Sustainable Urban Development

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“Public Spaces” in the city is one of the most relevant subjects in the field of contemporary Urbanism and Architecture. With the large urban expansions that have taken place in many cities in recent decades, public spaces play a crucial role as integrating urban factors. This subject is so relevant that “Public Spaces” has been one the main themes of UN-Habitat this year. The PUCRS School of Architecture and Urbanism has a tradition of producing high quality events on very relevant issues

A fundamental shift is taking place from a sustainable human settlements agenda to sustainable urban development agenda.” With that has also come a shift of focus of how cities are being built, and in how people perceive development: urbanization is increasingly now seen as the source of development, and not the outcome of development. “This has led policy makers and practitioners alike to critically question:  Are we having people for the structures or building structures for the people?”

“This shift in thinking is placing more emphasis on cities for people which moves us from the aerial skyline view of cities to the level of the walking people’s eye level view of cities.” Cities are about people; it’s not really houses. Take the houses away and the city will still survive; if you take the people away, there is no city.” This, in turn, echoes the sentiment at the heart of the work that we advocates do.   Place making is, first and foremost, an inclusive process that brings people together to take part in shaping the public spaces that will serve as platforms for the daily life of their communities.  Creating great places and creating great human networks are, in fact, one in the same


Today’s expensive market rents keep those on limited incomes poor.  The inability to access affordable housing increases a person’s risk of homelessness. Being homeless, in turn, increases a person’s risk of developing mental illness.  More affordable housing is part of the solution to alleviate poverty among World’s poorest citizens.  

Of all the public figures to wade into the debate over Vancouver’s sky-high house prices, none has incited as much comment as China’s consul-general, Liu Fei.  Ms. Liu created a sensation earlier this week when she told The Globe and Mail’s Iain Marlow in an interview that when it came to the housing affordability crisis that has gripped the city, people are focusing their anger on the foreign purchaser, mainly from mainland China, when it’s really the fault of the government. “End of the quote”

Housing affordability has been a Vancouver preoccupation for three decades, and not without reason, high housing costs take a toll on the well-being of residents, on the texture of the city, and not least on the economy, by distorting labour markets and diverting capital from more productive investments. Following last November’s municipal elections, in which the cost of housing and associated ills bubbled to the forefront, the topic appears set to blossom as a major civic debate and may even precipitate action. Before that happens, there are a few misconceptions that should be cleared up.

Homelessness in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is a social crisis that has been rapidly accelerating over the last decade.  According to the United Nations, homelessness can either be relative or absolute. Absolute homelessness describes people living in absence of proper physical shelter.  Relative homelessness describes people living in poor conditions of health or security, including an absence of both personal safety and steady income despite having physical shelter to reside in.  As of 2011, roughly 2,651 people in Vancouver are subject to one of these types of homelessness, or are transitioning between them.   Homelessness as a social issue in Vancouver originated from federal funding cuts to affordable housing.  After market housing increased, the cost of housing became one of Vancouver’s main causes of homelessness, alongside lack of income. The homeless population in Vancouver have developed or previously suffered from Mental Health and Addiction issues, and they are subjected to high amounts of crime-related victimization. There have been several approaches to reducing the homeless population in Metro Vancouver by the city and other organizations. As of 2011, the rate of homelessness in Vancouver is INCREASING and it is not being reduced either

History and demographics

Homelessness was not an issue in Vancouver until after the 1980’s. Prior to then, there had generally been enough affordable housing provided by surpluses from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which had been initiated in 1946 by the federal government.  However, National Affordable Housing Programs received funding cuts from the government during the 1980’s.  Total housing stock increased after the federal funding cuts, but it was from Private Sector Development of Market Housing rather than Affordable Housing.   Between the affordable housing cuts, and increase in Market Housing, Real estate grew to be out of the price range of some lower-income groups.

Since 2000, rates of homelessness have continued to accelerate in Vancouver. The effects of homelessness is felt most heavily in the Downtown Eastside, an area of Vancouver that has gained notoriety for crime and poverty.   The outset of homelessness is not rigidly defined, except that it emerged as an issue of the city around the 1980’s and 1990’s, with the homeless count in 1999 being under 600 people.   By 2002, the homelessness situation in Vancouver grew to about 1,121 persons. From 2002 to 2005, the number of homeless in the Vancouver region went from 1,121 to 2,174 individuals, almost doubling across three years.   Finally, 2,592 people were counted during an official 2008 one-day count.   The rapid growth of homelessness in under ten years is an indicator as to why homelessness is considered a crisis in Vancouver, as it has continually grown despite many attempts to address the issue.  At AGL we advocate and push for Affordable Social Housing with a long term goal of CO-OPERATIVE – HOUSING SCHEME.  Affordable housing is an important part of the social and economic infrastructure of a healthy city, and is essential for attracting and maintaining a diverse workforce that ensures economic development and vitality. The need for affordable housing is consistent over time.

Creating Water Wise Cities- At AGL there are more than few reasons we put water and sanitation at the top of our agenda.

Clean, Accessible Drinking Water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in.  There is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this, However.  Due to bad economics or poor infrastructure, every year millions of people, most of them children, die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.  Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world these are concerns that we at AGL address and push for global action.  Drought afflicts some of the world’s poorest countries, worsening hunger and malnutrition.   Water is essential in life for both humans and the planet Earth that cannot survive without it.  It is a prerequisite for human health and well-being as well as for the preservation of the environment.  However, four of every ten people in the world do not have access to even a simple pit latrine; and nearly two in ten have no source of safe clean drinking water.

Each day, an average of 5,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diseases.  Hydro-power is the most important and widely-used renewable source of energy, by 2011, it represented 16 per cent of total electricity production worldwide.  Approximately 70 per cent of all available water is used for irrigation, Floods account for 15 per cent of all deaths related to natural disasters.

According to the UN World Water Development Report, by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of freshwater.  Water challenges will increase significantly in the coming years.  Continuing population growth and rising incomes will lead to greater water consumption, as well as more waste.  The urban population in developing countries will grow dramatically, generating demand well beyond the capacity of already inadequate water supply and sanitation infrastructure and services.  Water crises is closely linked to several other risks obviously to food, extreme weather events and failure of climate-change adaptation, but also to inter-state conflict, profound social instability and failure of urban planning.  At AGL we advocate and create awareness campaigns lauding the World Leaders, in Cabinets, Company Board Rooms and Global Community to urgently address global water crisis, food security, climate change and water for sustainable development.

By 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water.  1.7 billion People have gained access to safe drinking water since 1990, but 663 million people are still without.  Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76 per cent to 91 per cent.  But water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise 2.4 billion People lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines.

According to the World Health Organization, each and every day some 3,900 children die because of dirty water or poor hygiene; diseases transmitted through water or human excrement are the second-leading cause of death among children worldwide, after respiratory diseases.  Every year millions of people most of them children, die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation, and hygiene.

Beyond meeting basic human needs, water supply and sanitation services and water as a resource are critical to sustainable development.  It is a major source of energy in some parts of the world, while in others its potential as an energy source remains largely untapped.  Water is necessary for agriculture and for many industrial processes, in more than a few countries it makes up an integral part of transport systems. With improved scientific understanding, the international community has also come to appreciate more fully the valuable services provided by water-related ecosystems, from flood control to storm protection and water purification.