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Helsinki visiting professorship will help further study

Susanne Soederberg (Global Development Studies and Political Studies) has been appointed to a prestigious visiting professorship at the University of Helsinki. The value of the award is $190,000.

[Susanne Soederberg]
Susanne Soederberg (Photo by Bernard Clark)

Through the Jane and Aatos Erkko Visiting Professor at the Collegium for Advanced Studies, set for the 2015-2016 academic year, Dr. Soederberg will be conducting research on a new project focused on shelter finance and housing rights for slum dwellers around the world.

Dr. Soederberg says the position will allow her to “research in an interdisciplinary and international environment with emerging and established scholars from both Europe and in the Global South.”

In her study, Governing Shelter Finance for Slum Dwellers: A Comparative Study of Mexico City, Manila, and Mumbai, Dr. Soederberg will initiate the first comparative study of shelter finance in three of the world’s largest slums: Cuidad Nezahualcóytl in Mexico City, the Tondo District in Manila, and Dharavi in Mumbai.

“One billion people – a number still rising – live in slums. Notwithstanding its status as a basic human right, most slum dwellers lack safe and secure shelter,” Dr. Soederberg says. “The United Nations has responded by endorsing Goal 7, Target 11 of its Millennium Development Goals (MDG 7) to ensure the adequate housing of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.”

However, she points out, demand for affordable housing continues to rise unabated while funds from governments and public donors have been insufficient. At the same time the various forms of shelter financing – such as commercialized mortgages, shelter microfinance, and community investment funds – have barely been explored.

“With only several years remaining to meet the 2020 MDG-7, it is crucial that scholars, practitioners, and policymakers possess a more complete knowledge base about the present scale, scope, and future sustainability of shelter finance as well as the power dynamics involved in its governance,” she says. “To this end, the core questions driving the project are: who benefits from shelter finance, and why? And, how have different forms of governance influenced which slum dwellers are able to gain access to certain types of shelter financing and which are excluded?”

The significance of the appointment is recognized by her Queen’s colleagues as well.

“What a great opportunity for Dr. Soederberg,” says Marc Epprecht, Professor and Head of Department, Global Development Studies. “Though we will miss her here in DEVS, where she is not only a great scholar but a well-loved teacher, we are proud of her achievements and of the nature of her research – making a difference to the lives of people in some of the most stressed communities in the world.”

The Collegium for Advanced Studies is an independent institute within the University of Helsinki. The Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, which finances the Visiting Professorship, was established in 2002 to support high-level international research, arts and culture.