Housing Inclusion

Cities should work to ensure that all their residents have access to adequate, suitable and affordable housing. Also housing practices should be fair, and renters or buyers should not face discrimination based on race, gender, religious orientation or ethnicity.

Housing prices are extremely high in many global cities, making it difficult for even native born residents to find affordable housing, let alone newcomers. Lending practices to secure mortgages are complex and immigrants often fall prey to predatory lenders. Some city officials see immigrant/ethnic clusters as a negative sign and work to discourage housing segregation or ethnic concentrations.

What can be done?
There are no easy solutions to the problem of finding quality and affordable housing in many of the world’s cities. Many developing cities rely upon immigrants to create their own shelter, which partly explains the expansion of slums and shanty towns where millions live. Cities in the developed world often have public or subsidized housing programs to reduce costs, although in some countries immigrants do not qualify for these housing programs. In many countries, home ownership is often seen as a marker for immigrant inclusion and better civic integration. Indeed, there are numerous programs to assist migrants in establishing a path to home ownership.

Examples of good practice

Leeds Housing Partnership, Leeds, UK
The Leeds Housing Partnership is a public and private partnership of landlords, voluntary housing organizations, and members of the local authorities. This group came together around the recognition that housing and housing providers could directly contribute to community cohesion and economic regeneration by actively engaging and considering the needs of ethnic and minority groups during the consultative and strategic planning processes. As a result and as part of the overall Leeds Housing Strategy of 2005 - 2010, The Leeds Housing Partnership released the “Black and Minority Ethnic Housing Strategy and Action Plan”, embedded in the Vision for Leeds II 2004 – 2010. The impact of this plan is that it focuses exclusively on the needs and concerns of local residents, specifically from the most disadvantaged (BME) communities. An additional element to this innovative policy is the profiling of cultural and religious needs of each community and the incorporation of these in service planning and new home design processes.

Muslims and Mortgages
American Home Ownership Through Flexible Financing, Chicago, USA Over the last few years, several Islam-friendly lending programs have been created by the Chicago Federal Reserve to provide Muslims access to the funds they need to purchase their home. Mainstream financial institutions, such as HSBC Bank, are creating specialized financial instruments that comply with the Muslim law against riba (receiving interest) by creating joint-owner partnerships or charging lease fees in lieu of interest. By catering to Muslim financial needs, banks see an ability to tap into a growing market of well-paid and educated Muslims who might take advantage of such culturally sensitive products.

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