This reference work with Key Habitat Terms from A to Z is the result of deliberation and debate across multiple specializations, regions and cultures within the membership of HIC.
The purpose of that debate—and this reference work—have been to consolidate and harmonize understanding of the various terms of art confronted in the work of HIC and its Members in the fields of habitat (i.e., housing, land, natural resources, governance and sustainable development).
This valuable resource has been drafted by the HIC-HLRN team and is available in
This term, in its original Latin, derives from the verb “it inhabits,” 3rd singular present indicative of habitāre, frequentative of habēre, meaning to have, or to hold. Habitat is the natural environment of any organism, the place that is natural for the sustainable life and growth of an organism and a place where a living thing lives and can find food, shelter, protection and mates for reproduction. It also has come to mean the place where a personor thing is usually found.
In the context of development, planning and governance, the Habitat II Agenda defines habitat as a “regional and cross-sectoral approach to human settlements [that] places emphasis on rural/urban linkages and treats villages and cities as two ends [points] of a human settlements continuum in a common ecosystem” (para. 104).
Right to the city
Currently, the “right to the city” argument rests on a bundle of existing human rights, in addition to specific claims of right to access land, water, sanitation, transport and public space, as well as the concept of the “social function” of land, housing and related infrastructure and public goods and services. The “right to the city” is elaborated in the draft “Charter on the Right to the City,” which developed out of the urban social movements in Latin America and spread through the World Social Forum.
Customary international, including and human rights law, guarantees everyone’s “right to own property alone as well as in association with others” and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property” (UDHR, Article 17). However, no universal type or definition of property rights exists, while property rights derive from the contexts of culture and community. A property right is the authority and entitlement to determine how a resource is used, regardless of the party holding that right. Nonetheless, a property right, even a private property right, is not absolute. One of the limits to a property right is the inherent social function of that property, subject to the norms and standards that the society determines.
In this sense, it is important this the rural-urban continuum is not conceptualized as a linear construction, or as a simple gradation or fading from megapolis to rural farm, for example. In reality, human settlements are complex with traditional elements of “urban” and “rural” intermixing and constantly interacting. In reclaiming this term, civil society and proponents of integrated development insist that the rural-urban continuum should denote the relationships between and among city-regions, urban centers, agricultural zones, and all other forms of human habitat, and to emphasize the need to approach regions in their actual complexity, entirety, rather conveying the sense of rural-urban symbiosis, than paring out artificial and unsustainable divisions.