The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which started in 2006, makes it impossible to supply the local market with legitimate building materials, preventing affected families from reconstructing their houses. Families across the Gaza Strip also cannot expand or build new housing units to deal with natural growth. Limited quantities of building materials are being smuggled at high prices through tunnels under the Egypt border, which also closed itself for imports. The real housing needs, estimated at over 60,000 units, now exceeds the need for reconstruction tenfold.
The poor economic situation, the lack of space to build within the Gaza Strip, which already has a very high urban density, and the demanding climate conditions, are pushing Gazans to become ever more creative in pursuing a sustainable urbanization of the Gaza Strip.
UN-HABITAT with the HABITAT Partner University of Westminster (London, UK) organized a three day inter-active workshop with all the key housing actors from universities, international and national non-government organizations, the United Nations, private sector and members of the Gaza Shelter Reconstruction Working Group. The Workshop was hosted by UNRWA and opened with a speech of John Ging, Director for UNRWA in the Gaza Strip. Participants explored affected neighborhoods and exchanged ideas on how to make the design, construction and use of the traditional concrete houses for extended families more energy-efficient, keeping in mind existing self-help building practices, daily habits and socio-cultural and economic realities; exploring also how changes to everyday living practices can save on resources and cut down energy consumption.
The participants also made a case not to dissociate the house from the neighborhood, looking at cost-effective ways of re-using grey-water to make neighborhoods greener, more productive and child friendly, using green on roofs, facades and streets to create a less harsh micro-climate. The event was timed with the World HABITAT Day that this year has as theme “Better Cities, Better Life”.