Urbanization, Housing and the Youth of Asia-Pacific

The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than 2 billion people under the age of 30, making up 54% of the world’s youth population. Meanwhile, urbanization continues to be a defining megatrend in the region, largely affecting the youth sector. As a crucial population group contributing to and benefiting from urbanization, the youth must be actively engaged in developing sustainable solutions in urban areas.

Asia-Pacific Youth Assembly

The 2023 Asia-Pacific Youth Assembly (PDF), organized by Habitat for Humanity in cooperation with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, aims to bring together young people to:

  1. learn from experts on urbanization including housing,
  2. craft concrete local projects on sustainable urban communities and housing, and
  3. network among fellow youth from across the region.

It serves as a side event of the Ninth Asia-Pacific Housing Forum and one of the five assemblies of the Eighth Asia-Pacific Urban Forum, providing vast networking opportunities and significant platform for urban and housing discussions and solutions.

Past Activities

Meet and learn from the winners of the 2023 Youth Solutions Micro-grant with a virtual one-hour session on January 26. 

International Youth Day

On August 12, International Youth Day, more than300 participants joined a virtual session to learn from industry experts on housing and urbanization and collaborate with fellow youth from the region. Brenda Perez-Castro, Habitat for Humanity’s Director for Urban Programming, explained key concepts around urbanization and invited a conversation among the participants about the opportunities and challenges that comes with it. Participants also tailored input on project management to help strengthen their applications for the Youth Microgrants Solutions and to prepare them for effective implementation of their housing solutions. Read the highlights here.

Solutions and Commitments in Suwon, South Korea

A day before the official launch of APUF-8, 70 young leaders from 10 countries gathered in Suwon, South Korea, to exchange insights on urbanization and share their proposed projects to address housing challenges in their local communities. Read the highlights in this blog.

The youth participants crafted commitments for the creation of inclusive solutions for a sustainable urban future and for the provision of equitable access for adequate housing.

Youth voices amplified in learning session

On February 24, the five winners of the Youth Solutions Micro-Grant—one of the key components of the 2023 Asia-Pacific Youth Assembly organized by Habitat for Humanity in partnership with UNESCAP—shared their solutions for adequate housing in an online ‘meet and learn’ session that attracted more than 70 participants.

Titled ‘AMPLIFIED, an initiative of the 2024 Habitat Young Leaders Build featuring the 2023 Asia-Pacific Youth Solutions Micro-grant winners’, the event advocated for more youth-driven solutions across the Asia-Pacific region and encouraged young leaders to learn from and sustainably engage with Habitat’s work. It hosted an opportunity for youth leaders, volunteers, and advocates alike to virtually interact with each other. It also promoted participation in numerous HYLB campaign events happening across participating countries in the region until April 2024. View the highlights here.

Youth Solutions Micro-Grant 2023

Young people are uniquely placed to become effective agents of change within their communities. Recognizing this potential, the Youth Solutions Micro-Grant will support the youth to start, replicate, or scale up their solutions to housing and urban challenges in the Asia-Pacific region.

Here are the top youth solutions we’ve gathered across the region.

Unlike traditional cement, which is detrimental to the environment, the ACE (Alternative Cement for the Environment) Project creates alternative cement that is an eco-friendly, cost-effective, and possibly stronger version of Portland (typical) cement that reduces carbon emissions by substituting the majority of cement in bricks with fly ash, a byproduct of coal-burning power plants that would otherwise pollute waterways and landfills. Since ACE’s cement is cheaper than regular cement, rural under-developed areas (much like those in my country Indonesia) could afford more building resources to build more robust and environmentally-friendly structures, promoting development, accessibility, and sustainability.

The Modern Balsa Initiative – a youth-led solution addressing the housing and sanitation challenges faced by the floating indigenous community in Sabang Adgawan, Lapaz, Agusan del Sur. This project involves constructing or turning resilient floating houses using lightweight materials, equipped with rainwater harvesting and contained waste treatment technology. These innovations tackle water scarcity, inadequate sanitation, and rising water levels, ensuring the community’s well-being. This fosters community well-being, preserves heritage, and ensures a sustainable future by providing clean water, sanitation, and adaptive housing. We believe home is more than having a roof; it’s also having access to water, cleanliness, and belonging.

