Around the world, one billion people live in slums, and that number is rising. Despite global consensus that safe, secure shelter is a human right, most slum dwellers lack this very basic need. The problem is clear, but the solutions are complicated.
Susanne Soederberg researches publicly and privately financed global development. She studies not just economics, but also on the politics of global development.
“I think about who benefits – and why – from a certain decision or policy,” she says. “I seek a clearer understanding of the nature of power, the regulatory frameworks, and social dimensions of key issues related to development. These factors affect the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people.”
Soederberg is in the early phases of a new project centred specifically on slums, and the surrounding issues of universal access to affordable, safe housing.
The United Nations has set a goal of ensuring adequate housing for at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. And yet, the lack of affordable shelter for the urban poor continues unabated. Governments and donors provide insufficient funds to address the issue.
Soederberg sees an opportunity for the academy to help inform policy aimed at achieving “housing justice” through diverse forms of financing.
She is studying three main types of shelter finance: commercialized mortgages; shelter microfinance; and community investment funds. But she’s placing this models in the context of the power dynamics in the governance of shelter finance.
“This research will benefit academics in political science, geography, urban studies, and international development, and they will also be of interest to government officials and development practitioners working on wider questions of urban poverty, housing rights, and financial inclusion in the global South,” she says. “We expect to generate vital empirical data and deliver new insights about the power dynamics of shelter finance.”
The complexity of issues like development financing and housing justice can be so daunting as to make meaningful change feel like a lost cause. But Soederberg believes that rigorous analysis of the economic and human issues can lead to increased social justice for the world’s most vulnerable populations.