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What are Habitat houses like?

Simple, decent and affordable

Habitat for Humanity builds houses around the world according to the same guiding principles:

  • Simple
    Habitat houses are modestly sized. They are large enough for the homeowner family’s needs, but small enough to keep construction and maintenance costs to a minimum.
  • Decent
    Habitat for Humanity uses quality, locally available building materials. Habitat home designs reflect the local climate and culture.
  • Affordable
    The labor of volunteers and partner families, efficient building methods, modest house sizes and no-profit loans make it affordable for low-income families to purchase Habitat houses.

Habitat houses in North America

Habitat houses in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.

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Habitat houses in the United States and Canada are typically built using wood frame construction, Gypsum board interior walls, vinyl siding and asphalt shingle roofs. Some affiliates also use proven alternative building materials such as adobe or straw bale construction.

U.S. and Canadian Habitat houses are modestly sized by North American standards. Habitat’s guidelines dictate that a three-bedroom Habitat house may have no more than 1,050 square feet of living space.

Habitat for Humanity’s commitment to build with people in need readily extends to those with disabilities. When possible, Habitat houses incorporate basic accessible design features, such as a zero-step entrance and wide passage doors and hallways. Houses built in partnership with families with disabilities include additional accessibility features.

Habitat houses around the world

Habitat homeowners tend to their flowers in front of their house in Athiru, Kenya.

See more house examples from around the world »

From the tropical islands of the Philippines to the mountains of Chile, Habitat builds houses designed for the local setting. International affiliates build with locally available materials, reducing costs and making it easier for homeowners to maintain the houses. For example, houses in many African countries are constructed with fired clay bricks and tile roofs made of cement or fired clay. Houses in Latin America often are built with concrete block or adobe walls and metal roofs. Houses in the Pacific are often built with wood frames and are constructed on stilts.

People of different countries use their houses in different ways. Habitat’s house designs reflect these cultural considerations. Meals are cooked outdoors in many African countries; there Habitat plans call for a kitchen area outside of the house. In the Philippines, laundry and other chores traditionally are done on a small outdoor utility porch, so Filipino Habitat house designs reflect this custom.

Habitat houses in developing countries are often considerably smaller than their North American counterparts. No matter where they are built, Habitat house sizes always are designed to meet the homeowner families’ needs while keeping costs as low and affordable as possible for low-income families.

Habitat for Humanity and the environment

Habitat is committed to resource- and energy-efficient building practices. Habitat’s Construction Technologies department provides our affiliates with construction techniques that conserve natural resources and reduce long-term costs for Habitat homeowners. For more information, please see our Construction Technologies section.


Learn more

  • Find your local Habitat for Humanity
    Find one of our location offices near you to learn more about Habitat house construction in your area.
  • Where we build
    Explore the country profiles in this section for descriptions of Habitat’s work in more than 70 countries around the world.
  • See some more affordable homes from around the world that are made possible by your support.