The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of goals that meet the urgent environmental, political, social and economic challenges facing our world. Utilising The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission’s SDG publication Go and Do Something, we have created easy to read focus articles looking at each SDG from an Australian, Salvation Army perspective. These articles explore how each SDG affects us locally, and include practical tips of how you can get involved. We hope this tool will be of benefit to you as you seek to partner with God in bringing about his Kingdom.
Sustainable Development Goal 11: MAKE CITIES AND HUMAN SETTLEMENTS INCLUSIVE, SAFE, RESILIENT AND SUSTAINABLE
- Ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services; upgrade slums.
- Provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport.
- Provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces.
- Support least developed countries in building sustainable and resilient buildings.
What does an inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable community look like? Revelation 21-22 paints a wonderful picture of a holy city which is God-centered and flourishing. While we are looking towards a city to come (Hebrews 13:14), we remain as active citizens of heaven in our own communities. Even when the Israelites were living in exile, God asked his people to seek the peace and prosperity of the city (Jeremiah 29:7). God has a radical view of wholesome, flourishing communities, and we can be a part of that transformation in our communities – in fact, we’re called to it.
Many Australians consider sustainable housing and basic services as a given, and although we are fortunate when compared to countries like South Sudan, where 96% of the urban population live in city slums, if we look deeper into our own housing affordability, there is a distinct uneven distribution of services which affect Australians more than we know.
Australia was ranked as the third least affordable country in this year’s ‘14th Annual Demographic International Housing Affordability Survey’ which compared median house price with median income. Of the 92 major metropolitan markets surveyed, Sydney ranked as the 2nd most unaffordable city in the world, with Melbourne coming in as 5th. While these statistics are dramatic, we must also look beyond home ownership, and consider those facing housing insecurity and homelessness, and their access to affordable accommodation.
High house prices push more people into the rental market, which is typically less economical. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that of Australians in the lower income percentiles, 51% of renter households were in rental stress, which means they are paying more than 30% of their income on housing costs. Of those seeking crisis help from The Salvation Army, the Economic and Social Impact Survey (ESIS Report) found that ‘59% of respondents could not pay their gas, electricity and phone bills on time, and 34% could not afford to heat or cool their home’. The ESIS Report also found that after accommodation expenses, respondents typically had $21 to live on a day, or just $17 if they were on the Newstart government allowance. Australia has a drasic need for affordable private rental housing.
Furthermore, there are ‘116,427 people experiencing homelessness in Australia on any given night’. This includes those sleeping rough, in temporary accommodation or severely overcrowded dwellings. Hundreds of people are turned away from full-capacity crisis accommodation each night, and those on the list for public housing can commonly expect a 10 year wait .
God’s request to his people to ‘…administer true justice, show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the immigrant or the poor…’ ( Zechariah 7:9-10) – is a clear reminder to look after the most vulnerable in our society. The ESIS Report found that single parents and couples with children experienced the lowest standard of living and experienced the biggest gap below the poverty line’. For all the wealth and prosperity Australia has, we still have work to do if we are to see SDG 11 fulfilled soon.
Lastly, as a signatory of the Sustainable Development Goals, and a developed nation, Australia has a responsibility to support less-developed countries in building sustainable communities. At the current state, Australia’s international aid budget has been locked in at 0.22% of our gross national income (GNI), down from 0.34% in 2012/13. Australia has not met the commitment it made as part of the Millennial Development goals, to reach 0.5% of GNI. While we do see positive investments in some of our neediest neighbours, our global commitment to seeing all communities become inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable is falling short.
What can we do?
- Encourage your council and mayor to apply the sustainable development targets to your city or community. For example, the City of Sydney recognises the 2030 goals, and as part of its commitment to sustainable cities, gave $250,000 to The Salvation Army to help build 160 new homes for low-income earners in central Sydney by 2020. The City is also investing in initiatives for improved transport networks, green spaces and enhancing the cultural life of the city. You could speak to your local member or write a letter encouraging them to meet the sustainable development targets.
- Engage with those in your community who are experiencing housing stress and insecurity. As followers of Christ, the way we interact as and with our communities is vital. We have kingdom work to do in helping nourish safe, inclusive and resilient cities.
- Engage in advocacy to raise Australia’s overseas aid budget to help developing communities. Micah Australia is a non-denominational body advocating on this matter and has resources to help you participate.
- Commit this SDG to prayer both individually and as a Corps
– Thank God for the gift of communities and the relationships we enjoy within our cities. Pray for transformation in areas which are struggling.
– Pray for Salvation Army ministry in areas of urban poverty. The Salvation Army was born in the urban slums of Victorian England and there are many Salvationists around the world still seeking to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. May God’s will be done in our own cities today just as it is in Heaven.
– Pray for governments around the world that have signed up to the SDGs, that they will continue to show commitment to the just transformation of cities and city life.
For more reading on The Salvation Army’s thoughts around SDG 11, see the International Social Justice Commission’s Go and Do Something publication.
 The World Bank, 2014, <https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.POP.SLUM.UR.ZS?locations=SS&view=chart> 14th Annual Demographic International Housing Affordability Survey cited in Burke, K., 2018, ‘Australia ranked third least affordable country for housing, according to Demographia’ <https://www.domain.com.au/news/australia-ranked-third-least-affordable-country-for-housing-according-to-demographia-20180122-h0m5bz/>  ABS, 2017, 4130.0 - Housing Occupancy and Costs, 2015-16: Lower Income Households, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4130.0~2015-16~Main%20Features~Housing%20Affordability~10001  NATIONAL ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT SURVEY 2018, https://salvos.org.au/scribe/sites/auesalvos/files/about-us/ESIS_2018_Key_Findings__.pdf  NATIONAL ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT SURVEY 2018, p. 7 https://salvos.org.au/scribe/sites/auesalvos/files/about-us/ESIS_2018_Key_Findings__.pdf  ABS, 2018, Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016 cited in Mission Australia, 2018, https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/news-blog/news-media/5-facts-about-homelessness  https://www.facs.nsw.gov.au/housing/help/applying-assistance/expected-waiting-times  NATIONAL ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT SURVEY 2018, https://salvos.org.au/scribe/sites/auesalvos/files/about-us/ESIS_2018_Key_Findings__.pdf  Micah Australia, 2018, http://www.micahaustralia.org/agency/australian_aid  Micah Australia, 2018, http://www.micahaustralia.org/agency/australian_aid  http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/vision/towards-2030/communities-and-culture/affordable-housing