This year’s theme for World Habitat Day, Housing for All: A Better Urban Future, is an opportunity to reflect on the state of housing in our towns, cities, and communities, exploring how we can build stronger, more resilient settlements.
“The word ‘habitat’ refers, of course to places where people live, but especially in recent parlance it has taken on the additional meaning of suitability — that is, it has come to mean the places where people ought to live. Here we will be concerned with both its meanings as we seek to reach an understanding not only of what is, but what ought to be. For obviously, if we are to plan for the future, we have first to decide what it is we are planning to achieve.”
– Mawlana Hazar Imam’s opening remarks at the seminar entitled ‘The Changing Rural Habitat’ in Beijing, People’s Republic of China, October 1981
The Covid-19 pandemic highlights how fundamental our homes and neighbourhoods are to our quality of life. Are our homes safe and comfortable? Do they have running water and electricity? Are there green spaces nearby for our children to play, or hospitals, schools and other social infrastructure? The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat works to ensure that people live in safe, sustainable, and resilient physical settings, providing them opportunities to thrive. AKAH’s Habitat Planning framework is a process that spans community-centered participatory design, government engagement, socio-economic and land-use geographic information system data analysis, planning, design, and construction, to help communities plan for opportunity.
Rooted in the guidance of Mawlana Hazar Imam and grounded in participatory practices and community-led design, the output of a habitat plan moves from what is to “what ought to be.” Habitat planning has the capacity to enhance internal and external efficiencies, equity, sustainability and residents’ quality of life. Habitat planning captures a long-term vision of what the community wants to be in the future, and aligns this to resilient and environmental planning.