The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | February/March 2003
Houses: What Makes Them Decent? Blocks and Beams? Or is it More?

Houses Across the World: Europe and Central Asia

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Houses Across the World: Asia and the Pacific

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Houses Across the World:
Europe and Central Asia

Decaying Housing Stock Leaves Families With Nowhere to Go
The problems of poverty in the Europe/Central Asia region are many and diverse, but often hidden. Across the region, single-room flats frequently are shared by multiple families. There are more than 3,000 such flats in Hungary alone, according to Hungary Habitat for Humanity. High interest rates and inflation push bank loan payments far out of reach for many families in Romania, and soaring utility costs make it difficult to get ahead. In other countries, unemployment rates as high as 20 percent reflect the difficulty families face in making ends meet.

Standing water increases the likelihood of disease and irritation from breeding mosquitoes.

Old, deteriorating insulation fails to keep the house warm during cold winters, leading to illness, higher energy costs and a greater financial strain on the residents.

On winter evenings when the sun sets early, parents must decide between reducing the utility bill by turning off lights or allowing their children to study.

Even houses that do not look substandard on the outside can be cramped and insufficient for the number of people living inside. A family of five has lived in this two-room house for six years.

The family living in this house uses this basin to fetch and heat water for washing. However, there is so little space inside that they must store it outdoors, where it is more likely to be stolen or deteriorate in bad weather.

Habitat Overcomes Obstacles in its Fight for Housing in Europe and Central Asia
Through persistent education and communication, Habitat for Humanity is making progress in overcoming widespread mistrust of nonprofit organizations and the concept of volunteerism, which people in Eastern Europe only recently have begun to embrace. Some 57 European Global Village teams have traveled to other parts of Europe and the world, serving as enthusiastic catalysts to local building. Habitat also is seeking ways to use building materials more efficiently to reduce the cost of Habitat houses and make them more affordable for homeowners to heat and maintain.

In many European and Central Asian countries, the kitchen is more than a place to prepare food. Family and friends gather here, making it the emotional heart of the house. To be culturally appropriate, a decent house should include a kitchen large enough for the family to eat together.

Since this house was built in 1999, Eastern European affiliates have worked to reduce house sizes to make houses more affordable to build and to own.

Winters are cold, and utilities are expensive, so special care is taken to insulate Habitat houses well.

Space to grow a small garden makes a big difference in homeowners' abilities to supplement their diets with fresh vegetables.

It is not uncommon in Central and Eastern Europe for families living in prefabricated concrete block buildings to share common toilet facilities with 20 other building residents. The simple luxury of a bathroom just for the family significantly improves the quality of life.


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