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Last week’s referendum saw the UK vote to leave the EU. World Habitat is based in the UK and all our staff are here too. We are located in the East Midlands, an area of central England that voted to leave the EU in greater proportions than anywhere else. The reasons for people’s choice are complex and I don’t fully understand them. But undoubtedly many people in Britain have a sense of injustice that the proceeds of economic growth have not been shared. The referendum was an opportunity to air that grievance and millions of people took it.

What happens as a result, and what the effects will be, is still very unclear. All that everybody can agree on is that the future is very uncertain.

What I am sure about, however, is that people in the UK haven’t suddenly become inward looking or lost interest in engaging with the world. World Habitat has always been an internationally focused organisation with a global outlook. The whole purpose of what we do is to identify the best housing practice around the world and help it grow where it is needed most. It always seems to me that it is highly unlikely that the answers to any country’s housing needs lie entirely within its own boundaries. We live in a world that is increasingly interconnected. Global travel, global trade and the online world in many senses make political boundaries less important.

Much of our work is European. We are founder members of Housing Europe, we are working across Europe coordinating the European End Street Homelessness Campaign. The referendum result does not change the need for any of this work, or our commitment to deliver it. Our work is all independently funded; none is dependent on EU support, and I see no reason why the referendum result will change it.

My 25 years of working in housing tells me that the best outcomes are achieved when ideas are shared and people collaborate and cooperate. The challenges of global inadequate housing are vast, but our response must be to share, collaborate and cooperate more. The UK leaving the EU won’t help this, but our resolve to achieve it is undiminished.

Director, David Ireland


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