WASHINGTON DC —
The gap in Cambodia’s cities is widening between wealthy property owners and tenants living in unsafe accommodation, according to a new report by the World Resources Institute.
The report predicts that the trend will continue over the next decade, with a third of urban residents worldwide living in cheap housing that lacks access to basic services, such as electricity and clean water.
Robin King of the World Resources Institute (WRI), who authored the report, said some of the findings were “quite frightening”.
“We saw that 330 million households in cities around the world, which is equivalent to about 1.2 billion people, currently don’t have access to affordable, adequate and secure housing,” he said. “And we know that this housing gap is projected to grow by 30 percent to 1.6 billion people by 2025. And we know that this problem is going to be severe in countries in Africa and Asia where much of the urban growth is expected to happen.”
The WRI report identifies building standards, ownership models and gentrification as the key factors that need addressing to prevent the poor being driven into sub-standard accommodation.
“So we think all of these together really provide cities with a great toolbox that they can apply as they try to tackle the issue of housing. We think that equitable access to adequate, secure and affordable housing will improve living standard for the city as a whole making it good for people, the environment and the economy,” King said.
He added that addressing the issue was “incredibly urgent” to reverse unsustainable development. Tens of thousands of Cambodians have faced forced evictions and urban land grabbing which have led to protests and violent crackdowns.
According to the Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF), some 10 percent of Phnom Penh’s population live below the poverty line.
Sia Phearum, HRTF’s executive director, said while the government had policies to combat urban poverty, “we see that the reality and the actual results face some obstacles because now we only build expensive flats that cost from $30,000 to over $50,000. So the poor can’t afford them.”
Phearum said the development of the iconic White Building into mixed luxury apartments and affordable housing was a good sign, but that a lack of trust in the authorities meant the full potential of the project could not be realized.
“The company wants both the rich and poor to live in the building together to create the culture that the rich can help the poor,” he said.
Eang Vuthy, executive director of NGO Equitable Cambodia, said the government had taken steps to improve housing policy in recent years.
“Housing development is good and it deduces many social problems,” he said. “When people are displaced they face a lot of problems because they have to rebuild their lives in new areas where they face infrastructure, services and employment problems,” he said.