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The role of public-private-people partnerships (P4) in promoting social & affordable housing opportunities.

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The need for adequate housing solutions is immense. Especially as the world is facing a global housing deficit.  

Across the globe, an estimated two billion people are in dire need of affordable, decent, and disaster-resilient homes. The magnitude of the global housing crisis is a function of multiple factors. For example, the national housing policies and programs currently in place. The limited access to appropriate construction technologies and expertise. There’s also the absence of empowered communities and suitable governance structures within the housing sector.

Creative and inclusive public-private-people partnerships have proven crucial in addressing affordable housing challenges. It’s also assisted in delivering it at scale.

Why Should We Be Talking About Public-Private-People Partnerships in Promoting Social and Affordable Housing Opportunities?

What if we understood housing as a means?

As a means to make cities more inclusive and more sustainable. In other words, housing is a way for urban transformation. It is a mechanism to bring substantial changes to the patterns and trajectories of urbanization.

Housing is a pathway. It can advance or compromise citizenship rights. Having an address and a place to live allows you to access welfare programs. You can get social protection. It’s even needed for people to have the right to vote and engage in democratic processes. If we can advance housing, then we also integrate people into schemes and the possibility to access particular welfare opportunities.

If we understand housing as a pathway, this partnership approach is not just necessary. It’s a pre-condition. It fulfills these possibilities. It is the only way to absorb and achieve the tremendous potential housing can bring to make cities more inclusive and sustainable.

The Key Values Required from Partners

While many values are required from partners, three specific elements can help achieve the benefits required.

The first is that marginalized voices and experiences need to be protagonists of change. It’s in the frontline. It means disrupting power symmetries from within coalitions.

The second is around how partnerships can build pathways for democratization. It’s not just about the implementation of housing projects. It’s how partners can change the policy environment and the organizational structures.

The last one is when partnerships can nurture relationships of care and solidarity across networks. It builds mutual learning and reciprocity.

What Kind of Strategies Work to Build Partnerships?

The answer to this question can depend on the level of partnership you’re looking at.

Eventually, personal relationships can build out into partnerships in the longer term. It can be in a neighborhood association or within international networks. It is the glue that brings people together.

Sometimes strategies need to adapt depending on the political culture. Some organizations can be more confronting than others. There are also different ways of engaging a government. But the common strategy is using the negotiating power of communities. It can be providing something at the table, such as data or knowledge about a specific sector.

Building alternative and self-managed financial mechanisms also work to engage the dialogue and build a partnership. It can help if you don’t have as much power or influence as other organizations.

Proof of concept is also effective. In these instances, it’s crucial to have a facilitator who can help demonstrate something can be produced at scale.

What Innovative Methodologies Can Help Deepen Partnerships in the Housing Space?

Methodologies are critical.

At the end of the day, when you’re on the ground and trying to advance the partnership approach, the professionals here are not trained for this type of engagement. Building experts don’t develop these skills regardless if their architects or engineers.

It requires a process of relearning. Many specialists in this field need to complete this training to work with different people. These methodologies will strengthen processes in ways that go beyond the project timeframe. It nurtures relationships even after the buildings are occupied.

Moving from Talking About Change to Making an Impact

Talking still plays an important role.

It requires events like the Europe Housing Forum, where people can discuss what is and isn’t working. It allows us to meet potential new partners and chat about innovative ideas that can create impact.

But how do you make the move talking about action to making it happen?

How do you find partners that are more than willing and bring the right competencies and resources to help achieve targets? How do you actively guide the work of partners to create relevant change?

For many organizations, these are challenging questions that not many have found convincing answers to.

Do you want to help make an impact? Sign up to find out about upcoming events, interviews, and articles on the future of housing.

Moderator: Puja Sawhney – Associate Director, People-Public- Private Partnerships (Asia Pacific), Habitat for Humanity Internationa


  • Johann Baar – Director Affordable Housing and Technology, Member of the Executive Board at Hilti Foundation
  • Alexandre Apsan Frediani – Principal Researcher, Human Settlements Group, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
  • Bea Varnai – Programme Manager at urbaMonde
  • Rick Hathaway – Vice President for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Habitat for Humanity

Interested in learning more? Watch other sessions here.