Inflammation and stories on Housing

Houses in Pakistan
An NGO based in South Africa, Spiritual Chords, is supplying bamboo houses in Pakistan that can withstand natural disasters as the previous architecture was vulnerable to destruction from flooding and earthquakes. In terms of climate vulnerability, in 2019, the Inform Risk Index ranked Pakistan 18 out of 191 countries, equating to a very high disaster risk level.

Spiritual Chords

Spiritual Chords is an organization founded for the sole purpose of assisting those affected adversely by natural disasters. Its main focus is on South Africa but it aids inhabitants of struggling countries across the world. Sustainable development is important to the organization’s mission and is at the core of each project it fosters. Therefore, Spiritual Chords makes changes in progressive ways utilizing readily available resources meant to last generations.

Goals and Programs

Spiritual Chords has developed a variety of programs to meet the needs of people affected by natural disasters living in countries with a lack of resources. It recognizes the importance of education in the development of a country’s wealth, and therefore, runs many projects centered around improving the education of underprivileged children. It also aids members of communities with health care and emergency relief directly following a natural disaster. In addition to these activities, Spiritual Chords helps to advance the development of clean water resources, sanitation, housing and community initiatives.

Flooding in Pakistan

Pakistan stands as an example of the impacts of natural disasters on an already struggling country. In 2011, Pakistan suffered from disastrous flooding. This flooding demolished housing, destroyed resources and exacerbated existing conditions of poverty. In 2011, 36.3% of the population in Pakistan lived under the national poverty line.

UNICEF reported that the flooding impacted close to 5.06 million Pakistani people and led to the destruction of 460,000 homes in Pakistan, resulting in mass displacement in affected areas. Because of this, Pakistan required outside aid to help people meet their needs for safe drinking water, food and shelter. Although it has been years since the 2011 floods, the effects still linger. Because Pakistan is highly susceptible to annual natural disasters, it is integral to build lasting housing that can withstand the effects of flooding.

Spiritual Chords’ Work in Pakistan

Recognizing this need, Spiritual Chords began the work of rebuilding houses in Pakistan in 2013. With the help of Yasmin Lari, the first female architect in Pakistan, Spiritual Chords developed a concept design. It focused on using bamboo because structures built with this material can withstand flooding. In Pakistan, in the aftermath of flooding, water damage destroyed mud brick structures, however, structures built with bamboo faced minimal harm. The design was simple yet effective and development began shortly after. In the years since, Spiritual Chords has assisted in the installation of handpumps, wells, non-electric stoves and toilets.

A recent collaboration between the Pakistani government and internal NGOs has sparked a newfound interest in this project. Safeeyaah Moosa, the founder of Spiritual Chords, told Outlook India in January 2023 that these new developments “have the potential of making 5,000 houses a month.” This work will continue to benefit Pakistan’s inhabitants for generations.

Looking Ahead

Spiritual Chords’ mission is to aid those struggling as a result of natural disasters and it accomplishes this by implementing positive programming. The programs focus on issues including housing, water/sanitation, health care, community building and education. In Pakistan, a country suffering from the long-term effects of flooding, Spiritual Chords provided materials to build sustainable bamboo houses in Pakistan. Because this architecture is meant to withstand the effects of flooding, it will be a long-term solution for the inhabitants of the country.

– Hailey Dooley
Photo: Flickr

Housing Poverty in Hong Kong
Some visitors to Hong Kong would likely say the food or the neon nightscape are the most impressive things about the city. However, others might say that it is the expensive housing prices that make Hong Kong “impressive.” According to Demographia’s International Housing Affordability report in 2022, Hong Kong has the world’s least affordable housing market, with a median multiple of 23.2, which is an income-price ratio of the median house price over the total median household income. In short, the housing crisis is a pressing issue in Hong Kong, leading to a social problem known as housing poverty. This article will discuss the issue of Hong Kong’s housing poverty and how a local council, The Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS), has committed to tackling this problem by launching the Community Housing Movement.

