COVID-19 and the housing crisis in the global South – time for change

Date: Monday, 5 October 2020
Where: Online
Houses view from above.

Government housing with informal backyard dwellings in Zandspruit, Johannesburg (Photo: copyright Christina Culwick)

COVID-19 has highlighted the significance of housing for citizen wellbeing, particularly in the global South. IIED hosted an online event on Monday, 5 October to discuss what we have learned from previous interventions and COVID-19 to tackle the housing crisis.

Housing is critical for wellbeing. It provides safety and security. It is the place for family life. It is also the place where, for the most part, people take care of themselves and their families, and sleep and eat. It is the location from which people access essential services including water, sanitation and energy. For many people, it is also a place of work.

There is limited access to adequate housing particularly in the global South where an estimated one billion people live in informal settlements. Their homes have inadequate access to basic services, and their dwellings may be built of rudimentary materials. Many households (one third or more of the residents in many cities) are renting a single room.

The risk of eviction is very real, frequently because incomes are too low to pay the required rent. Other risks include fire – particularly in high density neighbourhoods – and flooding, which have been exacerbated by adverse climate change.


Juliette Tunstall (, IIED's internal engagement and external events officer