Progress Report: Sustainable Development Goal 11 (Target 11.1)

Monday, 19 July, 2021

Progress Report: Sustainable Development Goal 11 (Target 11.1)

by Habitat for Humanity International | Published in March 2021


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aims to achieve the global goal of ending poverty and other deprivations by the implementation of 17 Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. Progress toward each of the SDGs is measured through a monitoring framework that contains 169 targets and 231 indicators.1 More than five years after the launch of the SDG framework, we are now in the “Decade of Action,” during which the SDGs are to be achieved by 2030. According to the 2019 U.N. High-Level Political Forum, or HLPF, the SDGs are far from being achieved. The 2020 HLPF highlighted that inequalities among and within countries have deepened, and progress toward the SDGs has been delayed or reversed as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Habitat for Humanity, with the vision of creating a world where everyone has a decent place to live, works toward the recognition of housing as a platform for sustainable development and emphasizes the central role of housing in building better cities. Habitat has encouraged member states to include adequate housing in the Agenda 2030 and has promoted programs and policies to achieve progress toward goals and targets related to housing.

This report gives an overview of the global effort toward achieving SDG 11, which seeks to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable,” focusing on Target 11.1 — “By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums” — and the Indicator 11.1.1: “Proportion of urban population living in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing.” This report relies on desk research and a review of literature from online sources and reports by U.N. agencies, multilateral bodies and civil society, including UNHABITAT, Cities Alliance, U.N. Environment Programme, U.N. Development Programme, World Bank, Voluntary National Reviews and Voluntary Local Reviews, mainly from 2018 to 2020. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for Target 11.1 are not considered in the analyses of this report.

The report first discusses the components of Indicator 11.1.1 and their measurement, then analyses progress according to available data. It also provides national and local perspectives from areas with the most pronounced negative and positive trends. It also discusses some of the critical issues concerning progress or regression on Target 11.1. Based on available forecasts, it considers the future need for adequate housing through projections on slum dweller population for 2030. Finally, it presents recommendations for further action on the basis of its findings.

At the U.N. HLPF in 2020, it was made clear that Target 11.1 is one of the five targets that is regressing (out of 35 measured of 161 in total). The proportion of the world’s urban population living in slums grew to 24% by 2018, compared with the previous decrease from 28% to 23% between 2000 and 2014. The absolute number of the urban slum population continued to increase, and by 2018 it exceeded 1 billion, with the largest slum and informal settlement dweller populations in East and Southeast Asia (370 million), Sub-Saharan Africa (238 million) and Central and South Asia (227 million). While slums are mostly concentrated in developing countries, lack of housing affordability affects people in developed countries as well. Projections for 2030 estimate a further increase in the number of slum dwellers to 1.2 billion, with the largest proportional increase occurring in Africa. With these facts in mind and recognizing the anticipated long-term global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, regression and lack of progress toward achieving Target 11.1 is likely to continue if no additional efforts are taken.

This report attributes the main causes of the lack of progress within SDG 11.1 to population growth, rapid urbanisation, natural population increase, climate change impact, migration, political and economic instability, systemic inequalities, ineffective urban planning, local governance, land and housing policies, and housing finance instruments.

Additional critical issues considered include the lack of prioritization of housing in development programs, including the lack of adequate funding, lack of recognition of the complexity of the housing ecosystem, lack of coordination and collaboration between stakeholders, including at different levels of governance, and dependency of progress in Goal 11 from progress on other goals (such as SDG 1: No poverty, SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation, SDG 8: Decent work, SDG 10: Reduced inequalities, and SDG 13: Climate action). Furthermore, shortcomings of data collection and reporting are identified as a critical issue, especially in terms of the lack of updated global data on housing affordability and underreporting of Target 11.1 in the global monitoring framework, which drives attention and resources away from the problem.

This paper argues that cities have a defining role in global sustainable development3 because of their social and economic weight and connections beyond their boundaries. The population of urban slums and informal settlements is a major contributor to cities’ social, economic and environmental landscape and development opportunities. Therefore, progress in SDG 11 and Target 11.1 is directly or indirectly a driver for achieving the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Habitat for Humanity believes that we can achieve better outcomes and greater impact if the global housing challenge is addressed with people at the centre, especially the most vulnerable, and is implemented through people-public-private partnerships and with a deeper understanding of the entire housing ecosystem.

Specific recommendations, elaborated on in the final section of this paper, include:

  • Positioning housing at the center of programs and policies concerning cities, for building better and more sustainable cities and communities, including the provision of adequate funding for interventions.
  • Application of a housing ecosystems perspective in the planning, design, implementation and monitoring of housing interventions, including the understanding of needs and priorities of low-income families, existing capacity and resources of local governments, market conditions and the policy environment. Solutions require integrated interventions.
  • Building and maintaining strong people-public-private partnerships in the design, implementation and monitoring of interventions at all levels, including institutionalized forms of public participation.
  • Improvement of data collection, reporting and monitoring concerning Target 11.1, especially concerning housing affordability, disaggregated data on housing adequacy criteria, and a composite index for Indicator 11.1.1, and more frequent and thorough national and local reporting.

Read the full report here: