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

Homelessness in Luxembourg
Bordered by Germany, France, and Belgium, Luxembourg is home to over half a million people, 24% of whom face the daily threat of homelessness. Although Luxembourg is a small country, it is also one of the wealthiest countries in the European Union. However, as the divide between the rich and poor continues to widen, the threat of homelessness in Luxembourg is increasing due to a rising cost of living and limited affordable housing.

5 Things to Know About Homelessness in Luxembourg

  1. Luxembourg is a wealthy nation, but compared to other European countries with denser populations, its homeless population is larger. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that approximately 37% of Luxembourg’s population was homeless in 2014, as compared to .22% of France’s population and .41% of Germany’s population—two countries with populations that are much larger than Luxembourg’s. Homelessness is especially a problem during Luxembourg’s winters, as hypothermia threatens the lives of those without a home. A report from the European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) stated that the number of homeless people in Luxembourg rose from 684 people during the winter of 2012 and 2013 to 873 people during the winter of 2017 and 2018.
  2. Housing expenses are high in Luxembourg, with Luxembourg city being one of the most expensive places to live in Europe. As housing costs in Luxembourg rise by 5.4% per year, the poverty rate is also on the rise. According to a study published by Statec, a Luxembourg statistic service, the percentage of the population at risk of poverty rose from 15.4% in 2017 to 24% in 2019. For homeowners with smaller incomes, housing costs make up nearly half of their income. As of 2019, the Deloitte Global Economist Network reported that around 38% of households in Luxembourg were reported to be burdened by housing expenses. With rising costs, homeowners who could previously afford housing, may no longer be able to pay for the roof over their heads.
  3. With a growing population and a lack of available space for new infrastructure, Luxembourg can’t keep up with housing demands. Luxembourg’s population has increased by 36.2% since 2010, largely due to an influx of foreign workers. As a result of this increase, the housing crisis in Luxembourg has only grown as housing demands rise. In addition, land available to build additional housing is sparse, as nearly 92% of this land is privately owned, compared to the remaining 8% owned by public providers. To expand the housing market in Luxembourg, citizens are advocating for an increase in public housing and laws that will protect tenants from paying rising rent prices.
  4. Although the number of people staying in homeless shelters is dropping in Luxembourg, the number of nights people stay in homeless shelters is increasing. The average number of guests in night shelters decreased from 658 in 2010 to 354 in 2016. However, for these same years, the average number of nights in shelters rose from 40 days to 100 days. Night shelters are not designed to be a permanent solution for homeless people, and with the increase in the number of nights people are staying in shelters, waiting lists for the shelters are only growing longer.
  5. To combat homelessness in Luxembourg, homeless shelters are working to provide safe places for residents to sleep at night. The shelters can only provide space to a limited number of people, though, and often accrue a waiting list for beds every night. For one homeless shelter in Dommeldange, Luxembourg, overnight guests are given a place to sleep, dinner, and the facilities to shower, but they also employ trust-building exercises between social workers and guests to ensure they receive the emotional support they need. Some shelters focus their efforts on providing food to the homeless. Organizations, like “Premier Appel,” collect extra food from restaurants and grocery stores which is then fashioned into meals for those who visit the shelter. For Stëmm vun der Stross, volunteers serve up to 300 meals in the afternoon.

– Grace Mayer
Photo: Staticflickr

Lesotho is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy in southern Africa. Formerly known as Basutoland, the country was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho in 1966, after gaining independence from the U.K. Following a period of political instability and turmoil, Lesotho is now at relative peace, and its level of homelessness is low. Even still, homelessness and housing are issues that Lesotho’s government must address.

Effects of Rapid Urbanization

As in many developing countries, homelessness in Lesotho reflects one downside of urbanization and development. Lesotho went through a period of rapid economic growth in the last two decades. From $775 million in 2002, Lesotho’s GDP rose to $2.739 billion in 2018. Lesotho’s population has increased rapidly, as well, growing to more than 2 million in 2018 compared to 837,270 in 1960. Lesotho’s economic growth seems largely a result of its economic ties with South Africa. However, Lesotho’s poverty rate still stands at 49.7%.

Following Lesotho’s economic development, rapid urbanization has contributed to homelessness. According to the World Bank, the urban population in Lesotho rose from 3.512% in 1960 to 28.153% in 2018. This increase means that urban development in Lesotho has proceeded uncontrolled, overcrowded and unplanned.

Shortage of Infrastructure and Housing

According to UN-Habitat, recording Lesotho’s urbanization rate is a challenge. This is partly because different agencies within Lesotho’s government disagree on what constitutes an urban area. The Department of Lands, Surveys and Physical Planning, which is responsible for town and regional planning, defines an urban area as any area that has legal proclamation. On the other hand, the Bureau of Statistics defines an urban area as any administrative district headquarters or other settlement of rapid growth where people engage in non-agricultural activities. Such inconsistencies seem to contribute to unplanned urban expansion in Lesotho, which leads to insufficient infrastructures for water, sanitation, energy resources, transportation and social amenities.

A shortage of formal housing also contributes to homelessness in Lesotho. The Lesotho Housing and Land Development Corporation (LHLDC), a major state-owned developer, is mainly responsible for supplying homes in Lesotho. While LHLDC delivered an estimated 76% of formal housing in Maseru, Lesotho’s capital, U.N.-Habitat notes that LHLDC has not supplied adequate rental housing for low-income residents. In its report on Lesotho’s urban housing, UN-Habitat points out that the housing market in Maseru is saturated with expensive two-bedroom houses. The LHLDC tried to reduce prices by lowering construction standards. However, the organization’s high building costs, along with rising land prices in Maseru, limit LHLDC’s ability to help Lesotho’s homeless.

Help for the Homeless

There are certain organizations working to alleviate homelessness in Lesotho. Habitat for Humanity launched a vulnerable groups housing program in 2001, servicing seven of the country’s ten districts. Primarily, Habitat for Humanity helps build two-room homes to house orphans, the elderly and persons with disabilities. In addition to building homes, the organization educates and trains prospective homeowners on inheritance rights and legal rights, to protect against property grabbing. Meanwhile, AVANI Lesotho Group, a hotel in Maseru, commemorated World Homeless Day in 2016 by providing food for homeless children.

Homelessness in Lesotho is defined by unplanned rapid urbanization and a lack of affordable housing for low-income residents. By addressing the country’s homelessness problem, organizations like Habitat for Humanity and AVANI Lesotho Group are creating hope for a better future for the citizens of Lesotho.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Brazil
In recent decades, Brazil has advanced its industrialization, gross national income and life expectancy. Since 2014, however, the country has struggled with rising poverty and inequality. Brazil’s declining economy has led to a nationwide homelessness crisis. Here are 10 facts about homelessness in Brazil.

10 Facts About Homelessness in Brazil

  1. Approximately 1.2 million Brazilians are either homeless or living in inadequate housing. This housing crisis was, in part, caused by rising land costs. Brazil’s industrialization and involvement in globalization raised land prices. As a result, poor and unemployed Brazilians are unable to afford land costs and are forced to remain in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions.
  2. Brazil’s homeless tend to live near major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The country’s increasing urbanization contributes to these cities’ housing deficits, with more than four in five Brazilians living in urban areas. The vast majority of those in need of housing are from low-income families. Recent wage cuts and unemployment rates passing 12% have ensured that 1.2 million Rio residents remain in “favelas,” Brazil’s shantytowns.
  3. The number of houses built for families making $550 or less in Brazil’s cities has drastically decreased. Brazilian real-estate development now focuses on high-income buyers. From 2013 to 2016, the number of low-income housing fell by 500,000 units. Coupled with the growing urban population, this exacerbates homelessness in Brazil.
  4. In São Paulo, Brazil’s most populated city, homelessness is growing at 2-3% per year. Rio de Janeiro has experienced rapidly growing rates of homelessness as well, increasing by 150% from 2014 to 2017. With some success, city governments have launched programs to move the homeless into shelters and family housing.
  5. Without proper security, Brazil’s homeless are susceptible to physical, psychological and sexual violence. Between 2015 and 2017, there were 17,386 reported instances of abuse against the homeless, ranging from beatings and psychological abuse to sexual harassment. Given Brazil’s widespread drug trafficking occurring on the streets of favelas, the homeless are vulnerable to violence by both drug factions and the police.
  6. In 2009, the Brazilian government began a housing program for low-income Brazilians. This program, called Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My House, My Life), provided more than 10 million Brazilians with secure housing offers over seven years. In 2016, however, the government made major cuts to the program.
  7. The majority of Brazil’s homeless are Black, a remnant of the country’s legacy of slavery and racism. Previous discriminatory legislation, such as the criminalization of homeless Black people, has contributed to the disproportionate 67% majority of homeless individuals being Black. Meanwhile, the general Black population is only 45%. Moreover, young Black men are the majority of victims in extrajudicial killings by police officers, particularly in favelas.
  8. Since 1997, Brazil’s Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) has led protests and demonstrations to secure justice for the growing homeless population. Originating in São Paulo, MTST outwardly criticizes the exponential increases of real estate and rental prices. The movement remains a quintessential voice in driving urban policy, playing a key role in the implementation of social programs like ‘Minha Casa, Minha Vida.’ Furthermore, the movement outlines ways to reform such programs and address resulting urban segregation — particularly as impoverished Brazilians settle in urban peripheries.
  9. With the second-highest number of cases in the world, Brazil’s homeless are extremely vulnerable to the disease. As COVID-19 continues to spread, São Paulo’s city government has invested in general and COVID-specific homeless shelters. Other government initiatives include state-driven subsidy programs to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner to the homeless. NGOs like Doctors Without Borders provide medical assistance to homeless citizens, who suffer more COVID-19 cases than the general population. Despite this attention, the homeless continue to lack adequate hygiene resources.
  10. Civil society campaigns and organizations spread awareness and conduct on-the-ground missions. Rio Invisível, for instance, is an advocacy project based in Rio de Janeiro that shares interviews with homeless citizens on social media. By helping the homeless share their stories, the project breaks down prejudice toward the city’s most marginalized. Habitat for Humanity has also been involved in advocacy in Brazil, becoming a powerful voice in public policy, pushing for an end to the housing shortage. The non-profit partners with the Brazilian government to construct houses for vulnerable families, in addition to offering week-long “Habitat Global Village” volunteer opportunities in Brazil.

Precarious housing and homelessness in Brazil remain a prominent issue, affecting approximately 1.2 million citizens. The crisis is exacerbated by rising land prices and a worsening housing deficit in urban regions. However, as awareness has grown, efforts by state and non-state actors to address homelessness have expanded. Nevertheless, Brazil must continue to fund social programs to alleviate poverty and homelessness.

Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

affordable housingMakeshift tent communities become semi-permanent homes for those who have lost everything to natural disasters. Though housing charities like San Francisco-based New Story have built 850 houses for those affected by natural disasters since 2015, the cost and time it takes to build these houses are hindering the progress.

With plans to build an entire 3-D printed community in earthquake-prone El Salvador by the end of this year, New Story is partnering with ICON to print affordable housing for those that have no choice but to live in tents. Of the 850 houses built so fair, New Story has raised funds for 1,600. Solutions like the 3-D printed house will ensure that available funds are utilized efficiently, transitioning more communities from tents to secure shelters sooner.

Printing 3-D Affordable Housing

The current cost for one New Story house equipped with running water, a sanitary bathroom and concrete floor is $6,500. In March of this year, ICON, New Story’s tech construction partner, printed a 3-D house that only cost $4,000 and was built in 24 hours.

Specifically designed for disaster relief housing, the 3-D printer that built this prototype is made from aluminum, making the printer lightweight and easily transportable. The printer has a generator built in should a power outage arise. Designed to withstand worst conditions, ICON’s 3-D printer is revolutionizing affordable housing solutions, specifically for those devastated by natural disasters.

So far, houses built by New Story have improved the lives of over 6,000 people. Through traditional construction, houses have been built in the following places:

  • Haiti – Leveque, Labodrie, Minoterie, Gonaives
  • El Salvador – Nuevo Cuscatlan, Ahuachapan
  • Bolivia – Mizque

How 3-D Printed Houses Change Lives

Living in a secure shelter helps people out of poverty. Not having the worry of where clean water will come from, the floor turning into mud from the rain or someone robbing the home in the middle of the night allows people to focus on things other than survival.

Prior to living in their New Story houses, a community in Labodrie, Haiti, lived in tents for nearly six years after the 2010 earthquake. Many families were separated due to poor living conditions that were unsafe for children. Living in secure shelters bumped the community’s employment rate up 16 percent and reunited families. 150 homes were built equipped with clean running water, bathrooms and concrete floors.

Also devastated by the 2010 earthquake was Leveque, Haiti. People had been living in tent cities before New Story stepped in. With access to clean water, bathrooms and concrete floors, 75 percent of children in this community now attend school.

In El Salvador, 90 homes were built in Nuevo Cuscatlan and Ahuchapan with the help of New Story. In Nuevo Cuscatlan, 16 percent of homeowners started a business from their home, a playground was built in the community for the children and 66 percent of these children are attending school.

The Future of 3-D Printing

The impact of living in a solid home is the difference between surviving and thriving in a community. With the help of new technology, affordable housing will be built in even more communities than in the past. In addition to helping those affected by natural disasters, 3-D printing homes has the potential to help with a global housing shortage caused by rapid city growth and unaffordable housing prices.

According to City Lab, in some developing nations, “housing costs exceed incomes by more than 3000 percent.”  Disaster area or not, unaffordable housing puts people at risk for poverty.  Continued innovation by companies like ICON and New Story will build stronger, self-sustaining communities in places that are most susceptible to natural and manmade disaster.

– Hope Kelly
Photo: Flickr

EcoDomumIn many developing countries, rapid industrialization and motorization contribute to high levels of environmental pollution. The physical toll of disposable product packaging and plastics is especially high for low-income nations, which frequently lack the government funds and resources to efficiently manage waste.

As a result, it’s often the world’s poor who suffer the worst consequences of global pollution. In fact, the World Bank estimates that 95 percent of people affected by pollution-related illnesses live in middle and low-income nations. It’s important to address the global burden of pollution, not only for health-related reasons but also because pollution management offers countless economic benefits. Living in extremely polluted conditions can make everyday activities such as cooking and getting to work unreasonably difficult. Cleaner living conditions bring fewer communicable diseases and better opportunities because they obviate the challenges of contaminated resources.

One Mexican start-up thinks environmentally sustainable housing is one way to improve the living conditions of the world’s poor. EcoDomum, or “EcoHome,” builds affordable housing in Mexico using building materials made from recycled plastics. Based in Peubla, the company collects, sorts and melts down non-toxic plastics into a liquid form. A hydraulic press then forms the melted plastic into hard panels sturdy enough to construct a house. Each house uses around two tons of plastics and contains two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. The whole process takes a week and the price of the finished product is a mere $273. For most Mexican families living below the poverty line on around $125 a month, an EcoDomum is an affordable investment.

EcoDomum has bigger plans than just building houses — they want to stimulate Mexico’s economy with sustainable industry. The company has already built 500 recycled homes and has recently partnered with local trash collectors to maintain a steady supply of materials. EcoHome also promises higher wages for plastic collectors, which incentivizes locals to participate in their project. After seeing such a huge success since their start in Mexico, EcoDomum plans to expand their work internationally within the next five years.

Jessica Levitan

Photo: Flickr

An Eco-Friendly Solution for Bulletproof and Fireproof Housing
It’s definitely true that recycling makes a difference. Soda cans, soup cans, glass containers, plastic bottles: anything biodegradable can be reused and repurposed, and, of course, the practice of recycling is incredibly beneficial for the environment, just as most of us have been told since elementary school.

Developing countries like Nigeria are adopting the “bottle wall technique” via the German company Ecotec Environmental Solutions. Sam Olukoya of BBC News reports, “The bottles, packed with sand, are placed on their side, one on top of the other, and bound together with mud.” When the homes are finished they have one bedroom, a toilet, a kitchen and a living room and are about a quarter of the cost of a conventional home.

A great advantage to using compacted sand in this construction is that it is about 20 times stronger than bricks, it is better insulated to accommodate the Nigerian climate and the strength thereof makes it bulletproof. Also, none of the material is flammable.

An ever-increasing number of communities have adopted the bottle wall technique for places of business, greenhouses, churches and shelters. Ecotec takes on projects like these with strong social focuses. They educate the handicapped and unemployed in construction work in a healthy and accepting environment.

Ecotec’s Sky Field House is famous for having the first vaulted ceiling to be entirely composed of plastic bottles. “Most of the [plastic] bottles used are recovered in clean-up campaigns and recycling drives. The community then fills them with sand [and] they build water tanks, schools, community centers [and] urban benches as well as homes.”

Anna Brailow

Sources: BBC, Good News Network
Photo: The Plaid Zebra

California Residents in PovertyCalifornia has always been seen as the place to turn dreams into reality. It seems like Hollywood can take anyone and make them into a movie star. The state’s picturesque valleys, world-famous cities and year-round warm weather draw thousands of new residents every year. While these residents may come to the West Coast full of hope, living there long enough may turn all those dreams and hopes into nightmares.

An article published by the Sacramento Bee reported that about one-third of all Californian residents live at or below the U.S. poverty line. An immediate answer to this staggering statistic is the high cost of living one experiences as a Californian resident. A study by the United Ways of California “identified housing costs as the major factor in poverty, with struggling families spending over half of their incomes for shelter, with rents of two-bedroom housing units ranging from $584 a month in Modoc County to $1,905 in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.” In the simplest of terms, California isn’t cheap.

The percentage of Californians in poverty is composed of various demographics. For example, a little over 50% of all Latino families and 40% of African-American families reside under the poverty line, compared to 20% of all white families. Poverty levels spike within urban areas, with inner-city Los Angeles accounting for an astonishing 80% of all Californian residents in poverty.

At times, Californians are crippled with unrealistic housing costs. An article by AlJazeera America explored the alarming costs of owning property in California. An excerpt from the article reads, “In some California counties, the ‘real cost of living’ can exceed the federal poverty level by 300 percent. In San Diego County, for example, the household budget for two adults with one infant and one school-age child is $57,759 or 248 percent above the federal poverty line.” People in California spend more than half of their income just trying to pay their rent.

Times are vastly different in California now than they ever have been. Gone is the image of the original “Golden State.” The West Coast now offers a cruel glimpse into global poverty right here in our United States.

Diego Catala

Sources: Sacbee, Al Jazeera
Photo: The Huffington Post

The concept of building cheap houses for the poor to improve their living standards is hardly a new one. However, a house that is sustainable, affordable, part of an “ecosystem” of services of electricity, water and sanitation, and, perhaps most importantly, maintains people’s dignity. Sounds far-fetched, especially with a price tag of just $300. Vijay Govindarajan and Christian Sarkar, the brains behind the idea, believe that it can be done.

Govindarajan and Sarkar first outlined their concept in a Harvard Business review blog a few years ago. Since then, architects, companies and other students have all tried to take up the challenge of building such a house. Some have had limited success, while others introduced ideas that make the concept even more inspiring.

The solution to the problem of affordable housing, Govindarajan and Sarkar argue, comes about when companies start treating the poor as valued customers. Once they are, innovation and efficiency will fill the gap governments and NGOs have not been able to satisfy. The market for affordable housing amounts to more than $5 trillion.

More than 1.5 billion people in the world lack houses that are sustainable and able to cater to their needs. More than 330 million of them live in slums, where poor quality housing compounds the problems of unsanitary practices and overcrowding. This number is projected to rise by another million by 2025.

Govindarajan and Sarkar believe that the secret to affordable and sustainable homes lies in three “D’s”: dignity, durability and delight. Building homes out of waste material furthers inequality and the segregation of poor communities from the richer. The house must be built of out materials that would maintain the dignity of the poor.

The house should also be durable because a house that constantly falls into disrepair will end up being more expensive to the owners. It should also be appealing to the eye and enjoyable to live in. When owners regard their house as more of a home rather than just their living quarters, they will be more inclined to look after it.

Harvey Lacey, an engineer from Texas, took these ideas even further. He calls his concept Ubuntublox, where people build their houses themselves. This helps create an attachment to the house and teaches them the skills they would need to maintain it.

— Radhika Singh

Sources: The Guardian, Harvard Business Review 1, Harvard Business Review 2, Harvard Business Review 3, Harvard Business Review 4
Photo: Flickr


6 Reasons Cob Houses Could Shelter the Poor

1. Cob is one of the world’s most common building materials. It is similar to clay, but is a mixture of lumps of earth, sand, and straw. These materials are not difficult to obtain and are often incredibly cheap.

2. Because it does not use bricks, wooden structures, or particular forms, it is easy to shape. Historically, cob houses were shaped and mixed by people through shoveling and stomping, or by large animals, such as horses and oxen. There are many natural builders who consult and help train people to build with cob.

3. Cob houses are perfect for extreme conditions; they are cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They are ideal for places of either cold climates or desert conditions. They can absorb substantial amounts of rain without softening. Only when it is completely submerged with water will it become more likely that the home with erode with time. However, with a sturdy roof and thick walls, it will be nearly impossible to drench and destroy the house.

4. Using cob as a building material does not contribute to deforestation and pollution. By building homes out of cob, builders conserve and protect the environment.

5. Everyone appreciates the opportunity to add personal touches to their home. Cob houses can be easily and quickly painted with clays and natural dyes.

6. Cob houses stand the test of time. Some of the oldest enduring cob homes are in Devon, England and New Zealand. However, Africa, India, and the Middle East also have a long history of cob construction. One of the most notable is the Emara Palace in Najran, Saudi Arabia. In south Yemen, there is a cob city called Shibam. Near the border of Ghana, Africa, there are many towns filled with cob homes. If these buildings have lasted 100 plus years, cob houses are proof that we can shelter the poor in sturdy, protective, and lasting homes.

Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: Barefoot Builder, Cob Cottage Company, Devon Earth Buildings, Inspiration Green, Network Earth
Photo: Inspiration Green