I want you to get out and make it work Although this book started out as an individual project, in the end a great many people, most of whom prefer to remain anonymous, helped make it possible through proofreading, fact-checking, recommending sources, editing, and more. To acknowledge only a small part of this help, the author would like to thank John, Jose, Vila Kula, aaaa! Thanks to Jessie Dodson and Katie Clark for helping with the research on another project, that I ended up using for this book.
Main principles emerging from innovative solutions in housing As described below, we have distilled three main principles emerging from successful low-income housing initiatives based on a research conducted in This work included identifying and researching over 60 social innovations and interviews with over 30 key informants specialized in low-income housing around the world.
The quotes inserted at the beginning of each section were obtained during this process. Housing fulfills a material need, but also the need for hope. Making it possible for them to undertake long-term, large investments or successive short-term investments over long periods of time requires ensuring the right economic incentives for them, as well as addressing more psychological aspects such as their ability to plan for the future.
Precarious and insecure living conditions heighten the financial risk of any investment occupants might otherwise make in their homes. Another innovative market-based initiative that has enabled slum dwellers to build assets and climb the financial ladder is led by Darin Gunesekera from the Wiros Lokh Institute in Sri Lanka.
Darin has started a variation of a stock exchange market to raise funds for the construction of new dwellings for poor families who are entitled to certificates to purchase a new home of their preference.
This has changed the practices of developers who need to compete for the preferences of the poor. Low-income families can voice their preferences and gain confidence to invest their resources in home improvement. Unlocking some of the psychological barriers of low-income families to build a better future is the other side of the coin.
Slum Dwellers International, a global network of squatter groups started by several social leaders including Ashoka Fellows Samsook Boonyabancha and Joel Bolnick respectively in South Africa and Thailand that counts a total of 5.
These include visits between members from different neighborhoods, cities, and countries in order to encourage learning through real life experience, as opposed to formal education, and generate empowerment. The visible achievements in home improvement are another powerful element to demonstrate that change is possible.
Demonstration houses are used to trigger discussion and joint decision-making about design, construction materials, and processes.
Social capital is probably the greatest asset of low-income communities who can achieve much by joining forces. This is precisely the key break-through of microcredit that replaced traditional loan collateral by social collateral.
It uses collective action as a core strategy to strengthen communities and enable them to initiate and manage changes in the areas that they have prioritized such as housing.
The core strategy to organize communities is the creation of daily saving groups where members, mostly women, learn to trust each other and build a discipline. Saving groups are then federated at the neighborhood, regional, and national levels.
More generally, there is a great potential in enabling low-income communities and individuals to become self-reliant. They have tremendous assets they can contribute including a great deal of resourcefulness, skills, time, and the ability to save.
It is not a lack of skills that makes poor people poor. Poverty is not created by poor people but often by the institutions and policies that surround them . There is therefore a great need for transformational and market-based approaches to housing, as opposed to hand-outs, that leverage these assets to provide long-term and sustainable solutions.
Despite the fact that this process takes longer than using professional full-time constructors, this approach enables them to reduce costs and effectively teaches self-management and other administration skills to the community. It leverages locally available materials as a substitute for conventional construction materials as well as ancient building techniques that are more adapted to weather conditions and culture, given the limited resources available.
Leveraging the productive potential of low-income communities that can access the inputs needed for success is an important strategy that enables them to increase their purchasing power.
YKPR in Indonesia organizes groups of families to apply collectively for credit from the government housing bank that is unavailable on an individual basis and it coordinates repayments on a calendar that accommodates the seasonal nature of incomes.
Although the model was initially developed for rural areas, the principle is applicable to urban settings. Saiban in Pakistan is a remarkable initiative that makes the overall housing transaction affordable and convenient for low-income households by leveraging the benefits of informal housing processes.
The organization finances the purchase of unserviced plots of land, and leaves housing and infrastructure to be developed incrementally as each household accumulates the money to pay for them — as occurs in the informal sector.
While leveraging informal processes, the organization also improves on them by providing secure land tenure and organizing residents to plan and negotiate for additional services. Security in Saiban settlements is higher; costs of living are lower; and services are obtained years faster than in comparable informal settlements.
Radical cost reductions can be achieved by streamlining the whole process and switching some of the costs and responsibilities to clients - an interesting parallel with the Internet revolution that enabled many companies to rethink their business models by putting customers and partners to work thanks to the Internet interface.
Other strategies to increase the profitability of distribution in slums and rural areas include multi-purpose distribution channels and demand aggregation.
Examples from other industries such as e-Choupal, an ITC-led initiative for small farmers in India, could inspire innovations in housing and building materials. With regards to housing finance, Grameen was one of the pioneers and has already enabled the construction of overhouses in Bangladesh.
Unlike other financial institutions, Grameen ventured into giving housing loans based on the philosophy that investment in shelter for the poor is productive. Its strategy for providing housing microfinance profitably uses the same organizational infrastructure that it uses to make income-generating loans, and restricts eligibility to clients who have developed successful credit histories for four years to reduce risks associated with housing loan products.
But conventional wisdom often does not apply in low-income markets and market data is scarce. CEMEX learned this the hard way when it began offering small bags of cement in order to minimize waste, logically thinking that it would be more convenient and affordable to low-income Mexican households without transportation means and with limited disposable cash.
There is a growing realization that doing business with social impact is possible, which is blurring the gap between conventional territories of development players and businesses. This is particularly critical in sectors such as housing and urban development that have the potential to create significant social impact by tremendously improving conditions of life, productivity and health of low-income communities.
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