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Building new homes is not the only solution to the global housing problem – according to a University of Ulster expert.

Professor Paddy Gray, lecturer in the School of the Built Environment and President of the Chartered Institute of Housing UK, highlighted the importance of planning for the future of housing while speaking in Nigeria earlier this week. 

Addressing the Kuramo Conference in Lagos – an international summit of economic and environmental experts– Professor Gray warned of the dangers of concentrating efforts to improve housing provision solely on building new homes.

“One of the key symptoms of urbanisation, whether due to inwards migration, population increase, or a combination of both, is pressure on housing caused by inadequate provision,” he said. 

“Government, non-governmental organisations and international organisations have a comprehensive range of tools at their disposal to help tackle the challenges that this problem presents, however, they cannot manage these pressures in isolation.  

“Solutions work best when they are tailored for local conditions and they are able to meet the needs of different markets, as well as the different cultural and social needs of communities.  One size does not fit all.” 

Professor Gray believes that other countries can learn from the mistakes made by the United Kingdom in the past in relation to housing policy.

“Building new housing is only part of the picture. It is invariably the part of the picture that many of us end up focusing our attention on.  In the UK, we add just over 1% to our housing stock every year, but most of our policy attention is on this 1%, explains Professor Gray. 

“The 99% of homes that already exist are the key to successful and competitive economies.  They are the key to successful communities and are a vital part of enabling social capital to flourish. It is critical that we look to the long term, that we look at the homes we already have, as well as the homes we are building for the future.

“We need to have clear views about the quality and management of housing, the balance between tenure security and social mobility, the implications of housing’s environmental footprint, and as we in many developing countries are realizing just now – the economic implications – positive and negative - of housing as a commodity and as an investment class.”

Keynote speakers at the Kuramo Conference included the Reverend Jesse Jackson, former US Special Envoy for Africa and Mrs Mary Robinson, President of the International Commission of Jurists and former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner.  

For further information on the Kuramo Conference 2010 visit: