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Habitat for Humanity Argentina and its “Recycled Homes” Program

Challenge Your World Pitch

 Organization

The Argentine economic collapse of 2001 left 44 percent of the population living under the poverty line and those already facing housing issues with little places to turn. Habitat for Humanity came to Argentina in 2002 to help those in need with various projects that include interest free loans, housing adjustments, and renovations of abandoned properties in the city among many other programs. Hábitat para la Humanidad Argentina (Habitat for Humanity Argentina or HPHA) has since assisted more than 540 families with housing solutions as well as helped more than 1200 families improve their housing conditions. Currently, HPHA is active in the Provinces of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Salta. It offers families that live in inadequate conditions the opportunity to give a solution to their housing problems by approaching the issues in a comprehensive manner. It facilitates sustainable human and community development by building on the potential and the resources of the community and its members.

Vision of Habitat for Humanity

 “A world where everyone lives in a decent place.”

(Mission of Habitat for Humanity)

(Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.)

Overview of Project

The city of Buenos Aires, Argentina is home to 30 percent of the country’s population. Current trends indicate that by the year 2015, 89 percent of the population of Argentina will live in cities.[1] Buenos Aires will be negatively affected by this population increase since it will spur the growth of inadequate homes and slums. HPHA hopes to make a positive effect in the current downward trend.

Through an interdisciplinary study carried out in 2007, HPHA identified the different populations living in inadequate housing in the city of Buenos Aires and made a strategic decision to focus on the families living in one specific target group, which was not being addressed by any public or civil agency. The target group includes families in the La Boca neighborhood that live in vulnerable housing, which means they pay rent to live in hotels, rundown tenement buildings or squatter houses and lack public or private alternatives to improve their housing situation. The project is entitled Urban Solutions for Buenos Aires.

There are three crucial circumstances affecting urban poor rental conditions that influenced the design of this HPHA endeavor:

1.   The rental conditions in the City of Buenos Aires that result in discrimination towards the families in our target population. – Families are restricted from accessing mainstream housing options due to a lack of history in the formal rental market, lack of property to use as collateral for renting, inability to pay an additional required monetary deposit, and employment in the informal job market.

2.   The existence of an unhealthy and deteriorating environment in the area of La Boca – The antiquated housing is located on the contaminated river Riachuelo. The homes were built with materials containing contaminants and lack ventilation among several other other issues.

3.   The effects of climate change in the southern region of Buenos Aires -, La Boca is located in this southern region that has recently been subject to flooding.

This project aims at contributing to make Buenos Aires a livable, inclusive and sustainable city for the 306,000[2] people that live in inadequate conditions in hotels, rundown tenement buildings and squatter houses, and to have an impact on the 9,000 people  that live in these conditions in the neighborhood of La Boca.[3]

The project intends to do the aforementioned through four innovative elements:

1.   It addresses the issue of scarce availability of land in large cities by reutilizing urban spaces.

2.   It addresses one of the main causes underlying the housing emergency in the city of Buenos Aires: the lack of access to the formal rental market. It proposes the concept of “Fair Rentals,” whichin its application includes charging a “market rate rent.” There will also be a “fair rent” calculated based off of actual costs to maintain the building. The difference between the market rate rent and the fair rent will be saved for the family to use once they move out of the apartment and will serve as a pathway to permanence in the family’s need for sustainable housing.

3.   It addresses a target population that is usually unattended: families informally renting inadequate overcrowded rooms in tenancy buildings in the City of Buenos Aires.

4.   Lastly, it uses a design that is energy efficient and environmentally friendly. The Fair Rentals device ensures a return of the investment, which will be reinvested on the replication of the project.

There are four components that allow the project to have its full intentioned effects of 1) improving human and community development in urban communities, 2) creating livable cities where citizens can take advantage of public services and obtain the right to adequate housing, and 3) limiting the impact on the environment through sustainability and efficiency.

The project components that will fulfill the above-mentioned goal are as follows:

  • Recycled Homes: HPHA has selected an underutilized building to reuse in the creation of the new apartment complex. It is at Hernandarias 674, Buenos Aires, Argentina in the neighborhood of La Boca. It is waiting to be demolished so the new complex can be built.
  • Assisted Rentals: Families of the target group will be selected and offered a rental period of a maximum of four years. During which the rent is set at a market rate, but a fair rent is calculated by HPHA. This fair rent is a function of the cost, maintenance, and life span. At the end of the four-year rental period, the families that leave the building will receive their share of the difference between the market rent and the fair rent, which should total $5000 USD. They will also leave with a history of renting in the formal market.
  • Neighborhood Improvement: There will be twenty-eight Habitat Tent events in the southern zone of the City of Buenos Aires during which HPHA will offer technical assistance and training focusing on housing improvements.
  • Laboratory of Support for Sustainable Housing (LAVS): LAVS will be a competition of innovative ideas that improve the housing conditions of families in the target group. It will be designed through strategic alliances with academic institutions. HPHA will monitor, evaluate, and fund (through grants) the implementation of the best ideas or projects. Through this program, HPHA will be looking to: a) achieve five strategic alliances that add value to the work of LAVS, b) design and test at least three prototypes of innovative, sustainable and inclusive housing solutions for the neighborhood of La Boca, and c) publicize the tested prototypes.

Project History

Between 2008 and 2009, HPHA secured the bulk of the necessary funds required to implement the first building of the “Recycling Homes” model.

The implementation involved the selection of a building on the market in the southern zone of the City of Buenos Aires, La Boca, for demolition later this year; the design of the future building and hiring of the construction firm being finalized; and materials and key parts (such as iron and elevator) of the future building being secured and stored. The aforementioned tasks have all been achieved.  

In 2011, HPHA has just been granted the permission to start the construction of the first building. HPHA is currently still looking for around $180,000 to complete the total costs of the first building. HPHA is searching for donors, volunteers, and other interested parties who wish to contribute to the vision and objectives of Urban Solutions in Buenos Aires. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact international@hpha.org.ar.

HPHA also runs an international volunteer program. If you are interesting in participating, please contact voluntariado_internacional@hpha.org.ar. All positions require at least a three-month time commitment and an intermediate level of Spanish.


[1]   Argentina: Demographic changes towards 2025. Susana Torrado. February 2004.

[2]   “Buenos Aires without a Roof.” President of the Housing Commission. Legislation of the CABA. Pg 107.

[3]   “Buenos Aires without a Roof.” President of the Housing Commission. Legislation of the CABA. Pg 62.

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