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Our World Habitat Awards Advisory Group met on Friday 1 September to help us select our finalists in the 2017 competition. I asked Terrie Alafat, Christophe Lalande and Yves Cabannes to tell me more about being involved in the World Habitat Awards and what they look for in a project.


Terrie Alafat CBE (pictured front left) is the Chief Executive of The Chartered Institute of Housing. She joined the Advisory Group in 2016.

Why did you join the Advisory Group and become involved with the World Habitat Awards?

The reason I’m very pleased to be part of it is that it’s always incredibly inspirational to be able to spend some time looking at innovative projects, people doing amazing things with very little resources, and I come away from the day with some ideas about what we might do differently.

Is there any specific theme which you look for?

I love the projects that are simple, that get on with it. I also like the ones that are community-led and in effect can almost be community resourced because I think they will be more sustainable over time. I’m quite attracted by women-led projects or social enterprises, the sorts of things that the community can deliver without necessarily having to worry about government bureaucracy.


Christophe Lalande (pictured second from right) is the Head of UN-Habitat’s Housing Unit.

Why do you support the World Habitat Awards and how do you see your role as part of the Advisory Group?

UN-Habitat believes that everyone should have access to decent and affordable housing, and is committed to promoting housing policies and practices that are people-centred and environmentally sustainable. Our reason for supporting the work of the Advisory Group is the nature and long-standing partnership between the Awards and the work of UN-Habitat. The World Habitat Awards are an exciting opportunity for talented people to present potentially impactful projects and bring in fresh thinking from all over the world. UN-Habitat, through its Global Housing Strategy, provides both policy advice and technical assistance to help countries appropriately supply adequate, affordable and sustainable housing to all; we therefore strongly encourage and support innovative solutions in these areas.

 Is there any specific theme which you look for?

One of the focus areas of UN-Habitat is housing affordability, which is underlined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and in the 2016 New Urban Agenda. With rapid global urbanisation and continued population growth, countries are facing and will continue to face major challenges, in particular ensuring that the additional 3 billion urban dwellers that the world is expecting by 2030 have access to adequate and affordable housing. This issue is an increasingly pressing one, including among the most developed economies, and it is now urgent to address it. It will be the focus of our upcoming “Housing Affordability Campaign”. Other themes, such as green construction and sustainable building materials, are key for environmental sustainability and need to be explored further. These are themes that we look forward to.


Professor Yves Cabannes (pictured back row centre) has been in the World Habitat Awards Advisory Group for ten years. He is an urban planner and has worked as a researcher and practitioner in low income housing, urban agriculture, participatory planning, appropriate technologies for local development and many more.

Why did you join the Advisory Group and become involved with the World Habitat Awards?

First of all, out of the awards I know of and have participated in, it’s probably one of the most serious ones. It’s extremely well documented and a fantastic source of knowledge and inspiration. When you sum up all the finalists’ entries over the years, it gives you probably the best data-bank of innovation in human settlements and habitat-related issues in the world. The reason I spend time reviewing the projects and am pleased to be involved is that it’s always at the cutting edge, it retains that sort of innovative approach. The Awards work on three pillars – innovation, sustainability and transferability – and therefore each one of the projects provides some sort of inspiration for innovative actions wherever you are. And this is much richer and more powerful than a “cut and paste” approach. I see the Awards as part of a process, complemented by the peer exchanges.  When you look at how the first CLT developed in Belgium, you realise that the initial information was from the Award given to Champlain Housing Trust in 2008 and the following peer exchange visit to Burlington, Vermont, which included many of the future Brussels CLT champions. Then there’s the follow-up and further exchanges that came out of that and still continue today.

Is there any specific theme which you look for?

I’m very much coming from a rights-based approach. So everything which can make effective the right to dignified and adequate housing for all is for me essential, along with what can increase security of tenure. So personally, as a researcher and a scholar, I’m interested to identify those projects that are heading for a rights-based approach and policy changes. There are many great innovations which have no impact on policies, but we know that we need policies to be at scale and address current challenges.


Thank you to everyone in the Advisory Group for their valuable input this year! We’ll be announcing our two winners and several finalists in the World Habitat Awards 2017 in December.

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