Housing Poverty in Hong Kong

Everyone deserves to live comfortably, yet, this can be a dream for many Hong Kong citizens. According to a study by Professor Yip Ngai-ming in 2020, middle-income households would have to spend about 20 years of their income to purchase a 60-square-meter apartment for $1.24 million. Therefore, for low-income families, having their own houses has become even more difficult.

While renting is an option for many citizens, it is still expensive. For instance, those subdivided units (SDUs) – are some small divided units in converted apartments and are often located in old buildings. According to a report that the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong produced in 2016, there were 88,900 households residing in SDUs and the median monthly rent for these households was $4,500. On the other hand, the monthly income of these households was $13,500.

The Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS)

While the housing problem is a tricky issue for the government to handle, the local council known as the HKCSS commits to tackling housing poverty by improving the living condition of those less fortunate citizens. As a non-governmental organization, the HKCSS’s objective is to plan and coordinate social welfare and relief projects in the city, such as the Community Housing Movement.

Community Housing Movement

The HKCSS launched the project in September 2017 with the support of the government, as well as working alongside other organizations including the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund (SIE Fund) and The Community Chest of Hong Kong. According to the HKCSS’s website, the project aimed to grant short-term relief for families and individuals who needed transitional housing and had been waiting for Public Rental Housing for at least 3 years or desperately needed community support.

To do so, the organization acted as an intermediary platform in searching for and renovating empty residential properties from private developers before subletting them to suitable NGOs as operators. Moreover, the HKCSS emphasized the provision of community support for citizens to help them with their living challenges and improve their living conditions. In short, the organization focused on both housing conditions and community-based empowerment.

Accomplishments

In November 2020, 14 social service agencies became service operators participating in the Community Housing Movement. They provided 506 housing units to 650 low-income households. Among the families, more than 90% were on the public housing waiting list. In addition, according to a survey that the Hong Kong Polytechnic University conducted, the overall financial stress of citizens who had moved into those social housing units became almost 30% less.

Looking Ahead

Overall, housing poverty is an urgent issue that the Hong Kong government has to face. Despite the problem being a challenging one, some local NGOs have stepped in, including the HKCSS. By offering transitional houses and community support to grassroots households, the Community Housing Movement began to impact those families.

Mimosa Ngai
Photo: Flickr

Tackling Poverty Barriers in Ethiopia
Ethiopia, a country in East Africa, is one of the world’s least developed countries. Despite improvements in recent years, the country’s economic progress is declining due to the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread conflict throughout the country. The current Human Development Index (HDI) ranks Ethiopia at 173 out of the 189 countries on factors including life expectancy, literacy, poverty and many other dimensions. Although Ethiopia is struggling with a lack of housing, education and family stability, one organization is addressing poverty in Ethiopia: the Wegene Ethiopian Foundation.

The Current State of Poverty in Ethiopia

Nearly one-third of the 108 million people in Ethiopia are living in poverty, both in rural and urban regions. There is very limited work in the country, with 75% of the workforce in Ethiopia working in the agriculture sector. This is an unstable sector because of regular periods of floods and droughts, which can lead to loss of income and food supply.

In Ethiopia, 72% of people live without proper sanitation and only 42% of the population has access to clean water. Almost 80% of the deaths in the country come from preventable communicable and nutritional diseases. 

There is the regular production of general medical practitioners and (some) specialists, but the production is not meeting the high demand for health professionals and equipment and drug shortages are an ongoing issue assisting in further health care difficulties.

Quality education is not prevalent in the country as only 85% make it past grade five and 54% make it past grade eight. Only half of the total population has the ability to read and write. Matters are even worse for females since traditional practices lead to early marriages and female genital mutilation, with little opportunity for women to advance and grow out of poverty.

Conflict in Ethiopia

Since 2020, Ethiopia has been addressing the government conflict with the Tigray region of the country. In November 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offense against Tigray forces after there was an attack on an Ethiopian military base. This came from months of disagreement and conflict over human rights issues between the government and Tigray’s dominant political party, which has turned into a severe humanitarian crisis all over Ethiopia.

Thousands of people have died in this ongoing civil war and around 400,000 people are undergoing famine-like conditions, according to German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). As this war continues, it could push Ethiopia into worse conditions.

The Wegene Ethiopian Foundation: Addressing Poverty in Ethiopia

The Wegene Ethiopian Foundation is a nonprofit NGO that a group of friends started with the goal of changing one person’s life at a time, hence their slogan “One child at a time.” Wegene is dedicated to improving the lives of struggling children and families in Ethiopia. The approach is simple and community-based, with a special focus on improving local impoverished lives: friends, neighbors and others part of the community

The organization has multiple programs in place to address what it sees as the “critical barriers” of poor education, poor housing and family instability:

  • Education: Academic scholarships, tutoring, laptops and a Knowledge Center: a multipurpose center with a variety of resources (books, school supplies, computers, etc.) and college and job preparation services.
  • Housing: Home repair or family relocation, provision of basic day-to-day necessities and clothing drives.
  • Family instability: Career development, small business grants and mother and child relocation from “toxic households.”

“Wegene” in Ethiopia’s official language Amharic, means ’empowering my community or my people’.” As of 2019, Wegene supported 90 families, 36 of which became self-sufficient. Poverty is still present in Ethiopia, but the Wegene Ethiopian Foundation is addressing poverty in Ethiopia and is actively giving families opportunities and resources to have a successful life.

– Dylan Olive
Photo: Flickr

Ireland's Housing Crisis
Ireland is suffering from the “longest and most severe” housing crisis the country has ever experienced according to Macdara Doyle, an advocate for housing reform in Ireland. Ireland’s housing crisis has pushed millions of people out of their homes and into poverty with seemingly no end. Irish housing prices and evictions are through the roof, but Raise the Roof, Doyle’s non-governmental organization is pressuring the government to energize its campaign to combat this crisis.

What Caused Ireland’s Housing Crisis?

Ireland’s housing crisis has been in the making since the late 2000s when the international housing bubble burst. Due to the burst in Ireland, it became evident that there was a growing lack of suitable and affordable rental living spaces.

The housing market has been unable to keep pace with Ireland’s population growth and urban concentration. There are rough estimates that to keep pace with the population growth and job density in cities, particularly in Dublin, there must be 45,000 new houses built a year. Unfortunately, the average annual number since 2015 has been 15,000. The cost of building materials has remained high since the early 2000s. Worse, the housing bubble exacerbated the costs for housing materials and has made it almost impossible to build houses at all, much less any new affordable housing.

After the housing bubble burst, Ireland’s government faced countless economic problems that left the government scrambling to support its recently unemployed and/or homeless population. Therefore, the Irish government took out loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU). The funds went to support the workers who lost their jobs in the 2008 recession. Unfortunately, not much went towards the housing crisis itself. It has now returned to haunt the country as both prices and poverty rates skyrocket.

How is Ireland’s Housing Crisis Impacting Poverty?

Ireland’s housing crisis has already forced thousands of citizens into poverty and is putting even more at risk of falling into poverty. As of May 2022, just about 20% of Ireland’s population live below the poverty line, and 41.6% of Irish renters risk falling into poverty. That is 952,185 people, just short of a million Irish citizens. Perhaps the most disturbing data point is the 59.1% poverty rate of Irish on rental subsidies after they pay their rent.

The housing subsidies program most widely used in Ireland is the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). About 20% of private renters receive HAP subsidies. However, a 2022 “Housing Costs and Poverty 2022” report suggests that HAP subsidies are insufficient. It determined that instead of subsidizing the private rental sector, HAP should support the building of social homes. As it states, “It is essential that Government increase spending on actually building social homes instead of relying on and subsidising a dysfunctional private rented sector.”

What is Happening to Fix the Housing Crisis?

Local non-government organizations (NGOs) and the Irish government are putting some small movements and policies in place to end Ireland’s housing crisis. Understandably, these efforts have the public’s growing support. One solution with incredible support is a policy plan that Ireland’s government outlined, and the second is from an NGO: Raise the Roof.

Ireland’s government recently proposed that one of the best ways to raise funds to combat the housing crisis is to change the taxes on the currently empty housing properties with a vacant property tax. The tax will incentivize people to use vacant properties and provide more affordable housing. The Geodirectory database estimates more than 112,000 decrepit or vacant dwellings in the last quarter of 2021.

Raise the Roof advocates that the government doubles its investment to fight the housing crisis. It supports the idea of a vacant property tax. It also suggests introducing a rent freeze. Raise the Roof is generating pressure with almost non-stop public meetings to discuss the issues blocking the Irish government’s ability to end its decade-long housing crisis. Numerous unions and community organizations support the Raise the Roof platform.

Hopefully, Raise the Roof will spur the Iris government’s new sense of urgency to combat Ireland’s housing crisis.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Exacerbated the Housing Crisis
Severe flooding has recently devastated the eastern coast of South Africa, namely the province of KwaZulu-Natal after heavy rains pounded the province starting on April 11, 2022, and lasting several days. More than 400 people died from the initial flooding in April alone. Heavy rains prompted more flooding over the weekend of May 22 and 23 pounding the region even more. Floods destroyed thousands of homes which has only exacerbated the housing crisis that had already existed in South Africa for decades. KwaZulu-Natal did not even have a chance to begin rebuilding before these most recent floods worsened the devastation. Relief efforts have begun again as hundreds of people are missing or possibly dead and tens of thousands have experienced displacement.

Heavy Rains

The eastern coast of South Africa is no stranger to floods and heavy rains during the Autumn and Spring seasons. A cut-off low-pressure system, which is not uncommon in South Africa this time of year, triggered these most recent floods. However, this intense low-pressure system produced an abnormally extensive level of rainfall in the region in April. There is a chance that the heaviest downpours took place between April 11 and 12 as some areas of KwaZulu-Natal witnessed more than 30 cm of rainfall. Scientists point to changing weather as a likely reason behind the increased severity of this low-pressure system, namely due to the rising temperature of the Indian Ocean leading to more moisture in the atmosphere over southeastern Africa. 

South Africa’s Housing Crisis

KwaZulu-Natal is among the poorer provinces in South Africa with the second-highest amount of people living in poverty behind only the Eastern Cape province. Equal access to safe housing in South Africa has long been an issue for the poor. The South African government claims it has attempted to address the nationwide problem that has plagued the country for decades, yet the recent floods have only further exacerbated the housing crisis. This crisis left a big impact on KwaZulu-Natal as it is home to Durban, one of the largest urban areas in the country.

Dating back to Apartheid the majority of the black population in South Africa did not have equal access to safe housing. As a result, many people had to build their own homes, often in less inhabitable areas outside of cities. These hand-built homes often resemble shacks or sheds as the owners built them out of whatever they could get their hands on. As the number of these homes grows in a certain area and begins to resemble a neighborhood, it becomes recognized as an informal settlement.

Unfortunately, the high death tolls and much of the devastation from these floods can relate to the high proportion of these informal settlements that house the country’s poorest. Estimates determined that 11.8% of South Africa’s population lives in informal settlements across the country. In KwaZulu-Natal, many of the informal settlements are located in valleys and thus are more prone to flooding which the hand-built homes don’t stand a chance against. Notably, April floods destroyed more than 4,000 homes alone with the majority being informal settlements which have only exacerbated the housing crisis. Include the fact that there are more than 40,000 who lost their home and an even more worrying picture appears. These people will need access to clean water, food and shelter.

Local authorities in KwaZulu-Natal, in response to the April floods, were already planning to set up 4,396 temporary accommodation sites for the displaced people, according to Reliefweb. After the more recent floods in May, the demand for temporary accommodations has continued to increase as there are even more displaced South Africans.

The Government’s Role

Not only did floods destroy local homes, but they also impacted the local infrastructure. Floods damaged a local water treatment facility in the town of Umdloti thus limiting the area’s access to clean water. Floods swept away many roadways and destroyed bridges making it difficult for transportation in the area among victims trying to escape as well as rescuers attempting to reach those in need. According to provincial Transportation and Community Safety MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, it will cost the government over R12.4 billion to restore the province’s road infrastructure alone. As the government focuses its rebuilding efforts on infrastructure, it would also be an opportune time to attend to the longstanding housing crisis that recent floods only exacerbated.

The government claims to have built approximately 2.7 million low-cost homes over the past 15 years, yet there are still an estimated 2 million South Africans on a list waiting for the home they were promised. Its temporary accommodation sites are necessary for the short term to help the displaced ones, but it is imperative that the government addresses the longstanding lack of affordable and safe housing. Although the past two months have been very difficult, South Africans can now look forward to the typically drier months of June and July as an opportunity to recover and rebuild.

– Devin Welsh
Photo: Flickr

Tijuana’s Poor
Casas de Luz is an organization based in Solana Beach, California. It builds homes and community centers primarily in Tijuana, Mexico through the help of volunteers and donations. Volunteers stay overnight in the Mexican city during their two-day build period helping Tijuana’s poor. Building teams drive around in caravans to ensure they are safe.

Poverty in Tijuana

Tijuana is a city in the state of Baja California, Mexico. As of 2020, it had a population of around 2 million. There are an estimated 100,000 homeless people in Tijuana. Around 22% of the population live in moderate poverty and 1.84% live in extreme poverty. Around 3.3% of the population lacks access to water. These statistics give way to organizations like Casas de Luz to lend a helping hand to Tijuana’s poorer residents.

Although crime rates in Tijuana have decreased over the past five years, the city remains somewhat dangerous. It scores 72.22 on the crime index and 27.78 on the safety index. Ensuring that Tijuana’s poor have a home to sleep in at night leaves fewer people susceptible to criminals.

Casas de Luz’s Process

The only things volunteers need to do to be part of a building trip are signing a liability form, paying a builder fee and packing for the weekend. All the necessary building tools will be available on sight. The organization encourages volunteers to bring donations of furniture and any other household items for the family whose house they will be constructing.

Every week, volunteers cross the Mexican border and head to Tijuana, driving in a caravan. Drivers have to purchase Mexican liability insurance for the weekend. They first meet at the building site, where the foundation of the house already exists. Master carpenters guide and lead volunteers throughout the entire process. The family who will live in the house typically helps in construction. Children typically work on painting the walls before the builders put them up. The goal for the first day of construction is to have the roof attached in case of rain. As a personal touch, builders write well wishes hidden inside of a house’s walls.

When the building team finishes work for the day, they all drive to either Casa Hogar de los Niños, an orphanage that is empty during the weekends, or Faro de Luz, Casas de Luz’s community center. Casa Hogar has a security system and always has a security guard on duty. At Faro de Luz, a security guard will watch the cars the whole night.

People interested in building for Casas de Luz can sign up at their website. A $50 builder fee is necessary and covers any vital essentials throughout the weekend (including two lunches, a dinner and a breakfast).

Casas de Luz Achievements

Since Kathy Faller, Gersom Ayala and Amada Ayala founded Casas de Luz in 2005, the social justice action program has built more than 150 homes throughout San Diego County and Tijuana. They have also aided in constructing two community centers in Mexico, Faro de Luz (Lighthouse) and Peña de Horeb (Horeb’s Rock). Additionally, Casas de Luz has transferred and administers more than 900 truckloads of donations.

Faro de Luz serves as a church in addition to being a community center. During the COVID-19 pandemic, children have gone to Faro de Luz and attended classes through the community center’s TV. Casas de Luz’s Feed the Future program takes $5 donations that provide one week’s worth of lunches for one child.

At Peña de Horeb, another community center and church, children are eligible to receive breakfast five days a week, work on their homework after school and access food and water before their classes start. In 2013, builders added a kitchen and dining area to the center. In 2016, construction began on a two-story building containing four classrooms and a church with the help of Lazarian world homes.

Thanks to the number of donations Casas de Luz receives, Gerson and Amada Ayala no longer fund it solely. Communities have grown able to sustain themselves and Tijuana’s poor have significantly benefited from the program.

