Inflammation and stories on Housing

Gjenge MakersGjenge Makers is a Nairobi-based startup company that offers a sustainable, practical and affordable solution to combat poverty in Kenya. The company sells affordable alternative building materials. Its products, which include an assortment of bricks with different functionalities and styles, are forged from recycled plastic and sand. These plastic bricks can help reduce poverty and plastic waste in Africa.

The Plastics Waste Crisis in Kenya

Garbage is quickly accumulating all around the globe and Africa is bearing the brunt of rising waste levels. Governments in resource-rich regions typically have the capacity to pare the trash down into a flaky substance, slashing the amount of physical space it occupies. This process is time-consuming and expensive. However, several countries such as Kenya instead address the issue by implementing a series of plastic bans.

Plastic ban policies typically have socioeconomic and environmental consequences. Throughout the state are large piles of waste that have built up as a result of excessive plastic use, such as the infamous Dandora dump in Nairobi. “Plastic traders” scour these junkyards for limited resources like bottles and certain compounds that can be exchanged for money. Many at the lower end of the disparity are also disproportionately affected by policing under these laws as plastic bag distribution, manufacturing and usage are subject to a fine and/or prison sentence. Additionally, some businesses will generally relocate to other states to avoid such strict laws, damaging economic interests and employment numbers.

Kenya had been taking a slow-moving approach in curtailing the plastics crisis when Gjenge Makers founder, Nzambi Matee, decided to take matters into her own hands. The entrepreneur experimented with mixing recyclables with sand in her mother’s backyard and eventually composed a formula to build a brick five to seven times stronger than concrete. Her products are now a core economic ingredient toward upturning poverty and improving infrastructure at the community level.

The Housing Crisis in Kenya

Kenya is currently undergoing a severe housing deficit, with homelessness numbers rapidly escalating under the pandemic. The estimated housing deficit stood at two million in 2012 but factors such as limited resources are further distending the issue. With limited support and a lack of housing, many families are struggling to survive.

How Gjenge Makers Helps

Gjenge Makers address both the plastic waste and housing crisis through its plastic brick solution. In accordance with its “Build Alternatively, Build Affordably” model, it seeks to contribute a key product that could empower individual communities by giving them the resource needed to rise out of poverty. Matee has declared eradicating poverty a personal goal of hers and her new innovation can help build more shelters to combat the housing crisis. The company also seeks to make its products accessible to essential learning institutions such as schools.

Gjenge Makers currently receives plastic through a multipronged approach. It collects from factories and recyclers seeking to discard their trash, whether at a price or for free. It also uses a mobile application that incentivizes rewards and allows homeowners to notify Gjenge Makers when they have available plastic. The formula to build the bricks requires a particular type of plastic compound, often labeled on the products themselves.

Gjenge Makers is a champion of eco-friendly, economic empowerment in a crisis that is widespread throughout the continent of Africa. Though the startup is currently based in Nairobi, it seeks to eventually expand and support other African states as well. So far, Gjenge Makers recycled 20 tons of plastic and created a total of 112 jobs.

Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

The Dutch Housing Crisis
The Netherlands is a small country in western Europe. Its population is beginning to outstrip the amount of available and affordable housing. There is an overall housing shortage of more than 300,000 homes in the Netherlands. Additionally, the homeless population has grown by more than 70% in the past decade. Some social housing waiting lists can span for up to 15 years in certain cities. As a result, the Dutch housing crisis is becoming a bigger problem for the nation.

Many students have delayed their plans to move out of family homes. This is due to the lack of affordable housing. Thus, this delays certain life milestones such as finding a long-term partner or starting a family. The Dutch housing crisis also presents barriers to employment, as people are unable to find housing within the city centers. Furthermore, students’ inability to find housing generates economic vulnerability within their families. No social benefits exist for households if a person over the age of 21 lives in the home.

What is Causing the Problem?

