Social housing models, trends and challenges in 56 countries of the global north and the contribution to Habitat III New Urban Agenda

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations. The UNECE Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management is a unique intergovernmental body addressing the housing and urban development challenges of the UNECE region and the highest policy-making body of UNECE in housing, urban development and land management.


Dr Rosenfeld first began working directly with the UNECE Housing and Land Management Unit in 2013, at the start of the Geneva Charter for Housing initiative, an intergovernmental effort of ministers and policymakers in 56 UNECE member states. This ground-breaking initiative was dedicated to helping 56 UNECE member states equip themselves for future affordable housing needs, following a global financial crisis which resulted in a global housing affordability crisis.

In 2013, Dr Rosenfeld collaborated closely with the Committee and its Chair on trends in financial mechanisms for social housing development and provision. This work led to the launch of a major piece of research to identify the models, trends and challenges in social housing in 56 countries of the UNECE region.  Orna reviewed the housing systems of over 50 countries, uncovering housing challenges and housing needs. She also interviewed over 40 representatives of governments, international banks and investors and housing providers, bringing them together around their common concerns.

This work resulted in the book Social Housing in the UNECE Region: Models, Trends and Challenges. The book summarizes the core housing trends and challenges across 56 countries of the Global North post-global financial crisis (GFC), and provides recommendations for future policy making at an international level.  

The study also identifies a series of practical pathways through which governments, cities, housing providers and financial institutions can become more attuned to present global housing trends, successfully transitioning from policies that contributed to the financial crisis to policies responsive to market trends post-GFC. 

One of the key findings highlighted by the book is that over 100 million people in the Global North are housing cost overburdened, spending more than 40% of their earnings on housing. In order to raise political awareness about the identified housing affordability crisis, Dr Rosenfeld has spoken at over 20 conferences and summits internationally in addition to writing the book, She has also designed a video campaign featuring interviews with the Chair of the UNECE Committee for Housing and Land Management, and many other government representatives responsible for housing. 

The book became one of flagship UNECE publications, translated into Russian and Korean due to popular demand, and quoted internationally by the European Commission, and the Council of Europe Development Bank, among others. The book was endorsed by the intergovernmental Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management and the UNECE member states, its findings and recommendations included in the UNECE regional report to Habitat III New Urban Agenda. In his foreword to the publication, the Executive Secretary of UNECE, Mr Christian Friis Bach, highlighted: 

"The shift in the housing sector that this work highlights is perhaps the most significant one since the 1980s when housing policies turned away from social housing tenure. […] This publication provides a useful platform for further discussion, for continuing research in this area and to join forces to make more homes accessible to more people and families in need". 

Christian Friis Bach

Executive Secretary United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Dr. Rosenfeld was delighted to support the UNECE committee in their contributions to Habitat III New Urban Agenda and to further expand the results of this work to inform the development of the Habitat III New Urban Agenda articles related to housing. Her contribution was acknowledged by the Chair of the Committee on the occasion of the 78th session of the Committee and its Ministerial Session, where Dr Rosenfeld was invited to write and present an introductory paper and recommend future directions for the Committee in regards to housing policy, research and finance.​ See the excerpt from the session made available by the Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the UN in Geneva. 

Publications for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

United Nations

Social Housing in the UN-ECE region: models, trends and challenges

Study of affordable housing in 56 countries in Europe, North America, Caucasus and Central Asia. 

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United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Decent, Affordable, Adequate and Healthy Housing for All

An introductory paper for the all-Ministerial segment of the 78th session of UNECE Housing and Land Management Committee.

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United Nations

Habitat III Regional Report for the UN-ECE region

A report bringing vital evidence on housing and urban development in 56 countries to Habitat III policy development. Contributed to chapter IV ‘Urbanization and social equality’.


United Nations

UNECE 지역의 사회주택: 모델, 경향, 과제

Korean translation of the study of affordable housing in 56 countries in Europe, North America, Caucasus and Central Asia. 


Routledge Taylor & Francis

Habitat III Toward a New Urban Agenda

A scientific paper presenting and discussing evidence from 56 countries that proved essential to designing the UN-New Urban Agenda. Co-authored with Evans B.


United Nations

Социальное жилье в регионе ЕЭК ООН: Модели, тенденции и вызовы

Russian translation of the study of affordable housing in 56 countries in Europe, North America, Caucasus and Central Asia. 


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