Financiers should do more in post-disaster housing recovery

Diggers comb through debris from a 6 story building that collapsed at Kasarani on November 15, 2022. [File,  Standard]

In the aftermath of disasters, re-establishing housing is fundamental for any individual, household or community-level recovery.

Despite this, and the active role they play in disaster risk management, most housing financiers and development partners do not have a deeper understanding of what this entails since they have not fully embraced their role in the housing recovery process.

Most of them have restricted their intervention to one-off donations during disasters, usually as part of their corporate social responsibility.

However, there are various ways in which housing financiers and development finance institutions can support housing recovery, (reconstructing, repairing, or upgrading permanent durable accommodation affected by disasters and restoring or improving ways of housing production) which includes regulatory systems, access to building materials, labour, and finance.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 requires financiers and other stakeholders to play a key role in integrating disaster risk management and business continuity into their business models and practices through disaster-risk-informed investments.

They should also engage in awareness-raising and training for their employees and customers as well as supporting research and innovation and technological development for disaster risk management among others.

Kenya’s National Disaster Management Policy and Standard Operating Procedures, for instance, tasks the National Treasury with the responsibility of encouraging financial service sectors and local capital markets to develop schemes for financing disaster risk reduction measures by families and community organisations.

It also incorporates provisions in micro-finance schemes to have flexible repayment schedules for recipients who have been affected by a disaster.

The UN-Habitat/AXA 2019 report says improving housing and compliance with standards is a shared responsibility between enforcement authorities and stakeholders and should ensure there is heightened interest in the safety and durability of housing in the event of disaster losses.

Measures for improving housing reconstruction post-disaster must also not rely only on enforcement but also aim at strengthening the wider housing system.

The report calls for stakeholders including housing financiers and development finance institutions to offer both financial and technical assistance with respect to housing reconstruction.

Housing financiers ought to promote best building practices that adhere to building codes when technically appraising projects that require funding, particularly in disaster-prone areas.

They also need to develop financial products including lines of credit and sovereign loans at concessionary rates, with less stringent conditions, to boost housing reconstruction. Credit processes and policies can also be re-engineered and reviewed to ease access to reconstruction finances.

Member States of international entities that promote housing such as Shelter Afrique need to enhance their cooperation and have a common policy statement on how post-disaster reconstruction should be addressed and establish a fund to assist them to finance housing reconstruction in a bid to build back better.

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