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Housing

A fix for Brussels’ housing crisis and an eviction-battling Beirut project scoop World Habitat Awards

A Hull housing project that helped women and children through a ‘stark increase in domestic abuse during pandemic’ is also among global award winners.

A community project creating homes for migrants in an expensive European city and a housing rights group protecting scores of people from eviction lead the winners in the United Nations-backed World Habitat Awards.

Community Land Trust Brussels (CLTB) won the prestigious Gold Award prize. It helps mobilise communities to provide homes in the Belgian capital, where families on low incomes face being locked out of housing due to a shortage of social homes and rising house prices.

The project won alongside Housing Monitor in Beirut which tracks housing injustices to allow low-income Lebanese, refugees and migrant domestic workers to stand up against evictions.

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The UK was also represented among the winners of the awards, which celebrate innovative and revolutionary housing projects. Hull Women’s Safe Homes scooped a Silver Award for protecting 1,800 women and children affected by domestic abuse in the last six years.

“All our winners illustrate the range of housing challenges facing people across the world from the impact of the climate emergency to housing rights to affordability,” said David Ireland, World Habitat chief executive.

World Habitat Awards
Community Land Trust Brussels won gold at the awards for taking community action to ensure migrants and other people on low incomes could stay in Brussels despite a shortage of affordable housing. Image: CLTB
World Habitat Awards
Bhutan’s Tarayana Foundation won for its project to improve the living conditions of remote communities through integrating housing, sanitation, livelihoods and food security. Image: Tarayana Foundation

“It is all too easy to become overwhelmed about these challenges. However, the work of every one of our incredible award-winning projects prove that there are solutions and steps that can be taken to ensure that safe and secure housing can be a reality for everyone – rather than an aspiration.”

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CLTB is described by judges as the “first big community land trust in Europe” and has built homes that are sold for 30-50 per cent below market value and are subsidised based on a household’s ability to pay.

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So far, CLTB has completed five projects housing 450 people in 103 homes. That has allowed people on low incomes to live in the Belgian capital and avoid the pricey private rented sector with more than 80 per cent of the homes going to people with a migrant background.

Meanwhile, Beirut’s Housing Monitor, run by Public Works Studio, has prevented almost 100 evictions after tracking more than 600 housing injustices.

World Habitat Awards
Housing Monitor in Beirut have been tracking housing injustices to allow people on low incomes to fight back against evictions. Image: Public Works Studio
World Habitat Awards
After the tsunami in Palu Bay, the organisation Arkom Indonesia supported the local community to manage their own recovery and reconstruction and their safe relocation close to the sea – which provides their primary source of income. Image: Akrom Indonesia

The project, the first of its kind in the Middle East, gives vulnerable communities to stand up for their basic housing rights and rise against evictions as well as holding governments, companies and property owners to account.

Leilani Farha, global director of housing campaigners The Shift and a Final Judge of the World Habitat Awards, said: “These are both highly innovative projects and drive forward the much-needed realisation of the human right to housing. They recognise that marginalised and low-income households need affordable, adequate housing to thrive.” 

World Habitat Awards
Hull Women’s Safe Homes project impressed judges with its response to rising domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic. Image: The Winner Group

Hull Women’s Safe Homes was one of two projects which were awarded a silver while four others scooped bronze.

The Preston Road Women’s Centre is home to The Winner group of six charitable organisations, which runs the Hull Women’s Safe Homes project.

World Habitat Awards
Housing responses to natural disasters – both climate-related and otherwise – featured heavily in the winners. Image: Arturo Gomez
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The project is tackling the lack of safe accommodation for women fleeing domestic abuse by acquiring empty homes and converting them into safe, affordable housing. So far, the project has brought 138 empty homes back into use.

Women accessing the housing project receive wraparound support, including specialist domestic abuse support, nursery care, accredited training and legal advice, which allows them to successfully start a new life.

The intervention was particularly impressive during the pandemic, judges noted, with a “stark increase in domestic violence cases across the UK”.

Ireland added: “This ground-breaking project understands that vulnerable people can never be truly safe without a safe home.”

Also among the winners was a project reducing poverty in Bhutan, another tackling a lack of sanitation in rural Argentina, efforts to build affordable homes in Texas and a housing project rebuilding homes following a tsunami in Indonesia and an earthquake in Mexico.

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