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“There is no shortage of housing problems – what is needed are solutions.”

Peter Elderfield, founder, Building and Social Housing Foundation


Established in 1946

In 1946 – just a year after the Second World War ended – a small group of homeless ex-servicemen with just thirty-nine pounds and 10 shillings (£39, 10d) set up the East Midlands Housing Association (EMHA). Led by Mr Peter Elderfield, it developed into a highly successful organisation, providing – for many years – both subsidised social housing as well as building affordable homes for sale.

Because of a change in the housing legislation EMHA could no longer continue to operate in its former integrated and holistic manner. So in 1976 the Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF) was established with a gift from EMHA and Peter Elderfield, became the BSHF Director and remained so until his death in January 2001.

Over the last 40 years BSHF has built up an extensive body of research into sustainable and innovative housing solutions.

In 1985 BSHF pioneered the search for innovative and successful housing practice around the world by establishing the World Habitat Awards, an international competition to identify, celebrate and share those housing solutions that make a difference to the lives of poor people and the communities they live in.

BSHF has developed a global network of innovative organisations who share our goal of better housing, including the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). In 1988, BSHF was one of the founder members of the European Liaison Committee for Social Housing (Housing Europe) and has held Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council since 2006 for our work supporting the goals of UN-Habitat.

BSHF supported the fledgling Care and Repair service, and helped promote its work as it pioneered new ways of helping older and disabled people to live independently in their own homes. There is now a national network of nearly 200 home improvement agencies and handyperson-providers across England.

At a time when forced evictions were increasing dramatically worldwide, with devastating effects on millions of children, women and men, BSHF led the way in bringing together people to find workable solutions. In 2010 BSHF worked across eight countries to identify examples of good practice in response to these forced evictions and organised an international exchange in Istanbul, for people with direct experience and expertise. The resulting report, – How People Face Evictions: Lessons from people-led initiatives – details the practical experiences and strategies of communities successfully resisting forced evictions and provides key lessons for those interested in social justice in housing.


Becoming World Habitat, November 2017

Currently our world is being reshaped by globalisation, technology, climate-change, polarising wealth and a growing population exploiting limited resources. These changes are having a profound impact on where and how people live. All too often the worst effects are felt by the most vulnerable people and those on the lowest incomes.

We continue to adapt and respond to these changes; reflecting the pioneering spirit and practical nature of our founder, Peter Elderfield and his colleagues. We believe there is a need for us to provide greater clarity about our purpose and mission. That is why in November 2017 we changed our name from BSHF to World Habitat. The new identity of World Habitat better reflects and represents our work to help ensure people everywhere have a safe, secure and sustainable place to live.


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