Defining our terms

When we describe Habitat’s construction, rehabilitation and preservation work around the world, our stories frequently refer to different building categories and the quality standards that are our benchmarks.

So what’s it all mean? 

  • A new house is 100 percent newly constructed and fully meets Habitat’s Housing Quality Standards.
  • A rehabilitated house is a restoration of a dwelling that once met Habitat or local standards but has since deteriorated. To be counted, it must be fully restored to meet Housing Quality Standards and local codes.
  • An incremental build fully addresses one or more of the five Habitat for Humanity Housing Quality Standards. It can include basic services such as public water points or public latrines.
  • A repair includes patching, restoration or minor replacement of materials and building components to reduce the vulnerabilities of the family in the areas of health or safety. This work does not directly address any of the Housing Quality Standards.

What are those Housing Quality Standards? All Habitat construction activities must meet or exceed local codes and these five benchmarks:

1. Design

Each dwelling has at least two rooms, and each person in the household has a usable covered floor area of no less than 3.5 square meters (37.5 square feet). If the minimum standard for usable space has not yet been met, the house is situated so as to allow for future extension. Locally sourced materials and labor are used without adversely affecting the local economy or environment. The house is located so that risks from natural hazards or diseases are minimized.


2. Durability


In disaster-prone areas, construction and material specifications mitigate against future natural disasters. Structural materials are durable enough to allow safe refuge and exit in case of a natural disaster.


3. Secure tenure


Land and property ownership or use rights are established before occupation. Where use rights do not exist, there is de facto protection against evictions.


4. Water


People have safe and equitable access to palatable water for drinking, cooking and personal and domestic hygiene.


5. Sanitation


Communities have an adequate number of comfortable, hygienic toilets, sufficiently close to their dwellings to allow everyone rapid, safe and acceptable access at all times of the day and night.

Read more about why Habitat is needed — and how, together, we are making a difference.