A lack of construction sites, a rise in buildings, an increase in land costs and a devastating shortage of construction workers is causing the Dutch housing crisis. This shortage of construction workers stems from the financial recession of 2008. Many construction companies declared bankruptcy due to the economic crisis. Additionally, about 483,000 construction workers were in the Netherlands in 2008. Moreover, about 251,000 construction workers lived there in 2016. Only 15% of construction workers have returned to the industry since 2008.

Growing privatization affects the Dutch housing crisis as well. More than 100,000 homes are no longer in the social sector. They have been either undergone privatization or demolishing. It is not uncommon for investors to buy private rural land that they refuse to develop. Investors do this to drive up the prices in urban areas. In addition, shelters for the psychologically vulnerable have received less support from the ruling cabinet. As such, an influx of psychiatric patients who require residential care has emerged. Thus, the ruling party’s policy is to shrink the social sector in favor of the private sector. Privatization has weakened tenants’ rights. As a result, private landlords and developers gained a monopoly over the housing market. In some instances, landlords keep hundreds of living spaces empty due to their selectivity over tenants.

Verhuurdersheffing Tax

The policy of privatization means that project developers are responsible for the majority of housing construction. These developers greatly reduced construction activities after the introduction of a new tax. This tax is called verhuurdersheffing (landlord levy) and it taxes those who own more than 50 rental properties.

The cost of rent in both the social and private sectors has also risen significantly. As the purchasing power of lower-and-middle-income households has not risen, many are unable to afford adequate housing. This is especially true for middle-income people, who occasionally struggle financially but fall just outside of the requirements for social housing assistance.

What are the Solutions?

The Netherlands has a well-cultivated reputation for coming up with creative solutions to the challenges it faces. Most political parties in the Netherlands have acknowledged the urgency of the Dutch housing crisis, and each has proposed various policies to remedy the issue. Some of these policies focus on abolishing the landlord levy, increasing construction and offering protection for alternative forms of housing and the acquisition of unused private land.

There are also copious amounts of humanitarian groups that focus on providing solutions to the crisis. Kamers met Aandacht (Rooms with Regard) is one organization that brings struggling young people together, especially those emerging from the youth-care system into adulthood. Sympathetic landlords or housing organizations provide aid for them.

Humanitas Onder Dak (Humanitas Under Roof) is an organization that also offers shelter, guidance and counseling to homeless people. The goal is to help them become fully independent. Lastly, Vluchteling Onder Dak (Refugee Under Roof) connects refugees who often become homeless after their first bid for asylum receives rejection. With a national network of humanitarian aid, asylum seekers obtain housing, food, education and more.

In addition to the aforementioned groups, a growing number of people are also pursuing alternative forms of housing such as the Cube Homes of Rotterdam. Although the situation appears dire, many actors are seeking to improve the housing situation in the Netherlands. Projections have determined that the Dutch housing crisis will worsen in the upcoming years. However, the efforts of local actors in cooperation with one another could reverse this trend.

– Olivia Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Housing Crisis in VeniceVenice’s resident population is drastically shrinking, from around 175,000 people within its boundaries after World War II to about 50,000 today. Despite this small number, the high cost of housing and the lucrativeness of the tourism industry leads to many homeowners turning properties into short-term tourist rentals. Estimates indicate that 25 million people visit Venice every year and 14 million of those people only stay for a day. This precarious economy reliant on tourism increasingly proves itself to be unsustainable due to high housing costs relative to resident income. Fortunately, Nicola Ussardi, the co-founder of Social Assembly for the House (ASC) is trying to address the housing crisis in Venice.

The Housing Crisis in Venice

In a nutshell, Venice has become the “world capital” of tourism which has predictably led to overtourism — a term the World Tourism Organization uses to describe “the impact of tourism on a destination, or parts thereof, that excessively influences perceived quality of life of citizens and/or quality of visitor experiences in a negative way.” To put this into perspective, more than 20 million tourists visit Venice per year but loses about 1,000 residents in the same span of time. The remaining citizens face tough financial situations with regard to housing costs. Property owners have the option to keep their buildings affordable for locals or transform their properties into short-term rentals and make a potential windfall profit.

More than 8,000 Airbnb apartments in the city point to a frustrating reality of the housing crisis in Venice that Ussardi’s grassroots movement concerns itself with. For ages, Venice has relied on mass tourism for the overall well-being of the country but it is increasingly obvious that it also has a negative impact on citizens. Ussardi’s plan to provide housing circumvents traditional methods of applying for and receiving public housing. Ussardi says that many public housing properties have fallen into disrepair. Even abandoned convents become hotels instead of public housing.

Assembly for the House (ASC)

Assembly for the House is a housing community that focuses on finding homes for Venetians who have to leave their residences due to the rising cost of rent. People who lose their homes can count on ASC to locate uninhabited, abandoned or dilapidated spaces, repair them for occupancy and move them in. ASC also works with residents to block evictions.

In essence, ASC not only lobbies the government for fairer housing practices but also finds abandoned homes for people to occupy. This applies a communal face to the crisis in a kind, albeit unconventional approach to ensuring shelter for the people of Venice.

How Assembly for the House Helps

Assembly for the House hosts 150 people in Cannaregio and Giudecca, two working-class neighborhoods in Venice. Emanuela Lanzarin is a social services assessor for the region and plainly admits that while ASC’s actions are illegal, there are also not enough public houses to meet demand. Shockingly, 2011 is the last time a Venetian received a public apartment.

For people like Simonetta Boni and Davide de Polo, two Venice residents who lost their homes after steep rent increases and ineffective social services, ASC provided housing spaces at a crucial time. De Polo said, “We [occupiers] are the alternative to the death of Venice.” The Assembly for the House is helping facilitate that alternative.

This uncommon approach from a nonprofit focused on ending the housing crisis in Venice is providing necessary housing assistance to citizens who otherwise would not have a roof over their heads. Ussardi is an inspiring example of a citizen taking action to solve a crisis that the government has overlooked.

Spencer Daniels
Photo: Flickr

The Future of Eco Building Materials
Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible. Additionally, it is resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. Green building is the future for more developed countries and for impoverished nations. Re-using already existing materials for structural foundations greatly benefits impoverished regions. Several of these eco-building materials consist of discarded plastics, trash and compost.

The need for more environmental-friendly building materials arose from atmospheric pollution and the lack of energy conservation. Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is what jumpstarted this movement to create eco-building materials. Moreover, this resulted in the creation of several organizations.

Organizations Fighting for Greener Building Materials

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) strives to transform the way people design, build and operate buildings and communities. In addition, it enables an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. This is one of the primary organizations that began to actually shed light on the urgency of the issue. Since then, numerous companies have emerged to offer newer and greener alternatives to current building materials.

Additionally, Rammed Earth Works is another company devoted to providing eco-building materials. The housing concept incorporates exposed earth walls. Housing infrastructures recognize rammed earth as a low carbon releasing process that offers an environmentally safer and more sustainable option. Furthermore, this particular process involves the layering of sediment and waste runoff to structure an exposed wall of rock that creates somewhat of a retro aesthetic. This method is more environmentally friendly and is accessible to people in areas of extreme poverty.

Recent Developments

Many people imagine fluffy pink fiberglass when considering insulation. However, a much safer and less carbon-emitting alternative is sheep wool. Yet, the actual aggregational makeup of fiberglass is harmful to the touch. Other greener insulating alternatives offer an easier installation process. In addition, it generally consists of 70% recycled materials. Sheep wool is a much more accessible product to countries currently fighting immense poverty.

One of the more recent developments in the invention of a building brick comprised entirely of recycled plastics. This new brick is not only a greener alternative to concrete blocks but is also reportedly seven times stronger and more durable. Nzambi Matee creates the bricks by breaking down plastics that can no longer be recycled or repurposed. Matee’s factory is in Kenya and has already recycled 20 tons of plastics since 2017.

Developing countries are on the path to environmental and economic success with the discovery and creation of new, greener building technologies. Having access to these materials allows these countries to evolve structurally and economically while preventing pollution.

– Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr

Fight Against Homelessness in Italy
Italy is located along the Mediterranean coastline. The European country has a population of more than 60 million people with an average of 95 million tourists visiting every year. What many are not aware of is that immigrants, women and children are especially vulnerable to experiencing homelessness in Italy. The fight against homelessness in Italy has become a more prominent issue. Police began fining homeless people in the street for not following the lockdown measures that the country implemented. Thus, the Italian Federation of Organizations for Homeless People has appealed for greater leniency from the state.

The organization wrote, “They cannot stay at home because they do not have a home. There is an economic sanction which they cannot pay, and they have to go to the magistrate. They are not on the street for fun.”

Historical Context of Homelessness in Italy

Though worsened by the pandemic, homelessness in Italy has long been an issue. Italy is a developed nation with a GDP that expectations have determined will be around $1920 billion in 2021. However, homelessness has worsened due to the economic crisis. In 2016, homelessness impacted 50,724 people in Italy. Since 2013, this number has increased by roughly 3,000. Furthermore, 5.1 million people were living in extreme poverty in 2017. Due to its geographical location, Italy receives an influx of immigrants. As a result, 58% of Italy’s impoverished population are immigrants. In 2017, 117,153 people arrived in Italy by ship. About 67% of these migrants use Caritas, a counseling service offering advice regarding homelessness. Homelessness impacts the region of Lombardia in northern Italy the most. According to Italian Caritas, there is an increase in youth homelessness as well.

The Good News

There are various organizations that are striving to fight homelessness in Italy. For example, the Baobab Experience is an organization that previously aimed to find shelter for 120 people who slept in Piazzale Spadolini (Tiburtina Station) and has continued to provide hospitality for the homeless population in Rome. Additionally, it has advocated that the homeless receive health checks, beginning with migrants who do not have residency permits. Many of these migrants avoid hospitals in fear of detainment, so this would allow them to check their health without those consequences.

The Baobab Experience emerged in 2015 as a result of a migratory emergency when 35,000 migrants passed through Baobab, located in Via Cupa, Rome. More than 70,000 people have passed through the camps that the organization has since established. Thanks to private donations, the Baobab Experience also supports individuals with medical and legal assistance. Furthermore, the organization provides water, food, clothing and an opportunity for leisure. Many of the migrants travel through Italy to reach other countries, however, others are asylum seekers, often must wait in the streets for months before any legal practice can begin.

Further Efforts

Other NGOs such as Asgi, Naga, Magistratura Democratica and Fondazione Migrantes have called on the government to protect vulnerable migrants and homeless people. The organizations argue that these people lack sufficient protection from COVID-19 and protecting them will improve public health. Additionally, the NGOs have requested authorities shut down large migrant reception centers, enable access to the international protection system, accept homeless people into appropriate facilities and create alternatives to detention centers.

Although the fight against homelessness in Italy remains a serious problem, especially for marginalized groups such as migrants, women and children, NGOs and similar organizations keep the government accountable and provide hope for all of those impacted. By supporting such organizations that positively impact the lives of thousands, we can all contribute to eliminating homelessness in Italy.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Canada
While Canada is one of the world’s more developed economies, the country has had serious issues with its child poverty rates. Child poverty in Canada sits at the 23rd position out of 35 industrialized nations when comparing the gap between overall poverty rates to child poverty rates.

Facts About Child Poverty in Canada

In Canada, 26% of children— a little more than one out of every five children — suffer from childhood poverty. This number puts Canada in the bottom third of industrialized countries with child poverty, representing 1.3 million children. 8% of impoverished children under the age of 6. Furthermore, one-seventh of people in homeless shelters are children. One in every three food bank users is under the age of 18. These statistics illustrate the staggering number of children suffering from poverty. While Canada has been making strides to address the issue, it needs to do much more work.

Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty

Campaign 2000 is a movement that formed in 1991 over concerns that the government was not doing enough to address child poverty. It is a network of organizations that work on addressing poverty and issues children face across the country. The organization initially committed to eliminating child poverty by the year 2000 during an All-Party Resolution in the House of Commons. The pledge to end child poverty in Canada underwent renewal in 2009 and in 2015 and continued through this movement.

The group also works on advancing public and government consultations and making long-lasting changes through lobbying and advocacy. Campaign 2000 specifically focuses on ensuring that all actions are bipartisan and can be supported by everyone. Through all these actions, the group aims to raise the basic standard of living for all Canadian children so that none live in poverty and all can become active and contributing members of society. This standard includes affordable and safe housing. Finding ways to strengthen family support ensures that families can provide the best care for their kids.

Next Steps

While Canada has made progress throughout the past few years, there is much room for growth. UNICEF believes there are two main steps that the government needs to take.

The first is to increase transfers and tax benefits that go towards children and resources for children. By increasing the Child Tax Benefit to a minimum of $5,000, thousands of children in Canada would be lifted out of poverty. These children would gain the resources necessary to become active members of society and have stable food and housing.

The second is to create a formal definition of child poverty within the nation. By doing so, local governments should each create a strategy to eliminate child poverty in Canada. At a minimum, the goal should be to push it down to 5% to match the lowest level of any industrialized country.

Canada sits in the bottom third of industrialized countries in terms of child poverty rates. Canada needs to make a lot more progress, but organizations like Campaign 2000 are working toward it. Moving forward, the Canadian government needs to take a firmer stance when it comes to addressing child poverty in Canada and adapt policies and benefits in order to ensure Canadian children aren’t suffering.

Manasi Singh
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Thailand
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital and many tourists know it as an exciting, vibrant and relaxing vacation destination. Even though many people live in high-quality and high-income housing, others live in poor-quality housing without running water or electricity. Due to urbanization without necessary accommodations to support the needs of low-income residents, slum and squatter settlements emerged with 84% of slum settlements residing in Thailand. The Baan Mankong Program addresses this issue and helps poor communities in Bangkok improve their housing and their relationship with the local government. Here is some information about how the Baan Mankong Program is aiding poverty eradication in Thailand.

What is the Baan Mankong Program?

The Baan Mankong Program is a secure housing program from the Community Organizations Development Institute in Thailand. CODI started in 1992 with the purpose of learning about the lives of the poor and encouraging a partnership with its local governments to improve the living conditions of the poor. Launched in 2003, the program emerged under the National Housing Authority with a grant of $34 million U.S. dollars from the Thai government to give loans to organizations devoted to providing housing for poor communities in Bangkok.

Why is Secure Housing Important?

An increase in population and rural-urban migration contribute to the unplanned global expansion of urban settlements. Urbanization can bring work opportunities, access to health services and better education, but poor communities still face inadequate housing and access to basic services. Therefore, increasing urbanization should focus on how to improve the living conditions of poor urban families. Improved living conditions will not only provide housing, but also improve health, and reduce injuries and premature deaths.

How has the Baan Mankong Program Helped?

The government funds through CODI go toward directly supporting the communities and aiding poverty eradication in Thailand. Through improvements in housing, the environment and other services, the citizens of the poor urban communities control where the money goes. In addition to financial control, people of the communities are able to work closely with local governments, professionals and universities offering multiple opportunities to evaluate housing and ways it can continue to improve. Communities also used the Baan Mankong Program to get drainage systems, communal septic tanks for sanitation, better connections for water and electricity supply and grey-water treatment units.

Its Impact and Growth

The program empowers the communities involved to plan, apply and improve the projects themselves based on the needs of the community. By 2009, the program existed in 260 cities in Thailand with money for 80,000 housing projects receiving approval, and communities implementing 1,033 housing projects that provide decent and secure housing for 104,000 poor families. The program not only helped the regions of Bangkok, but it also reached 320 cities/districts across 72 provinces and helped over 90,000 households with $191 million U.S. dollars. Thailand is one of a couple of countries that established a nation-wide effort to improve poor housing and what makes The Baan Mankong Program stand out is the focus of the community which strengthens the voices of the citizens in poor communities.

Supporting communities in need of quality housing is important to poverty eradication in Thailand and requires attention from the government, members of the low-income community, and members from high-income communities. The success of programs like the Baan Mankong Program not only depends on money but community support encouraging spaces to learn from one another.

– Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Flickr

SDG 1 in New Zealand
World leaders adopted the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the first of which is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere,” in 2015. In 2019, New Zealand leaders published the findings of the Voluntary National Review as New Zealand’s Progress Towards the SDGs – 2019. Through this report, others can learn the challenges facing the people of New Zealand, the strides the country has made thus far and improvements to come for each SDG, including updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand.

A key challenge New Zealanders face comes in the form of the inequities that can exist in poverty-related measures. According to New Zealand’s 2018 Census, 16.5% of the population are Māori (indigenous New Zealanders) and 8.1% are Pacific Islanders, who poverty disproportionately affects. Poverty is also worse among those living with disabilities. The updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand to follow, contextualized by the challenges the country faces and the goals for the coming years, yield a broad picture of the nation’s approach to poverty alleviation and successes thus far. Here are seven updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand.

7 Updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand

  1. Child Poverty Reduction and Wellbeing Acts: This legislation requires that the New Zealand government sets targets for three predetermined child poverty measures at both three- and 10-year intervals. The New Zealand government is also responsible for publishing annual reports on those measures as well as relevant indicators. For example, the 2020/21 target for the reduction of material hardship is from 13% to 10% of children, whereas the 2027/28 target stretches that to just 6% of children.
  2. Families Package and Wellbeing Budget: Through changes to tax credits, free school lunches, and more, the Families Package and Wellbeing Budget aimed to boost incomes of 62% of households with children in New Zealand, by 2021. According to a 2020 report, the Families Package had already improved the situation of 18,400 children enough for them to no longer live in poverty.
  3. Increase in the Minimum Wage: One of the clearest cut strategies for alleviating poverty was to increase the country’s minimum wage, with the expectation that the country will continue to increase it as the economy permits. New Zealand applied a 7.2% increase in 2019, followed by a 6.3% boost in 2020.
  4. Establishment of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group: The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) has the task of advising the New Zealand government as to how and why the nation’s welfare programs should change in order to provide the most benefit to its people. Just a year after its establishment, WEAG completed a report detailing how the nation’s social security system ought to evolve. The report, Wakamana Tāngata – Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand, includes 42 recommendations for the nation to move from simply providing a safety net to restoring dignity to its citizens. WEAG’s approach emphasizes problem-solving through collaboration with researchers and stakeholders across the country.
  5. Public and Affordable Housing Expansion: Not only is work underway to provide additional options for public and affordable housing, but the New Zealand government also aims to improve the conditions for those living in rental housing. Housing costs are of particular importance when considering how to reduce inequities and poverty in general. In fact, data revealed that 14.9% of children lived in poverty in 2019 even beyond taking housing costs into account, whereas that proportion jumped to 20.8% after factoring in housing costs.
  6. Disability Action Planning: With a new Disability Action Plan having taken effect since the publication of the Voluntary National Review, it is pertinent to look at the most recent plan for 2019-2023. Through the detailing of 25 programs with the primary design of narrowing the gap in employment between disabled and non-disabled people, this plan serves to move New Zealand forward in line with the Disability Strategy 2016-2026.
  7. Broader Sample for Household Economic Survey: In the hopes of capturing a holistic picture of the financial situations of all its people, the New Zealand’s Household Economic Survey expanded its sampling to 20,000 people. With this more inclusive understanding of the impact of the economy on individual households, the nation’s leaders hope to be better equipped to address the challenges faced therein. As mentioned above, it is of vital importance that New Zealand not only combat the inequities among its citizens but also accurately measure them.

As with many countries, these updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand serve to share measures of the success achieved thus far, and as motivation to continue this important work. Other nations and leaders can also consider these points inspiration for strategies to combat poverty worldwide.

– Amy Perkins
Photo: Flickr

Affordable Housing In IndiaIndia is among the world’s poorest countries, with more than two-thirds of its residents living in extreme poverty. Recently, however, a changing economy centered around industrialization has prompted many rural residents to move to urban areas of the region. The interregional migration has led to an accumulation of slums and poor villages on the outskirts of cities. The problem prompts a powerful need for affordable housing in India. In recent years, new organizations have begun to answer this call with unique responses to alleviate the problem.

3 Ways India is Implementing Affordable Housing

  1. Big bank support for finances: One of the major banks leading this movement, the National Housing Bank of India, extends housing loans to low-income households. This allows for affordable housing at the lowest level while also expanding the Indian housing market. The bank’s project has positively impacted 15,000 households across 17 states in India, including households primarily managed by women. The expanded access to these loans is not the only aspect of this plan. Higher loans are also given out to poorer people to ensure that housing transactions are faster and more effective. These loans also help invest in important infrastructures like schools, temples and communal facilities.
  2. Government home-building initiatives: Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has launched a “housing for all” campaign since his election. The urban focus of the plan pledges to build more than 12 million houses by the year 2022. Although only 3.2 million urban homes have come to fruition so far, more funding to continue the project is on the way. These efforts ensure that 40% of India’s population, now living in urban areas like Mumbai, has access to cheaper apartment buildings. The new housing spaces target a variety of people, including first-time buyers, older individuals and those aspiring to move to urban areas, a demographic that largely includes impoverished communities.
  3. Targeting traditional real estate developers: In addition to building affordable housing, the Indian Government is also taking steps to target real estate members who generally focus their efforts on higher-end living spaces. To combat this practice, the government gives more incentives for interest rates on middle-to-low class homes. Many major real estate companies only switched to marketing affordable housing (as late as 2018) after the introduction of these benefits. This trickle-down effect experienced in the real estate sector will in turn fuel the industry. In other words, it has a multiplied effect on India’s economy. The shift in the country’s housing market will make India a $5 trillion economy by 2025.

Affordable Housing Means Less Poverty

The combination of nongovernmental and governmental support in India is rapidly leading to positive changes in the country. The future of affordable housing in the region is on track to provide commodities to millions of people. With increased funding and more initiatives, India is a leading example of how affordable housing can raise standards of living and boost the economy, essentially alleviating poverty.

– Mihir Gokhale
Photo: Flickr

Success in Honduras
Despite fast economic growth, the country of Honduras still suffers from high poverty and inequality. According to the World Bank, 48% of people live in poverty in the country, with 38% in urban areas and 60% in rural areas. However, in recent years, the success in Honduras is worthy of noting.

The Situation

Inequality is the highest in the world in Honduras. Inclement weather, such as regular droughts and heavy rain, affects the poor the most. In addition, violence is rampant. In 2018 alone, Honduras had 38 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has worsened Honduras’ economy. Due to the global shutdown, predictions have determined that the gross domestic product of Honduras will decrease by 7% in 2020, because of the sharp decline in trade, investment and consumption. The worsened GDP in the United States, Honduras’s partner in trade, has not helped matters. It will affect all classes, and especially the poor, according to the World Bank.

The Abundant Life Foundation

In response, the World Bank has initiated many U.S.-funded projects to aid the weakened economy with success in Honduras but one organization that has also never stopped giving aid is the Abundant Life Foundation (ALF). This highly successful organization creates opportunities for Hondurans so they can live a better life through long-term community development, education and conservation. Since 2007, the founders of Abundant Life, authors and poverty experts David and Brenda Dachner, have created programs that work closely with island residents to create environments that foster personal and community growth. The Foundation has served the Bay Islands of Honduras with the utmost commitment.

Community Development and Housing

Community Development is one pillar that the Abundant Life Foundation focuses on. It has a project that is an affordable housing community called Los Sueños: The Dreams that has seen success in Honduras. At Los Sueños, not only does the Foundation provide dignified housing, but an entire community setting where families can thrive, not just survive. This is the first planned community in Roatán and has a K-12 school, a church, sports court and Ag Farm.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, co-founder Brenda Dachner stated that “2021 will also bring a library and computer center, our new ALF office, and the first public park on the island. Future plans also call for a Cultural Center to preserve the heritage and culture of the English-speaking islanders, and a daycare center so the many single moms who will be living in our community can safely leave their children while they work to take care of their families.”

The Abundant Life Foundation is currently responsible for the building of 24 of 80 homes, with 11 families waiting to move in by Spring 2021. For the selection process, families go through an application process, a debt screening with the bank, a personal interview and home visit and criminal background check, before an anonymous selection committee of reputable islanders with ALF make the final selection through a collective vote.

Bringing Electricity to Honduras

Electricity is also a problem in Honduras. In response, ALF has created other community projects which include the distribution of solar-powered Luci Lights to communities with little to no electricity. This has reduced house fires from those who use candles in their wooden homes. It also helps families save money as electricity is expensive on the island.

Also, a bag program with the community of St. Helene where ALF taught the local women there to crochet purses and other items out of recycled plastic bags. Through this program, 90% of the sale of products went back to the woman, whose product sold while ALF maintained 10% and put it into a community fund. To date, the women have sold over $30,000 of products. With the Fund money, a year ago, the community voted to use it to bring electricity to each home in their village, including their church. “No more dangerous candles at night,” claimed Brenda Dachner, “and no more noisy, expensive diesel generators.”

Providing Support for Students

The second pillar of the Abundant Life Foundation is education. Since the organization’s first days on the island, it has provided scholarships and support to students to pursue a better education, including sponsoring three high school graduates to university programs, two of whom attended in the States. ALF built two schools (K-6 and K-12), provided support to students and teachers and operated a Bilingual Literacy Program in communities across the island to promote English literacy among residents. “It is important to promote and support English on this island as, first of all, it is their native language that is quickly being lost, but also, with tourism as the primary source of income, it is pertinent for jobs and their financial well-being,” Brenda Dachner told The Borgen Project.

Conservation

Finally, Conservation is a pillar the Abundant Life Foundation focuses on. Roatán sits amidst the Meso-American reef system, the second largest barrier reef in the world, and is its primary source of income via the tourists that come to see it, and locals living off of fishing for themselves and for trade. It is vital for the long-term financial well-being of local islanders that the reef be healthy and vibrant. Not surprisingly, however, the health of the reef is deteriorating. ALF partners with the Roatán Marine Park and other reputable organizations to promote the protection of the reef around the Bay Islands and seek to educate tourists to eliminate ignorance, and locals to reduce apathy.

ALF operates both as a 501(c)3 in the United States and as a legal NGO in Honduras. As such, although headquartered in Austin, Texas, the Abundant Life Foundation has a local team in Roatán, currently composed completely of native islanders who oversee all its projects and provide input, ideas and suggestions with projects and programming.

“We are very proud of this,” states Brenda Dachner to the Borgen Project, “as it has always been our desire to let Hondurans help Hondurans.”

With a focus on long-term solutions in community development, education and conservation, the Abundant Life Foundation hopes to provide the very opportunities islanders need to create their own abundant lives. This sparkling success in Honduras, like island water, has created rippling effects to end poverty.

– Shelby Gruber
Photo: Flickr