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Habitat for Humanity Strengthens Operations in India -- New Office in New Delhi Part of Expansion

November 23, 2004

NEW DELHI, 23rd November 2004: Habitat for Humanity International, a non-profit ecumenical Christian housing ministry, is strengthening operations in India with new programs and new offices designed to bring more safe, decent, affordable homes to poor families in need.

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Ambitious new programs are accelerating the number of homes Habitat for Humanity builds. In the 12 months to June 2005, some 3,000 more families should benefit from Habitat homes, bringing to more than 10,000 the number of Habitat homes built in India to date.

“We have exciting plans to work with communities in the eight poorest states in the north in order to provide decent shelter to families in need,” said Barry Mackey, regional program manager for Habitat for Humanity International. “We also plan to establish a presence in the northeast by mid-2005.”

Mackey was speaking at celebrations to mark the official opening of Habitat for Humanity’s new offices in Chittranjan Park. The office oversees Habitat’s operations in north India as well as acting as an international liaison office. Habitat recently opened an office in Mumbai to focus on resource development, fund raising and relations with the corporate sector. A third Habitat office, in Banglalore, oversees operations in the southern half of the country.

Habitat builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses with the help of the homeowner families. Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit, financed with affordable, inflation-adjusted, zero-interest mortgage loans. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments go into a revolving fund and are used to build still more Habitat houses. In addition, homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor – “sweat equity” – into building their Habitat house and the houses of others.

A new program in India is Habitat’s innovative “Save & Build” micro-credit program. A group of ten to 12 families saves money and materials together. When there are enough savings for one house, Habitat provides a matching loan to build two more, and construction commences on the first three houses. After about two years, everyone in the group has a home. Groups elect their own leaders – often women – who manage and monitor members’ savings, decide which families are housed in which order, and provide “sweat equity” for construction. Two “Save & Build” pilot projects are planned to start in the coming months.

Habitat carries out much of its work in India though more than a dozen active affiliates. These independent, locally-run community level groups that select families, manage repayments, fund-raise and organize construction – often involving foreign and Indian outside volunteers to keep costs down.

In addition, Habitat partners with other non-governmental organizations, providing housing expertise in ambitious development programs designed to transform whole communities. In Gujarat, for example, Habitat worked with World Vision International to provide 541 homes as part of a disaster relief initiative.

Habitat also works with socially-responsible businesses keen to support communities they work in. A pilot project with Hindalco Heavy Industries, part of the Aditya Birla Group, saw Habitat build 24 homes last year. Discussions are under way with Hindalco to extend this program to reach 300 families in the next three years.

To support Habitat’s increased activities, special resources centers are being established, initially in Bangalore and New Delhi. The centers will allow Habitat to share its expertise in house design and construction as well as fund-raising, and volunteer and project management, with partner organizations and volunteers. The resource centers are due to open in early 2005.

Habitat is pushing ahead with delivering on its vision that everyone has a decent place to live following a recent restructuring and streamlining of its operations. As well as new offices in New Delhi and Mumbai, a national trust is being established to manage the Habitat mortgage portfolio in India, including managing mortgage repayments from Habitat homeowners and recycling them to the benefit of new homeowners in India.

Habitat for Humanity International opened in India in 1983. There are currently 12 active Habitat affiliates working in southern, eastern and western India. A number of new partnerships are being formed with corporate supporters and non-governmental organizations to bring decent homes to those in need in northern India.