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Shelter and Cash and Voucher Assistance

The content on this webpage has been developed with the Global Shelter Cluster.

Introduction to the Shelter Sector

Each year, millions of people around the world lose their homes as a result of disasters and conflict. The primary concern of the shelter and settlements sector is to ensure that families affected by emergencies have a safe, adequate, and dignified place to live. Shelter actors, the Global Shelter Cluster (GSC), and country-level Shelter Clusters work collectively with national response actors to support people affected by natural disasters and conflict with timely, effective and predictable shelter and settlement responses.

Shelter and housing is regarded as a critical, life-saving need, and is at the centre of many aspects of people’s lives. It is where families are protected from the elements, eat, sleep, study, raise a family, socialise and undertake income generating activities. For many people, it is also their most significant financial asset in which they continuously invest time, money and energy to improve. There is growing recognition that shelter and settlement responses not only provide physical dwellings but also stable foundations to rebuild lives and support a range of multi-sectoral outcomes. In 2018, the Global Shelter Cluster launched a new strategy that recognizes not only this pivotal role of shelter and settlements, but also the need to leverage cash and markets to achieve shelter solutions.

Shelter sector responses can cover a huge range of interventions, from the provision of basic non-food items (NFIs) such as blankets and tarpaulins, through to the (re)construction of permanent housing.

How is Cash and Voucher Assistance used in the Shelter sector?

During any phase of a response, Cash and Voucher Assistance presents opportunities for meeting shelter needs, assuming local markets are able to respond appropriately to changes in demand and supply. The Shelter and Settlements sector engages within complex and dynamic market systems involving a range of commodities (construction materials and household items), skills (construction labour and trades) and services (utilities and technical services).

During the acute phases of a crisis, the rapid provision of CVA can allow people to find short-term rented accommodation. They can also help people to purchase NFIs or tools and materials to construct rudimentary shelters that provide basic protection from the elements and some degree of privacy. Once the situation has stabilised and communities are moving towards upgrades, rehabilitation, repair or reconstruction, then CVA can facilitate access to materials and labour or contribute to rental and utilities payments in more urbanised settings.

Whilst CVA can provide a route towards meeting shelter outcomes, it is often the technical support element of project design that adds real value. This includes specific objectives to ensure physical safety, prevent the use of hazardous materials, and mitigate and respond to GBV and other sectoral protection concerns such as privacy in shelters or addressing Housing, Land and Property (HLP) issues.  Traditionally, shelter actors have successfully used a range of conditions and/or restrictions, often alongside staged payments to help meet sector-specific technical and social protection objectives and outcomes.

The shelter sector is currently of the clear opinion that any CVA programme that seeks to include shelter support with objectives beyond the basic transfer of assets, must include appropriate complementary programming such as technical assistance and community engagement. More details on this can be found within the GSC position paper on Cash & Markets in the Shelter Sector.

What are the main challenges to the scale up of quality CVA in the Shelter sector?

Although there is a long history of using CVA for shelter outcomes, there are significant gaps in both capacity and evidence within the sector, as laid out in the joint WASH and shelter sector joint advocacy paper ‘Increasing Sectoral Cash Transfer & Market Based Programming Capacity. These gaps include the ability to assess and analyse the many varied markets related to shelter and housing, which extend beyond basic construction materials and labour. The shelter sector is engaged in efforts to adapt existing tools, knowledge and experience.To deliver on this work more quickly, and thus be able to responsibly increase the scale of support provided via CVA and markets-based programming, as well as where appropriate via multipurpose cash, the shelter sector requires:

  • Increased opportunities for closer cooperation between the broader cash and markets community and shelter technical specialists. Mutual education is key in finding the solutions to unlock the potential of CVA and markets-based programming in these sectors without compromising on sectoral outcomes.
  • More resources to facilitate the development of the required sector specific CVA and markets-based programming tools, skills, capacity and evidence base that are currently absent in the sector.
  • Technical support from CVA and markets specialists and the development arena, to help adapt existing approaches to better meet shelter objectives, and in particular to help shelter actors to deliver CVA and markets-based programming interventions at scale.
  • Guidance in developing monitoring and evaluation frameworks to examine both short and long term implications of CVA and markets-based programming on detailed technical outcomes as well as beneficiary satisfaction.
  • Support in ensuring broader sectoral collaboration, coordination and representation in country level cash working groups as well as global level policy discussions.
  • Recognition from donors and cash advocates that building up the required experience, evidence and tools for specific technical sectors requires time as well as human and financial resources.

For more information and resources on CVA in relation to shelter please visit the GSC shelter and cash working group web page.