Pcycle is a social enterprise addressing urban challenges in waste management through women’s empowerment. Pcycle facilitators arrange education programs focused on climate change, financial literacy, SRHR, WASH, leadership, and communication to empower marginalized populations in rural areas of Bangladesh and informal settlements. Our key activity involves training and engaging these communities to create upcycled products from waste materials. This not only improves waste management but also generates income and skill development for women in these areas. The project aims to foster sustainability, gender equality, and community resilience while mitigating urban waste challenges.

We are working on a project to address the drought and flooding problems caused by climate change issues by promoting efforts to prevent wildfires and droughts by controlling excessive drought through afforestation activities and the establishment of moss. Today, wildfires, droughts, and floods caused by stagnant high-pressure systems in the Asia-Pacific region are seriously affecting the social infrastructure of homes and cities. We are working with the NIES and local communities to address this problem by planting trees and laying moss in rivers and sandbars to create an environment that can retain moisture and limit future landslides and wildfires.

Illegal housing is a black economy activity, where individuals either encroach upon property illegally or pay for housing that is illegal. In such cases, there are little or no public services or utilities. In some cases, electricity or water is accessed illegally. Illness is an issue due to poor water supply and the unavailability of sewage and garbage services.

To ensure continued residency in the illegally occupied area, its inhabitants generally bribe corrupt officials, corruption being an everlasting problem in India. More often than not, relationships with municipal offices, police, and local representatives are organized by a third party with an interest in ensuring that the illegal housing is not demolished. Because illegal property is not taxed, there is no income stream to pay for health or other municipal services that are required for its inhabitants.

Eco Shelter pioneers an innovative housing solution for climate-vulnerable communities in Bangladesh, utilizing recycled plastic to produce portable and cost-effective housing materials. Our mission is to empower these communities with sustainable, easily relocatable housing options. During, before or after disasters, our solution enables seamless house shifting without having any damage like traditional CI Sheets made houses, avoiding extra expenses or labor. Beyond housing, we extend our impact by creating portable toilets, hospitals, feeding zones, shelter zones etc. Eco Shelter envisions a resilient future for these communities, providing safe, adaptable, and sustainable living environments. With an 8 million-ton plastic waste generation annually and only 38% recycling rate, our initiative contributes significantly to combating plastic pollution, fostering a greener and more sustainable Bangladesh.

Our proposed solution entails organizing earthquake-resistant retrofitting workshops in Kathmandu, Nepal. These workshops address the pressing challenge of ensuring safe and resilient housing in a seismically active region. By educating homeowners about retrofitting techniques, we empower communities to fortify their homes against earthquakes. Key activities involve expert-led sessions on retrofitting methodologies, hands-on demonstrations, and the distribution of educational resources. This initiative directly enhances housing resilience, reducing vulnerability to seismic events, and ultimately contributing to safer, more sustainable urban environments. The potential impact includes safeguarded lives, minimized property damage, and increased community resilience in the face of earthquakes.

Temporary worker housing remains essential for basic living standards, but relocating habitats without damage poses challenges. We innovated a collapsible structure using modular frames for spaces like creches, living areas, and toilets, offering size adaptability. Straw panels promote a circular economy, diminishing crop waste pollution. Based on ASHRAE Standard 55, we implemented passive design technologies in the living module. Through cost-effective aerators, wastewater treatment, rainwater harvesting, low-flow fixtures, and behavioral strategies, water demand decreased to 39 LPD. EPI was lowered to 14 kWh/m²/year via shading and material choice. Solar panels helped in achieving net-zero energy. In contrast to prevailing colony-focused trends, prioritizing improved living conditions and community is crucial within today’s worker housing reality.

With the rise of global population and plastic waste, a sustainable and affordable solution is necessary to promote inclusive housing and communities. “Green Tiles” are floor tiles made from recycled plastics together with sand, fly ash, and UV stabilizer through a process called extrusion. Instead of cement, our solution uses plastic waste as a binder for sand to create eco-friendly floor tiles, making them more durable, lightweight, cost-effective and water-resistant compared to traditional tiles. We also employ a mobile application where people can participate in plastic waste collection and sell them to us in exchange for incentives and eco-products.