Developing real estate for squatters and tenants of the City of Buenos Aires

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Developing real estate for squatters and tenants of the City of Buenos Aires

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

As most large cities, Buenos Aires has more unused or badly used buildings than families in need of housing. Two families are often found paying a market rate rent to share a small room where cooking, studying, sleeping and playing all take place, with communal toilets in deteriorating buildings. Habitat for Humanity Argentina's Recycling Urban Homes project develops torn down buildings, to be rented to these squatter families at a market rate. The difference between this rate and a "Fair Rent" is set aside as savings, so that the family can leave its HPHA Assisted Rent programme with a track record and savings to step out of the poverty housing cycle. These urban projects develop the city with sustainable and culturally adapted building, and provide a way out for marginalised families

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Families living in squalid squatter conditions in the inner city of Buenos Aires. These are mostly families headed by women, with many children and descendants of immigrants from neighbouring countries such as Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru or the poorer provinces of Argentina. These families are unable to rent since there is more demand than supply of apartments to rent, and families with these characteristics are usually discriminated against. Also, they do not have the guarantees (property collateral, previous rental experience, initial deposit) to be able to rent. The city of Buenos Aires desperately needs new solutions for these families as even the squatter buildings become overcrowde and the number of fires and buldings collapsing grows.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Recycling urban homes integrates the way in which the private sector operates and interacts in the city, with a socially oriented project aimed at helping those in most need of decent housing in the city. By learning from the for-profit sector in terms of real estate development, construction and design, it is able to provide housing solutions that mix and match with the urban fabric. This avoids the creation of "social housing apartments" or stygmatized buildings. The buildings are purchased and developed with a mix of loans and grants to provide the flexibility that the non-profit sector needs, and the efficiency that the creditors seek. The financial engineering includes the gradual sale of the apartments to a mixed market in order to ensure the final integration of the building into the community. The situation in Buenos Aires is unique - in terms of the property collateral and garantees required, and overrated rentals, forcing families with enough income to rent decent apartments, to live as squatters in illegal tenemant housing or hotels. The corresponding solution is therefore also unique: a social housing project based on Rentals, Real Estate Development, sustainable building policies (green roofs, solar energy and rain water utilization with the support of a large construction company: Bovis Lend Lease). Whilst the government offers grants for evicted families to rent - at best in these squalid hotels, and NGO's are forced to build outside the city perimeters for lack of land, this project dares to undertake city development on behalf of the poor.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The initial stage of the project was to raise awareness that Rents CAN be a housing solution, and to raise the money for the first pilot project. We were able to get the project approved by Habitat for Humanity International, and even get an initial approval for a UN Habitat loan. Later we obtained the support of Arcelor Mittal, Whirlpool, individual donors, Ascensores Guillelmi and Fundación Acindar. Whilst we work through the tedious process of urban building permissions (over a year so far), we have spent the time using the tenemant building we purchased to have public exhibitions of the conditions in squatter houses, and the urgent need for this kind of solutions. This raised interest from the media, government, banks and potential donors for future projects. Over 300 people came through the building to see an exhibition of Urban Housing Conditions prepared by volunteers. So far we have the intention of the city government to donate property to the project, and of the City Bank to facilitate the savings of the families. The project is being presented by the City Legislature as a "Project of Cultural Interest". The success indicators for the first phase was the money raised. The success indicators for the current stage is permissions granted. Success indicators for the final stage when the building is occupied, will be the level of families served; the timeliness of payments; the maintenance of the building; and the ability of the building to attract investment for future projects.
About You
Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina

Organization Phone


Organization Address

Esmeralda 3430, Florida, Buenos Aires

Organization Country

, C

Country where this project is creating social impact

, C

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

I began my career working with children of homeless single mothers on the streets of Buenos Aires. Besides running day care centres, we sought decent housing for them and learned about the conditions within the squatter houses, tenemant houses and hotels. Whilst some families chose the slums (villa miserias), most single women did not dare face the violence which could be found in them, and chose parks, abandoned houses or temporary homes.
Twenty years on, as Director of Habitat for Humanity Argentina, I found myself facing the same population again, only with even worse conditions.
A team of professionals undertook to study the situation of housing in the City of Buenos Aires, and might have missed this group of technically homeless families hidden in abandoned houses or illegal hotels - thus escaping most statistics. But with the tips from my previous experience, plus the help of several of the children from the Day Care Centre now in their 20's, we were able to get inside the buildings and hotels, and inside the "typical life" of these over 100.000 families with a large majority of women and children descendants of marginalized neighbouring countries such as Bolivia, Peru or Paraguay.
With the support of a team of vigorous, committed young professionals daring to take on the bureaucracy and daunting complications of the City and Greater Buenos Aires with its 14 million strong population, I am sure that this will be a pilot project which paves the way for numerous successors!

