UN-HABITAT organizes workshop on urban housing

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Nepal is observing one of the highest urban population growth among the Asian countries.With 6.4 per cent annual urbanpopulation growth, providing shelter has become one of the challenges they face in the cities. In this context UN-HABITAT and Ministry of Physical Planning and Works (MPPW) jointly organized a consultative workshop on 1st November, 2010 in Lalitpur to disseminate the findings of the "Nepal Urban Housing Sector Profile Study". The study was carried out by UN-HABITAT in association with Centre for Integrated Urban Development (CIUD) to support the government shelter policy. Inaugurating the workshop, Dr. Dinesh Chandra Devkota, member of NPC, praised that the study has provided the latest meaningful and scientific data on urban housing sector of Nepal. Speaking about the national shelter policy of the government, Mr. Deep Basnyat, secretary at MPPW shared that the Government of Nepal (GoN) has recently taken several initiatives in housing sector including policy review and investment increment to improve housing sector, 'people's housing' being one of them. Joint Secretary at MPPW Mr. Suresh Prakash Acharya stressed on the essence of land utilization policy in Nepal. Since Nepal is more vulnerable to natural disasters, the government is trying its best to enforce the standard guidelines on housing while constructing infrastructures, he said. Mr. Christopher Lalande, representative from head quarter and Ms. Lowie Rosales, Human Settlement Officer from the regional office, UN-HABITAT commended the willingness of the government towards investing in housing sector and committed their support in the process. Mr. Padma Sunder Joshi, Habitat Programme Manager of UN-HABITAT in Nepal told that housing sector in Nepal can be improved by making housing investments more accessible to urban poor communities. He informed that the study has unfolded several urban housing issues and provided comprehensive recommendations in the report. The report reveals that the investment on housing sector in the cities has increased artificially in the last few years due to speculation and absence of secured alternative sector to invest. It has been reported that the land price in urban areas has increased by three-folds in last seven years, whereas the land purchasing rate increased by two times in 2008/09. However, the situation did not prove to be positive in the case of urban poor. Therefore, the study recommends for strengthening financing institutions and adopting subsidy provision in housing loan schemes to increase access of urban poor to different financing programmes brought to manage and expand housing facilities in cities. According to it, strategic intervention is required to control land market for the benefit of the poor. The report has underlined the importance of supporting housing for low income groups. It has stressed that the government should work beyond facilitator. Municipal infrastructure provisions should be guided by shelter policy.