– Sophie Buibas
Photo: Flickr

Housing Crisis in Puerto Rico 
The housing crisis in Puerto Rico worsens with the increase of natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes that have destroyed housing around the island. According to the United States Interagency Council on homelessness, 2,451 Puerto Ricans have faced homelessness on the island since January 2021. The U.S. Department of Education reported that around 4,717 students met chronic homelessness in the 2018-19 academic year, with 439 students completely unsheltered. The Puerto Rican housing market has faced a prolonged crisis since the 2006 economic crisis that depreciated values within the market; the island lost around 45,880 households due to increased migration to the mainland. The housing crisis in Puerto Rico led to an increase in bank repossessions, leaving 45%-55% of houses abandoned according to the American Bar Association.

The Hurricane

Hurricane Maria struck the island on October 2, 2017, significantly damaging causing around 250,000 houses. It completely destroyed 70,000 of those homes. At the time, now-ousted Governor Ricardo Rossello stated that Puerto Rico would allocate around $31 billion in funds to recover most of the properties.

Many of the properties that the hurricane destroyed were illegally erected buildings that violate building codes around the ocean side. That is because some of these houses are located in flooding zones and unstable hillsides, which prevent them from being rebuilt.

Five Years Later

Five years after Hurricane Maria struck the island, the housing crisis in Puerto Rico has barely seen improvement.  Tax breaks have attracted investors from the mainland. This has spurred skyrocketing housing costs around the island.  In turn, those rising housing prices have led to unaffordable housing for Puerto Rican citizens. This has also displaced many Puerto Ricans. Puerto Ricans around the island are troubled by the growing gentrification around the island as they fear permanent displacement. The growing sense of unease has increased tension around the island.

A Nonprofit Against Homelessness

Nonprofit organization Casa del Peregrino helps identify and assist the homeless population in Puerto Rico while operating with the goal of improving the quality of life and health on the island. Founded in 1997 after the local university surveyed that 67% of the population in Aguadilla were homeless, the organization began to distribute used clothing, meals and personal hygiene items. In recent years, the organization has expanded its services to include rehabilitation programs with drug and alcohol specialists and an emergency shelter with 20 sleeping spaces.

As the housing crisis continues to develop, the organization struggles to expand its outreach through the 78 towns that compose the island; currently, only 15% of the clients have been able to fully rehabilitate through its rehabilitation center. The organization’s lack of government funding or support portrays an overarching problem with homelessness left to grow without any governmental measure to meet ensure citizens’ needs.

The island continues to face many challenges that increase homelessness within the population while organizations similar to Casa del Peregrino stand to provide the necessary resources for the island’s citizens until they await a solution from the government.

– Nuria Munoz
Photo: Flickr

Being Poor in Argentina
Argentina is the third-largest country in South America with a population of 45.4 million people. A melting pot of ethnicities and a perfect blend between Latin-American and South European customs and traditions. Nevertheless, Argentina has a high poverty rate, rising year after year. Here are five facts about being poor in Argentina.

5 Facts About Being Poor in Argentina

  1. A 3 Year-Long Recession: Argentina’s economic development is following a troubled path risking a new default two years since the last one. This inevitably translated into a rise in the country’s poverty rate that in the second half of last year passed 42%, according to Al Jazeera. Such a rate in Argentina represents an omen to the risk of a new crisis of similar proportions to the ones of 1989 and 2001.
  2. Increase in Unemployment During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic had serious repercussions on developing economies like Argentina. As a result, the country counted a loss of 3.5 million jobs in the past two years of the pandemic, leaving many single-income families without a way to get by. This has led to many disorders and protests in the capital city of Buenos Aires that spread in other major cities around the country including Cordoba and Mendoza.
  3. Social Inequality and Poverty: The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) examined the evolution of inequality and poverty across the decades. Argentina was one of the countries with the highest class inequality and relative poverty rates and from 2001 it made considerable progress in this matter. Unfortunately, those rates still remain high, way over the OECD average. Moreover, inequality in Argentina has strong intergenerational and regional components, meaning that the youngest part of the population is the poorest and the northern regions of the country are the ones with the highest poverty rate.
  4. House Poverty – The Everlasting Problem: Since its first big default in 1989, being poor in Argentina means also facing the house poverty issue caused by people’s inability or even discouragement in saving for long-term investments. The global pandemic has contributed to worsening this condition even more. Currently, almost 10 million people around Argentina are unable to pay their rent and have to move to cities and to nearby areas where they end up in illegal camps. Fortunately, organizations like Habitat for Humanity are working to address this specific problem by building or repairing homes, providing vital skills and providing first-response to all sorts of disasters around the world. As of 2014, Habitat for Humanity has contributed to building housing solutions that are hosting more than 4,000 families in Argentina.
  5. Education: Despite Argentina being one of the most educated countries in South America, its past military government applied a policy restricting access to education at every level. Such a slowdown in the development of the education system has not yet been overcome causing inefficiencies impacting other economic aspects like technological innovation that would support growth.

Concluding Thoughts

This summary is only a brief and partial picture of the much more complex political and socioeconomic situation of a developing country like Argentina. The hope is that these five points can provide an idea of what is like being poor in Argentina and what are the key elements to address to allow the country to free itself from poverty.

– Francesco Gozzo
Photo: Flickr

Global Housing Initiatives
In 2019, the world witnessed the first 3D-printed neighborhood in Tabasco, Mexico, in partnership with nonprofit charity organization New Story and ICON, an Austin-based company developing advanced construction technology. Together, the groups built two houses within a week, a process that would usually take months. As a result, New Story is tackling the challenge of global homelessness in a cost-effective, efficient and sustainable manner through the implementation of 3D printing in global housing initiatives.

The Beginnings of New Story

After the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, New Story co-founder Brett Hagler met with struggling families. The destruction of homes due to the natural disaster displaced thousands of Haitians. However, this experience did not leave Hagler who would then go on to partner with Alexandria Lafici and Matthew Marshall to found New Story in 2014.

The organization’s original focus was on the earthquake victims that hit Haiti. It crowdfunded for building homes with a goal of roughly $6,000 for each building before construction began, as TechCrunch reported. Each house would have a timeline of approximately 45 days to build and involve the partnership of local nonprofits to vet families in need of housing.

Speaking with Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch, Brett Hagler discussed the importance of houses, saying, “there are a number of things we don’t think about that go along with not having a home, such as rape and kidnapping of children.” Additionally, from 2014 to 2018, New Story expanded from Haiti to communities in El Salvador, Bolivia and Mexico and built more than 850 homes. In addition, it has created partnerships with leading organizations around the world such as Salesforce, DocuSign and Amazon.

Now, New Story is transforming the global housing initiative with 3D-printed homes through its partnership with ICON.

ICON and New Story

In 2018, New Story partnered with ICON, an Austin-based robotics construction company using 3D printing robotics, software and advanced material, to bring 3D-printed houses to those who most need them. In March 2018, the two organizations exhibited a permanent 3D-printed home at the SXSW festival in Austin. According to CNN Business, the home had three rooms consisting of a bedroom, a living room and a small room that could either be another bedroom or office. The two constructed the house within 48 hours using a 3D printing machine.

The two organizations developed the Vulcan 3D printer. It can print homes and anyone can operate it with basic training. ICON expects the 3D-printed houses to last as long or longer than standard Concrete Masonry Unit (CMU) built homes. Printing with Lavacrete, a concrete mixture, construction projects can stay within the schedule and budget. Building homes and structures that boast impressive statistics, such as compressive strength of 2,000 – 3,500 psi, the Vulcan 3D printer changed the world with its innovation, leading to the world’s first 3D-printed neighborhood.

The World’s First 3D-Printed Neighborhood

In December 2019, New Story, ICON and ÉCHALE, a nonprofit in Mexico, built the first 3D-printed neighborhood in Tabasco, Mexico, as CNN Business reported. According to Sarah Lee, a blogger for New Story, the organization met with many families “who had to be resourceful to stay afloat.”

Many times, these homes experienced overcrowding and were falling apart. In Tabasco, a state prone to flooding in Mexico, factors like the ability to withstand an earthquake and keep families dry during heavy rains played a significant role in the design process.

