More than "one billion human beings still lack adequate shelter and are living in unacceptable conditions of poverty" (Habitat Agenda, paragraph 53). The vast majority of these live in developing countries and -- as a result of the urbanization of poverty -- an increasing number live in urban areas. Indeed, the sprawling informal settlements and slums of developing countries are fast becoming the most visual manifestations of poverty itself. According to UN-HABITAT, some 924 million people were living in slums and informal settlements by 2001. This is a major reason why the improvement of living conditions of slum dwellers was identified as a major target area in the Millennium Declaration, adopted by world leaders in 2000.
Paragraph 65 of the Habitat Agenda notes that shelter policies in general, and housing policies in particular, play an important role in addressing this situation. In fact, it affirms that the "formulation and periodic evaluation and revision... of enabling shelter policies... are the cornerstone for the provision of adequate shelter for all."
More specifically, it states that the objective of shelter policies should be to create frameworks for efficient and effective shelter delivery systems, while emphasizing "the increased use and maintenance of existing stock through ownership, rental and other tenure options, responding to the diversity of needs."
In particular, it notes that housing policies should pay attention to the role of the informal sector to housing policies: "policies should also encourage and support the people who, in many countries, particularly developing countries, individually or collectively act as important producers of housing."
Finally, and very importantly, it stresses that policies "should respond to the diverse needs of those belonging to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups."