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Habitat for Humanity Latin America and the Caribbean
Advocacy Network Newsletter
Habitat for Humanity’s Advocacy Network Newsletter is a collective initiative of Habitat’s national and regional offices in Latin America and the Caribbean. It seeks to promote collective spaces in which to strengthen the process of influencing public policy on a local, national and regional level. This first edition highlights key advocacy initiatives in 10 different countries, and has been created in collaboration with civil society, community groups, women, and governments.
By Torre Nelson, Area Vice-president, Habitat for Humanity Latin America and the Caribbean.
Argentina: Advocating for secure tenure in La Matanza, Buenos Aires
The quest for secure tenure in the informal settlement of La Matanza, Buenos Aires has been an initiative of Habitat for Humanity Argentina (HFHA) over the last three years. Legal literacy plays a fundamental role in this project, raising awareness among the population in regards to their rights and possible options. Read more
Bolivia: Secure land tenure project with a focus on gender
This project aims to improve access to urban land and guarantee secure tenure through the strengthening of civil societies, the empowerment of 300 female heads of household, and the development of political advocacy processes that will transform the legal framework on a departmental level, with national affects, ensuring secure tenure for at least three thousand women heads of households and marginalized families in the District 9 settlement of Cochabamba city. Read more
Brazil: Municipal plans for social housing
Habitat for Humanity Brazil has been developing plans for social municipal housing since July of 2009, starting with the Olinda municipality in Pernambuco, Brazil. The organization has recently finalized the Olinda plan, has agreed to execute it in the municipality plan of Salgueiro, and will be developing three more plans in the State of Pernambuco. In each situation, Habitat for Humanity Brazil has been involved in public meetings and has achieved the selection of their proposals. Read more
Chile: Housing and the City Watchdog, promoting teamwork
The Housing and the City Watchdog is a network that promotes the articulation of civil society organizations in relation to urban and housing issues in Chile from a human rights perspective. Through this network, multiple actions have been accomplished in regard to the right to the city. Read more
Costa Rica: Advocating for access to housing
Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica’s advocacy initiatives are mainly concentrated in the context of FINANVIVIENDA, a group of financial entities that work for social housing. Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica forms part of this group. Read more
El Salvador: From practical experience to advocacy
The projects mentioned here serve as a reference point for influencing local and central government institutions and for the holistic implementation of projects. One of the lessons learned is that, from a programmatic standpoint, we can and should get involved in advocacy activities and through this demonstrate what we do to help improve the housing conditions of low-income families. Read more
Honduras: 10 municipalities with social housing policies
In July of 2008, Habitat for Humanity Honduras launched the project “Advocacy in Public Policy for Access to Housing”. The objective is to influence, in partnership with strategic partners such as the Honduran Council on Social Housing (COHVISOL), in the formulation of municipal housing policies of government agencies and the implementation of social housing programs within these policies. Read more
Mexico: “Social Producers of Housing” Network
Habitat for Humanity Mexico, along with 23 other organizations dedicated to defending the right to adequate housing, have joined forces in the “Social Producers of Housing” Network. The network was created as a mechanism of coordination, communication and exchange of information among organizations that produce housing by way of the Social Production of Habitat. This network has been recognized by the national housing commission, with the objective of improving the living conditions of the country’s lowest-income families. Read more
Paraguay: Intersectoral bureau moves forward in the formulation of public policy
In 2010, an Intersectoral Bureau of Habitat and Housing was institutionalized in Paraguay, establishing its mission as a space for intersectoral convergence, with public, private and civil society representatives connected to relevant housing issues. The Bureau is composed of committed and motivated members that are representative of all sectors of public, private and civil society in relation to housing and habitat. Read more
Peru: Intersectoral Bureau advances in public policy
The Habitat for Humanity regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, under the project “Strengthening Housing Microfinance Systems in Peru – BID/FOMIN,” developed a process of consultation/research to identify causes, problems and evidence of the inefficiencies of the “Techo Propio” program, and to initiate a process of impact on stakeholders to promote necessary changes in the program. Read more
To learn more about Habitat for Humanity in Latin America and the Caribbean, please visit habitatlatino.org.
In this first newsletter we highlight Habitat for Humanity’s progress in several advocacy initiatives currently being promoted by national organizations and our regional office in Latin America and the Caribbean. These initiatives include partnerships with women, men, communities, networks, social movements, volunteers, civil society organizations, governments and the private sector.
Through collective action, we can carve a path towards the transformation of systems, policies and attitudes that produce and reproduce the conditions of land tenure, housing, habitat, and the city, and that cause a large sector of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean to continue living in vulnerability.
The initiatives presented in this issue express a methodological profile of each initiative: starting with the context of the specific problem, the articulation of the actors involved in defining, designing and promoting legislation, policies, decisions and other alternative instruments distinct to each reality. Each case implies various factors: capacity development, information, awareness raising, partnership and collective organization and willingness to take action.
It also makes evident the scale of impact that advocacy initiatives can generate. For example, through a process of dialogue with the government the advocacy action network, “Social Housing Producers”, in which Habitat for Humanity Mexico is a member, has succeeded in changing the framework of federal grants in Mexico, resulting in 9,000 families gaining access to improved housing conditions.
We appreciate the fact that each of these experiences serves to enrich our knowledge and heighten our collective impact.
Habitat for Humanity International
Latin America and the Caribbean Region
In Argentina land titles are needed if families hope to obtain government subsidies, reduce marginalization and achieve recognition of their right of citizenship and the right to the city. As long as the government continues to ignore the existence of informal settlements (originated in 1986 and formalized by a municipal announcement in 2001) residents will continue to lack basic public services such as garbage collection, sewers, etc.
The quest for secure tenure in a demarcation* of La Matanza, Buenos Aires has been an initiative of Habitat for Humanity Argentina (HFHA) over the last three years. Legal literacy plays a fundamental role in this project, raising awareness among the population in regard to their rights and possible options.
The settlements 22 de Enero, Puerta de Hierro and St. Petersburg on the outskirts of Ciudad Evita are collectively covered by a provincial government decree which grants land rights to the families residing in these settlements. According to the decree, the government is also required to provide property titles. For more than eight years, however various issues have prevented the granting of these titles; a fact which, among other things, makes it difficult for families to obtain housing subsidies as approved by Caritas Nacional Argentina. For Habitat for Humanity Argentina, this situation is unjust and unacceptable.
In the struggle to resolve this chronic situation, HFHA has the gained the support of a group of more than 20 pro bono lawyers from Marval O’Farrell and Mair. HFHA works in partnership with the local entity “Fundacion Concordia” to coordinate activities with grassroots organizations, local parishes, Caritas Nacional Argentina and other national human rights associations. In addition, 1 Partido, a demarcated territory in the province of Buenos Aires, works closely with the community of 22 de Enero.
Habitat for Humanity Argentina supports the 22 de Enero settlement in a comprehensive manner through community development and support in the social production of habitat. As a result, more than 40 families have accessed loans for incremental improvements, more than 60 families have received technical assistance and more than 150 families have participated in legal and financial literacy programs.
Through the mobilization of willing volunteers, it has been possible to rebuild a sense of hope that was lost in 2004 because of excessive delays in government response. With that hope, and drive, the neighborhood continues to build their future and requesting from authorities a response in regards to their right to the city.
The path of partnership and legal pressure that HFHA is adopting may take up to ten years time, and must be accompanied by professionals who can volunteer their time and convert the needs of the people into an adequate response.
In partnership with others and through a relationship with local government, the initiative seeks to achieve the necessary political will to resolve a situation that has been stagnant for a decade, and as a result for 15,000 people to gain access to legal tenure.
*In Spanish, “partido”: Referring to territorial demarcations in the province of Buenos Aires.
Insecurity of land tenure is one of the main barriers for reducing inequality. This barrier must be resolved in order to move towards more equitable development and promote better living conditions for women-headed households and vulnerable families.
Habitat for Humanity Bolivia launched the project “Improving Access to urban land and property rights for women and excluded families in Bolivia” for a period of five years.
The goal of the project is to improve access to urban land and guarantee secure tenure through the strengthening of civil societies, the empowerment of 300 female heads of household, and the development of political advocacy processes that will transform the legal framework on a departmental level, with national affects, ensuring secure tenure for at least three thousand women heads of households and marginalized families in the District 9 settlement of Cochabamba city.
The project is being implemented in collaboration with strategic, national partners including: local citizenship, Grupo Nacional de Trabajo Participativo, Gregoria Apaza, Fundación Pro Hábitat and the María Auxiliadora Community. It is managed in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity Great Britain and the regional office of Habitat for Humanity Latin America and the Caribbean.
There are five main results for the first year of the project:
- Implement a women’s leadership school in the subject of secure land tenure.
- Create a participatory outcomes mapping process with a focus on gender.
- Conduct two technical investigations; legal and urban.
- Mobilize 150 volunteers in the process.
- Facilitate an internal forum.
In addition to grassroots actors in District 9, participation in the official project launch (June 2010) included Departmental Assembly authorities; Torre Nelson, Vice-president of the Habitat for Humanity Latin America and the Caribbean office; Elizabeth Blake, Vice-president for Habitat for Humanity International Government Relations and Advocacy; Ian Pearce, the chief executive officer of the Habitat for Humanity UK program; Rodrigo Vargas, Planning Monitoring and Evaluation Manager; Maria Liusa Zanelli, Advocacy Manager for Habitat for Humanity Latin America and the Caribbean; Professors of Duke University and Claire Demaret of the British Embassy.
Transform the legal framework for secure land tenure at a departmental and national level, removing barriers to secure land tenure for some three thousand families.
The approval of Federal Law No. 11.124 in 2005 was a product of housing movements and organizations struggling to defend urban reform, including Habitat for Humanity Brazil. The law created the National Housing System of Social Interests (NHSSI) and declared that states, municipalities and federal districts must integrate NHSSI and the resources of the National Fund for Social Housing (NFSHI) shall be executed through such federal entities.
The same law defines, among other necessary procedures for the integration NHSSI, the creation of funds and housing councils and the establishment of Social Interest Housing Plans (HPSI). These plans consist of a set of goals, objectives, guidelines and instruments of intervention that expresses the understanding of local governments and social partners in regards to how planning should be directed toward the local housing sector.
Habitat for Humanity Brazil has been developing municipal plans for social housing since July of 2009, beginning with the municipality of Olinda in the state of Pernambuco.
The organization has recently finalized the Olinda plan, has agreed to execute it in the municipality plan of Salgueiro, and will be developing three more plans in the State of Pernambuco. In each situation, Habitat for Humanity Brazil has been involved in public meetings and has achieved the selection of their proposals. The resources for these services are provided by the federal government and the municipality of Olinda.
The plan is outlined in the following stages: development of the methodology and work plans, diagnostic of the housing sector, generation of information, interviews, meetings, analysis, action plans, guidelines, goals, programmatic framework, programs, actions, targets and indicators, resources, funding sources and monitoring and evaluation systems. The entire process is participative by way of meetings and workshops among the various local agents.
Habitat for Humanity Brazil considers that is essential to contribute in strengthening civil society for the promotion, protection and advocacy, as well as the structuring of political systems.
Habitat for Humanity Brazil considers that the process of HPSI is a strategic move towards ensuring the right to adequate housing based on the participation of local society, making possible the establishment of priorities and means to promote affordable housing.
National Director of HFH Brazil
The Housing and the City Watchdog is a network that promotes the articulation of civil society organizations in relation to urban and housing issues in Chile from a human rights perspective. Through this network, multiple actions have been accomplished in regard to the right to the city in six strategic areas:
- Full exercise of citizenship.
- Social functions of land and the city.
- Democratic management of the city.
- Democratic production of the city.
- Sustainable management of natural resources and energy.
- Democratic and equitable enjoyment of the city.
Habitat for Humanity Chile has played a key role in this process as a facilitator and content provider. During a 2010 workshop focused on reconstruction issues, Habitat Chile was one of 8 institutions that presented reconstruction models in operation. In this case Participatory Housing Repair in the Peralillo community of Region VI, O’Higgins.
The initiative seeks social action and a framework for urban housing policy.
La The current Law regarding the National Financing System for Housing originates in 1986, and needs to be updated so as to relate to the current day context. For nearly a quarter of a century, the Costa Rican government has provided generous subsidies for housing construction or repair to economically vulnerable families. However, the paperwork and bureaucracy required to access these subsidies is extensive and complex.
The current government-driven housing solutions for the elderly are also inadequate. To cite just one example: it is required that in houses built with government subsidy the elderly live alone, in one unit with a single bedroom.
Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica’s advocacy initiatives are mainly concentrated in the context of FINANVIVIENDA, a group of financial entities that work for social housing. Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica forms part of this group.
Advocacy initiatives through this group are directed in three ways:
- Participate with and support from other organizations, particularly in the context of FINANVIVIENDA and other actors in the social housing sector.
- Contribute to the process of simplifying the government housing fund.
- Contribute to the reformation of the Care for the Elderly System.
The goal if the initiative is the reformation of the Housing Finance System law and the Care for the Elderly System, as well as reducing the bureaucracy in obtaining Housing Fund subsidies.
Rafael A. Vargas
In 2007 Habitat for Humanity El Salvador launched the project, “Charlotte Model Community,” in which 60 families were able to significantly improve their housing conditions. This was possible by way of a comprehensive approach that included land, housing, social and community infrastructure and community development.
Based on the Charlotte community, in 2009 the project “Thrivent Hope Village” began, serving and partnering with 75 Salvadoran families who were otherwise unable to access adequate housing due to their socioeconomic conditions.
In November 2009 Habitat El Salvador initiated a holistic initiative entitled, “Strengthening the Getsemani Community.” In partnership with 138 families living in extreme poverty in the department of Ahuachapán, the initiative addressed housing needs and strengthened elements such as local leadership, community health, economic solidarity and the exchange of experiences. The project will be completed in 2012.
Funding for these projects has been supported by partners such as Habitat for Humanity Charlotte (an affiliated organization of Habitat for Humanity International), Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, the Myers Park Presbyterian Church in North Carolina, Habitat for Humanity International headquarters and local partners.
These initiatives incorporate key elements such as: partnerships, grants to families to ensure access to housing solutions, combined funding modalities (subsidy and credit), a holistic approach to resolving housing issues and community participation and organization.
The above mentioned projects are used as benchmarks to influence local governments and central and state institutions for the implementation of holistic projects. One of the lessons learned is that, from a programmatic standpoint, we can and should get involved in advocacy activities and through this demonstrate what we do to help improve the housing conditions of low-income families.
Upcoming advocacy initiatives in El Salvador include: an awareness-raising campaign regarding housing as a human right, a “Build Louder” volunteer work team facilitated by the Government Relations and Advocacy office in Washington, D.C. and advocacy training workshops.
That local government, central and state institutions will respond appropriately with a holistic approach to resolving the housing needs of low-income families.
The housing deficit in Honduras is estimated at 1 million 150 thousand households (General Directorate and Urbanism of Honduras). Sixty-five percent of this corresponds to a qualitative deficit – houses in precarious conditions with walls, floors and ceilings that are either damaged or constructed with unstable materials, overcrowded housing and housing that lacks access to basic services.
Each year the quantitative deficit is increased by approximately 25,000 homes. To date, the demand is about 400,000 new homes (General Directorate and urbanism of Honduras).
In July of 2008, Habitat for Humanity Honduras launched the project “Advocacy in Public Policy for Access to Housing”. The objective is to influence, in partnership with strategic partners such as the Honduran Council on Social Housing (COHVISOL), in the formulation of municipal housing policies of government agencies and the implementation of social housing programs within these policies.
The participation of Habitat for Humanity Honduras volunteers that are integrated into regional and local committees has been fundamental in lobbying for housing policies, thanks to the local and regional leadership of these volunteers and their link to various church institutions, business, professional, educational, etc.
The municipal policy guidelines that governments have adopted vary according to the context of each municipality, but share the common trait of having a direct benefit upon the lowest-income families and vulnerable groups such as: single mothers, families living in high-risk areas and ethnic groups.
Key guidelines that have been approved to be included in municipal housing policies:
- Municipalities recognize the urgency of working to resolve housing issues in partnership with public and private institutions and civil society organizations. To this end, a section of the policy includes the creation of an inter-agency committee to address housing issues in coordination with other stakeholders.
- That houses should be “adequate housing solutions”, promoting the physical and emotional safety of families. They must meet the basic conditions for the integral development of people, including access to basic services and construction in areas declared as safely habitable.
- The municipality is aware that, in order to reduce the housing deficit, the allocation and management of funds is a crucial factor and therefore assign a percentage of its annual budget towards investment in social interest housing projects. This allocation ranges from 3% to 5%, in addition to launching management processes with central government institutions, private enterprises and international institutions, and in conjunction with the inter-agency commission of social interest housing in the municipality.
- Municipalities are committed to providing facilities and exonerating the payment of building permit to families of at least three minimum wages, be these projects launched by non-governmental organizations or directly by the families.
- Housing is to be recognized as a basic element for the development of families and an important element for enhancing community development. The participation of families is stipulated in all stages of the development and construction of the project and community development projects are to be included.
Through the approval of social interest housing policies, local governments will institutionalize housing issues in their municipalities and ensure the centralization of municipal and state resources directed towards the resolution of housing issues, an important pillar for the welfare of its citizens.
In Mexico, there are several normative opportunities and policies:
- National law recognizes the Social Production of Habitat (SPH)* and the existence of a SPH program within the National Housing Commission (CONAVI).
- The formation of the Social Housing Producers Network (SPNH) as civil society government participant.
- The willingness of the State to dialogue with civil society organizations on the issue of subsidies (SPNH and CONAVI).
Habitat for Humanity Mexico, A.C., along with 23 other organizations dedicated to defending the right to adequate housing, are joining forces in the “Social Producers of Housing” Network. The network was created as a mechanism of coordination, communication and exchange of information among organizations that produce housing by way of the Social Production of Habitat. This network has been recognized by the national housing commission, with the objective of improving the living conditions of the country’s lowest-income families.
A key achievement of the SPNH has been to amend the rules of operation in regards to federally subsidized housing, focusing on very low-income families. These changes have led to the support of approximately 9,000 families with a total of US$18,400,000 (rate of exchange: $12.50).
The 2006 Housing Act in Mexico defines the social production of housing as that which is under the control of self-producers and self-builders that operate on a no-profit basis and are aimed primarily at meeting the housing needs of low-income families
Of the aforementioned totals and because of its advocacy work as members of SPNH, Habitat for Humanity Mexico, A.C. has been able to serve a total of 5,815 families with new homes, with a total of US$11,000,000 through federal subsidy alone and over a span of three years.
SPNH and Habitat for Humanity Mexico, A.C. as members, continue to work to establish the comprehensive technical assistance work of organizations and families as part of the federal subsidy. This involves modifications of the law that must be made both in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Arturo Hernández Ortega