Social Impact
How many people have been impacted by your project?

101 - 1,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

THe main barrier is the bureaucracy of housing permissions in the City of Buenos Aires. There are no special conditions for non profit projects, and our organization is unfamiliar with the procedures.
In order to minimize these obstacles, the project has had a very high emphasis on awareness and advocacy at all levels. This project is seen not only as one building, but as paving the way for future, bigger projects.
The second barrier comes from the risk of intrusion of the property. The housing situation is deteriorating weekly, and more and more families are seeking squatter accommodation. Having an empty building is high risk.
In order to reduce the risk we have volunteers frequenting the building, alarm systems, and public relations in the neighbourhood and with the poli

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Building is expected to begin in January 2011. By the end of 2011 we will have a 4 story building with 7 apartments to rend, and a ground floor dedicated to cultural and social activities.
Also during 2011 we will begin the process to start the second building (fundraising - including social investors).
From 2012 to 2013 the families will be renting, saving and receiving education and training from our organization to empower them to seek a definitive solution, or enter the formal renting market, leaving the Habitat apartment available for new families. (Families are expected to be with HPHA for 2 to 4 years maximum).
The cultural and social activities on the ground floor include arts and crafts of La Boca, workshops and awareness of housing situation in Buenos Aires.

For each selection, please explain the financial and non-financial support from each

Financial support:
Foundations, Businesses and Individuals have so far provided the U$D 390.000 required to purchase and develop the "conventillo" in La Boca, Buenos Aires.
For future projects, we have the intention that the City Government will provide the building to be developed.
The families renting the building will pay rent and their portion of the expenses required for the upkeep.
After 2 years, between one and two apartments will be sold to the general public to re-invest in a new project.
Non-financial support:
The National Government has given us their written support for the project which helped us with the negotiation for a UN Habitat loan. (We finally did not take this loan since we obtained a grant instead)
Families will be selected and supported by local NGO's partnering with HPHA. In addition the ground floor space for cultural and social activities will be run by a consortium of local NGO's, volunteers and the families themselves.
The project is financially viable for a private loan to cover 50% of the costs and be returned at low risk, low interes, in between 5 and 10 years.

How do you plan to grow and/or diversify your base of support in the next three years?

The first project was chosen in La Boca... the tango cultural artistic neighbourhood of Buenos Aires (and also one of the poorest barrios). This was intentional in order to give this first pilot project visibility.
Advocacy, awareness and visibility will be a strong strategy over the next three years to attract support for further buildings.
On the other hand, networking with local NGO's and ensuring strong communal agreements within the apartment block will be key to ensure the succes and positive visibility of this first project.
In addition in 2011, HPHA will be joining Habitat for Humanity International's capital campaign "A World of Hope: its starts a home" through which we envisage support from both local and international social investors and donors.

Please select your areas of intervention in the home improvement market

Design, Technology, Property rights, Sanitation, Water, Infrastructure, Energy conservation, Renewable energy, Green housing, Environment, Urban development, Citizen/community participation, Public policy.

Is your innovation addressing barriers in the home improvement/progressive housing market? If so, please describe in detail your mechanisms of intervention

In Buenos Aires today, about 100.000 families are excluded from the possibility to improve their housing situation given that they do not have the conditions to obtain a loan for housing (lack of income and savings), and that they are unable to rent. This latter exclusion is due to the reigning conditions in Buenos AIres where it is necessary to have a property in the city of Buenos AIres as collateral for the rent, as well as track record renting and a considerable down payment. Our project provides a way out of this exclusion, by providing decent rents in reconstructed delapidated urban buildings, whereby families have 2 to 4 years of decent housing while they prepare to either rent in the formal market or save up to purchase.
HPHA offers one practical solution through the renovated apartments, but it also uses the project as visibility and awareness to gradually change the conditions in the renting market as well as the public policies surrounding construction by NGO's in the city.

Are you currently collaborating with private companies, or have you partnered with private companies in the past? With which companies?

We are partnering with Acindar (providing the steel), Guillelmi (providing a significant donation for the lift), Whirlpool (providing the kitchen appliances).
We also have corporate social responsibility projects (including financing and volunteering) with Cisco, Citi, Ford, GE, Accenture, Goldman & Sachs, Intel, Novartis, Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Please describe in detail the nature of the partnership(s)

In general the companies have joined Habitat for Humanity through work teams participating in the communities where we build. In several cases this has turned into a larger proposal including financing of housing loans, training, etc.

Select the unit(s) with which the partnership was formed

Corporate social responsibility department, HR department, Sales department.