformative solutions to the urban services divide and highlighted many of the REHOUSE partners’ innovations in housing and other urban service provision.

For more information about the principles and how to get involved, visit REHOUSE.org.

About WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities

WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities is World Resources Institute’s program dedicated to shaping a future where cities work better for everyone. It enables more connected, compact and coordinated cities. The Center expands the transport and urban development expertise and on-the-ground impact of the EMBARQ network to catalyze innovative solutions in other sectors, including air quality, water, buildings, land use and energy. Our network of more than 450 experts working from Brazil, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, the Netherlands, Mexico, Turkey and the United States combine research excellence with on-the-ground impact to make cities around the world better places to live. More information at wri.org/cities or on X @WRIRossCities.

About World Resources Institute
World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization with offices in Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States, and regional offices for Africa and Europe. Our 1,700 staff work with partners to develop practical solutions that improve people’s lives and ensure nature can thrive. Learn more: WRI.org and on Twitter @WorldResources.