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Habitat for Humanity signs agreements to boost presence in Vietnam

March 31, 2004

First-ever Asia-Pacific government partnership, with Danang City government, set to benefit nearly 400 families

DANANG, Vietnam, 31st March 2004: For the first time, Habitat for Humanity International is teaming up with a government partner in the Asia-Pacific region in order to bring safe, secure, affordable housing to low-income families.

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Homeowner Lam Thi Houng, a home parner in Habitat’s pilot Vietnam project, outside her soon-to-be completed home in Danang

An agreement has been signed with the People’s Committee of Danang City, in central Vietnam, to build homes for nearly 400 families over three years in two separate projects involving a total investment of US$257,000. The Danang Fatherland Front, part of an official nationwide welfare organization, is also a partner.

Some 192 families in the city and a similar number in Hoa Vang, an outlying rural district, are expected to benefit. The homes, between 24 and 35 sq. m. in size, are each expected to cost up to VND11 million (approximately US$750). They will be built with cement and bricks, and will feature galvanized iron roofing sheets and concrete floors.

The Vietnamese city authorities estimate there are 3,100 households living in substandard or temporary housing in Danang. Poor households in Vietnam are defined by the United Nations as having a daily income of less than 63 US cents per person per household.

The agreement marks a significant scaling up of Habitat’s activities in Vietnam. To date, Habitat has built 19 houses with three more planned under a pilot program under the auspices of non-governmental organization World Concern.

As with the pilot program, the new homes will be built using Habitat’s “Save & Build” approach, which brings together low-income families in a community to form savings groups. The groups, usually ten to twelve families strong, save money and materials together.

When a group has sufficient savings to build one house, Habitat normally provides matching loans to build two more, and construction on the three houses commences. In Danang, the Fatherland Front has agreed to supplement the savings of each participating family with a VND2 million grant.

Construction and saving continue until all group families are housed. A cycle normally takes about two years. Groups elect their own leaders – often women – to manage and monitor members’ savings, decide which families are housed in which order, and provide “sweat equity” – volunteer labor – for construction.

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Volunteers at a Habitat construction site, Danang, Vietnam

Laying bricks for a Habitat house, Danang, Vietnam

After the group has built all their houses they continue to save and pay off their outstanding no-profit, no-interest loans to Habitat. The repaid money becomes part of a revolving fund to assist further “Save & Build” groups.

Habitat for Humanity International is contributing US$100,000 to each project in the form of grants.

“This agreement with Danang people’s committee and the Fatherland Front is the first of its kind in Asia-Pacific for us,” said Steven Weir, regional vice president for Habitat for Humanity International. “Habitat works with individuals and groups of all backgrounds who share our view that everyone in the world should enjoy the dignity of a safe, secure affordable place they can call home.

“We look forward to seeing the two projects changing the lives of thousands of individuals in Danang, and we hope elsewhere in Vietnam.”

Habitat for Humanity Vietnam began operating in Vietnam in January 2001 through its partnership with World Concern. Habitat is currently registering in its own name with the central government in Hanoi.