Each 3D-printed home spanned 500-square-feet with two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room and a kitchen. The houses had curved walls and a flat roof painted with cool roof paint on the outside, Lee reported. This paint ensures that the tiles are waterproof and deflect heat from the house.

The rest of the houses that New Story provided in the neighborhood comprised ecoblocks, a “compressed earth block technology that uses 90% local earth and only 10% cement.” In total, New Story, ICON and ÉCHALE provided 65 homes for struggling families.

Global Housing Initiatives to End the Global Housing Crisis

New Story and ICON brought innovative technology to implement global housing initiatives and help families and people worldwide. These 3D-printed homes are the newest chapter in global housing initiatives and only time will tell where the 3D printing industry will go.

Gaby Mendoza
Photo: Flickr

3D-printed Housing in ZimbabweThe World Bank’s Zimbabwe 2021 Economic Update reports that extreme poverty in Zimbabwe climbed to almost 50% in 2020. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic itself pushed 1.3 million people into extreme poverty due to soaring unemployment rates and income cuts. Poverty rates coupled with highly inflated housing prices make it extremely challenging for hundreds of thousands of families to afford a house, pushing many into slum living situations. However, 3D-printed housing in Zimbabwe may provide a potential solution.

Zimbabwe’s Housing Shortage

In 2005, Zimbabwe’s government cleared slum areas nationwide, leaving 700,000 people homeless. This effort to combat slum living launched the country into a housing crisis that would persist for decades. With a government housing waitlist of 1.25 million households in 2015, Zimbabwe’s history of housing shortages continues to worsen as more of the population falls below the poverty line.

In Zimbabwe, corrupt officials sell housing permits to housing cooperatives at extremely low rates. The cooperatives then construct the houses and sell them to homeless Zimbabweans for outrageously inflated prices. Buyers pay off homes for a minimum of 14 years before even receiving the title deed of ownership. These corrupt officials partnering with housing cooperatives often swindle homeless civilians out of desperation for basic shelter. As the 23rd most corrupt country in the world, without a third party to intervene in this crisis, officials may continue to exploit impoverished Zimbabwean populations.

Lafarge Cement’s 3D Housing Project

Lafarge Cement Zimbabwe is a subsidiary of LafargeHolcim, a Swiss construction material manufacturer. The company hopes to change the future of affordable housing in Zimbabwe. By using 3D printing technology, Lafarge Cement’s initial project plans to print the first 10 3D houses in Zimbabwe “under the affordable housing project” in 2022. A joint venture between LafargeHolcim and the CDC Group in the United Kingdom, 14Trees, created the concrete 3D printing technology for the project.

With this new building technology, constructing homes and schools in Zimbabwe will take a fraction of the time in comparison to traditional construction efforts. While traditional construction methods require a minimum of four days to complete a house, Lafarge can print these 3D houses in as little as 12 hours, with a school taking a little longer at 18 hours. The technology can also reduce construction costs by 10-20%.

This housing solution is particularly exciting as it offers a much more affordable option in comparison to homes in the existing housing market. Starting at around $30,000 for a home “in a medium-density area”and skyrocketing up to $80,000, for many low-income families, conventional homeownership is out of reach. However, 3D-printed housing in Zimbabwe offers lower-income communities an affordable housing option starting at $10,000.

The Future is 3D Printing

Following the successful printing of houses and schools in Malawi, the introduction of 3D-printed housing in Zimbabwe has the potential to transform the property landscape in the nation. Lafarge Cement Zimbabwe has no plans of halting the manufacturing of affordable 3D housing in Zimbabwe and across Africa until housing shortages remain an issue of the past.

In April 2021, the company launched a new dry mortars factory in Zimbabwe worth $2.8 million, which is expected to increase manufacturing capabilities significantly. This type of investment in Zimbabwean society suggests Lafarge’s legacy will continue to grow, aiding low-income communities with affordable 3D-printed housing in Zimbabwe and bringing a much-needed housing solution to Zimbabwe’s housing markets.

– Hannah Eliason
Photo: Flickr