The World Economic Forum’s annual conference in Davos, Switzerland is all about finding novel solutions for some of the world’s most pressing issues. The ongoing housing crisis is one such problem, and Habitat for Humanity has spent almost five decades trying to fix it.
At the conference, Worth magazine editor, Dan Costa, met with Habitat for Humanity’s International CEO, Jonathan Reckford. If his organization really wants to end the housing crisis, Reckford argued, then it must go beyond simply building shelter.
Changing Economics to Support Shelter
“Our vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. And that’s audacious,” Reckford said. “Our traditional direct building is a demonstration of what’s possible. But our goal is really to make markets and systems work so that everybody can improve their own housing conditions.”
Reckford also addressed why Habitat for Humanity, which is not associated with any particular government and is decidedly not a for-profit corporation, would want to attend Davos.
“A unique aspect of Davos is that you have the public sector, the private sector, NGOs [non-governmental organizations], and civil society coming together. And complex problems in society, like housing, can only be solved with multisector approaches,” he said. “There are activists here, who are clearly not paying the full rate, but they’re part of the conversation. They’re being heard by people who can make a difference.”
Historically, this strategy has worked for Reckford. At one previous conference, he connected with Amy Weaver, the current president of Salesforce. After telling her about Habitat for Humanity’s charitable mission, she joined the organization’s board of directors.
Global Pressures Imperil Housing
However, political and scientific realities may constrain what Habitat for Humanity can accomplish within the next few years. Costa asked Reckford about how growing wealth inequality and other worldwide issues could affect the organization’s goals.
“I’m an optimist by nature. But there’s a lot of headwinds,” Reckford said. “When you look at rapid urbanization, climate change, and now two wars, all of that is creating enormous stress on housing. And that’s not so good.
“If you can bring good out of bad, people are paying attention to housing. That’s our issue. And I think that’s a positive. And I think there’s a sense of urgency, but my economic optimism is a little dim for next year.”
To learn more about Reckford’s work at Davos this year, you can read his post on the WEF website: “For billions of people around the world, housing is the frontline in the fight against climate change.”