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Hungary ]

In Hungary, demand for public housing has only increased during the current economic crisis, while available social rental stock is limited. The properties that do exist face many challenges: poor quality, segregated settings and management shortages. Local governments, mandated to operate most of the public housing, struggle to make such apartment buildings sustainable.

Social rental agencies can become an instrument for developing a vibrant and effective rental sector and have been at work in Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland. These agencies rent housing units from a private rental market to needy people on special terms and guarantees, manage the dwellings, and provide work to prevent indebtedness.

This year, supported by a grant from the Open Society Institute, Habitat Hungary and the Budapest-based Metropolitan Research Institute are conducting research and advocacy work related to the potential inclusion of the SRA concept into Hungary’s official housing policy. The organizations will analyze existing SRA practices and develop feasibility studies in cooperation with four municipalities.

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin ] Volunteer Spotlight

To receive the rank of Eagle Scout, David Arneberg needed to lead a service project. A leader from his troop knew someone who could donate a backyard playset, but David needed an organization to build for. He contacted Tim Haukeness, executive director of Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, who says he was delighted to have David work on this project.

Together with other scouts, David organized all of the bolts, screws and lumber in his garage before heading over to the home of Olivia Wiltrout and her son Ivan. Ten scouts helped David assembled the playset, finishing in one afternoon. David says the most rewarding part, besides putting it together, was seeing young Ivan’s face light up like the sun. He played on the playset until they left. “This project was very rewarding,” David says, “and I hope that Ivan keeps playing on it and spreading the joy throughout their neighborhood.”

From the Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity newsletter

UNITED STATES ] Clark Howard marks 50 houses — and keeps building

“When I get connected to something,” says Habitat house sponsor Clark Howard, “I stay connected to it.” 

The seed was sown early for Howard. His father Bernard had grown up during the Great Depression and twice came home from school to find his family evicted from their apartment, with all their belongings piled on the sidewalk. Years later, as an adult in Atlanta, he started a homeless shelter at his local synagogue as a way to give back.

Clark became a well-known radio personality in Atlanta, hosting a consumer-oriented talk show that was long on frugality and common sense. When he heard about Habitat for Humanity in 1994, he thought its approach of financial literacy classes, sweat equity and no-profit mortgages was a perfect fit with his message of financial responsibility.

“I said, ‘Habi-what?’” he recalls. “Some Habitat homeowners I was speaking to started explaining it to me, and I thought that sounded like a great idea.” He saved up to sponsor a house with Atlanta Habitat, and when it was completed for homeowner Tinnie Prather in 1996, he dedicated it to his father.

This spring, Howard sponsored his 50th Habitat house out of his own pocket. Elyse Thomas, a clerk with the Fulton County Tax Commissioner’s Office, will move into her blue three-bedroom home in April with 3-year-old daughter Erin. They have been living in a small apartment in an unsafe neighborhood; someone once shot a bullet through her bedroom wall that passed right over her head as she lay in bed. Now she will live in a row of Habitat houses on Gaslight Lane.

Howard’s radio show is now syndicated on 225 stations, and he appears regularly on the TV network HLN. He speaks all over the country and donates his speaking fees, plus part of his income, to his Habitat building fund. From his base in Atlanta, he has expanded to sponsoring and working on Habitat homes in Valdosta, Georgia; Joplin, Missouri; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

On a late winter Saturday morning — 30 degrees, lead-gray skies, a few snow flurries — Howard welcomed the volunteers he had recruited to help put the finishing touches on Thomas’ home. He could not stay to paint, though; he got on a plane for Tulsa, where he was raising the walls on Howard House 51. Staying connected.

Howard recently spoke at the 2013 Habitat for Humanity national affiliate conference. Watch this short video in which he describes two things he sees during home dedications.

FIJI ]

Habitat Fiji will host its first-ever special build in April 2013. The Bula Build Fiji 2013 will be held on the northwestern coast of Viti Levu island. “Bula” literally means “life” and is commonly heard as a greeting, like “hello.”

The houses that international volunteers construct during the Bula Build represent the third phase of the ongoing Koroipita project. With initial funding from Rotary International and the New Zealand Aid Programme and in partnership with a local nongovernmental organization called Model Town Charitable Trust, the project already has completed more than 80 homes and provided basic infrastructure.

In Koroipita, most families grow vegetables for food and income, while others earn a living by growing flowers and making handicrafts to sell. Families who move into houses completed during the Bula Build will have access to basic infrastructure and amenities. The community has elected its own town council to manage communal facilities, maintain infrastructure and ensure security. There is a preschool for toddlers and an after-school study area for older students.

ASIA-PACIFIC ] Youth BUILD returns

Building on the success of Asia-Pacific’s first region-wide Habitat Youth BUILD in 2012, Habitat for Humanity is again inviting young supporters to join its mission of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Habitat Youth BUILD is a three-month campaign which includes multi-country, multi-site physical builds on April 27, 2013. Volunteers between the ages of 16 and 29 will be invited to reach out to their family and friends through their social networks to inform, volunteer and raise funds for Habitat.

In 2013, Habitat Asia-Pacific hopes to double last year’s numbers by getting 10,000 young builders to work onsite in 10 Asian countries and engage more than four million online supporters. The five pioneering Youth BUILD 2012 countries ― India, Indonesia, China, the Philippines and Thailand ― are expected to be joined by Cambodia, Japan, South Korea, Nepal and Sri Lanka this year.

MOZAMBIQUE ] 40 new homes dedicated in the community of Xai Xai

In November 2012, Habitat Mozambique dedicated 40 new homes near Xai Xai in the Gaza province of Mozambique. The homes were built with the support of the Korean International Cooperation Agency and Habitat Korea.

Habitat Korea staffers Esther Yoon and Maria Kwon joined the 40 partner families and members of local government and community partner organizations at a special ceremony to mark the completion of the year-long program.

KOICA provided $118,500 to Habitat Mozambique to support its Orphans and Vulnerable Groups program. Forty homes and 40 latrines were built for the families. The project built 40 homes and 40 latrines and offered education on HIV/AIDS, malaria and other health issues, as well as providing mosquito nets and water treatment kits. Families also were helped with inheritance planning and the writing of wills to ensure the houses will remain an asset for the surviving children.

In 2013, KOICA will help Habitat Mozambique build an additional 50 homes in Xai Xai.