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Kyrgyzstan: Big changes for the big house

“My joy overflows even the new roof of our building,” – says Ludmila Borishevskaya trying to put into words her feelings after fully repaying a Habitat loan last August. “When I paid everything back, I felt as if a mountain had dropped off my shoulders”, - she confesses.

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Ludmila has a room in the Soviet-style apartment complex in Bishkek.

Ludmila, a 65-year-old pensioner from Bishkek, Kyrgyz capital, who lost two children in a car accident, lives alone in a small studio in a condominium complex. This grey multiple-apartment building on the outskirts of the city was constructed in the Soviet Union days and for 20 years saw no maintenance. Not only individual flats needed face-lifting, but also the whole complex with its leaking roofs, desolate stairs and crumbling entrances called for immediate intervention.

In spring, when snow melted on the roof, apartments were flooded from the top to the ground floor. In winter, when additional heaters were used to keep homes warm, residents experienced frequent blackouts, as poor wiring could not cope with the excess voltage.

“Living in those poor conditions when the roof and walls leaked, making everything around wet, was terrible. I could only dream of a renovation. At times, life seemed to me a chain of impenetrable misery,” the pensioner shares. She was trying to save money to improve her apartment, but with her monthly income of 80 US dollars the task was impossible.

Ludmila’s story is typical for the post-Soviet countries in Central Asia where housing problems are manifested not so much in the lack of homes, but rather in their poor quality. Habitat Kyrgyzstan addresses this need by offering condominium associations affordable loans to upgrade Soviet-style buildings by overhauling roofs, stairs and installing new pipes.

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This is how the roof of the building looks after almost 20 years of negligence.

In 2008, residents of the Dostuk condominium learned about Habitat and how it partners tenants’ associations. Ludmila was among those who supported the partnership and even volunteered to mortgage her apartment as collateral for the collective loan. Later, she qualified for a personal Habitat loan to renovate her studio apartment.

With the Habitat loan Ludmila replaced old windows, put new wallpaper and added a kitchen and a toilet to her room. She lived previously without any conveniences. The condominium was designed as a dormitory style residence, and bathrooms with kitchens were provided for the whole floor, to serve 8 to 10 families.

According to the agreement with Habitat Kyrgyzstan, Ludmila could repay her loan – equivalent of 500 US dollars – over the period of 4 years. This amount might seem trivial for many in the developed part of the world. However, in the country where almost half of the population lives on less than 2 dollars a day, it can be a real blessing.

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In spring 2009, residents of the complex used Habitat loan for basic renovations.

Ludmila says that her Habitat loan was so affordable that she even managed to save for a microwave to complement her new kitchen. She rushed to pay per personal loan back, returning the whole amount just in one year and being the first among more than 200 inhabitants of the condominium. She believes that she is setting a positive trend for the big house.

This December Ludmila plans to return her part of the collective loan for the renovation of the roof and stairs in the building. After that she will start saving for a new refrigerator for her small household. She says that “all these changes were possible due to Habitat, and I am very happy that my life has taken a positive turn from now on”.

What is next?
Habitat wants people not only to read about poverty housing but do something to fight it. You can support Habitat’s work in Kyrgyzstan in a number of ways. Here are some examples:

•Visit our donations page to support projects in Kyrgyzstan.
•Go to country profile pages to learn about other programs in this country.

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