Habitat for Humanity and microfinance -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Habitat for Humanity and microfinance

Building Habitat’s capacity and competencies
As Habitat for Humanity becomes increasingly involved in creative ways to deliver housing solutions for the poor through housing microfinance, it is necessary to build HFH’s organizational capacity and skill sets.

Knowledge, experience and skills of microfinance have existed within the organization for some time. Indeed, many of the national programs had already taken steps to adapt microfinance practices and partner with microfinance institutions (MFIs). Recently, however, Habitat has taken a further step to coordinate area and global strategies to address this emerging work in housing finance. Within the last year, all of Habitat’s international area offices have created and filled positions of leadership for area housing finance strategies: Christy Stickney in Latin America, Erik Heesbeen in Europe, Rajan Samuel in Asia, and Steven Wanjala in Africa. Additionally, Patrick Kelley is leading the housing finance work globally from Atlanta, with the help of 50 percent of Jane Katz’s time in Washington, D.C. Additional human resources with appropriate subject matter expertise will continue to be added at the HFHI, area and national program levels.

In October 2006, this group met in Washington, D.C. They were joined by experienced international program staff that included Rick Hathaway from A/P, Scott Metzel from A/ME, Lucijia Popovska from E/CA, Belinda Florez from LA/C, as well as Paul Hamalian and Todd Garth from HFHI.

The purpose of the meeting was to:
1. Take stock of the current housing finance work going on—what is working well and what isn’t.
2. Categorize the work to gain a full understanding of all we are doing and so that learnings from comparable programs can be shared.
3. Start to establish investment criteria for selecting the organizations HFH finances and with whom we form partnerships.
4. Establish a framework for working together as a group going forward.

Habitat’s involvement in housing finance as a solution for housing for the poor will increase rapidly in the coming months and years. The October meetings mark a starting point for the dialogue that the growing team of technical experts will steward and shape as Habitat proceeds.

Habitat for Humanity coordinates CGAP Working Group

As part of Habitat for Humanity’s increasing role in housing finance, the organization will serve as coordinating organization for the World Bank’s Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP) Housing Finance Working Group. CGAP is a consortium of 33 public and private donor agencies housed at the World Bank that work together to expand access to financial services for the poor in developing countries.

CGAP members (see http://www.cgap.org/portal/site/CGAP/menuitem.1b2e54b01647a51067808010591010a0/ for a full list of members) work together on issues of mutual interest and try to establish the most promising practices for an emerging field. For example, a working group on micro-insurance has been in place for several years, and has driven a lot of the research and lessons learned on that topic. The Housing Finance Working Group was initiated by the Swedish Agency for International Development (SIDA), a leading donor on poverty housing solutions. It is hoped that the group will pool resources and information to make a larger and more coordinated impact on poverty housing together. Habitat for Humanity is under contract with SIDA to coordinate the working group and provide administration support such as the development of newsletters, establishment of research contracts and logistics of global workshops. This new relationship was launched in October 2006 when Patrick Kelley represented Habitat for Humanity in meetings with SIDA and CGAP in Stockholm.

Habitat delegation attends Small Enterprise Education and Promotion

Every October, 67 organizations that work internationally in the fields of enterprise development and financial services meet in Washington, D.C., to engage in productive dialogue and lateral learning with their peers. They gather under the auspices of the Small Enterprise Education and Promotion Network (SEEP). SEEP began as an association of 20 international nonprofit development organizations, but has grown to be a broad network of organizations that engage with like-minded peer organizations and share learnings from the fields of enterprise development and microfinance.

Conventional wisdom within the industry is that participation in the SEEP annual meeting and its ongoing working groups shows a commitment to active learning and the application of promising best practices.

Habitat for Humanity joined SEEP in 2006 in order to learn from the vast experience of microfinance work over the past decades. A delegation of nine attended the annual meeting in October 2006 (after the Housing Finance Working Group meetings), and were welcomed at a newcomers’ breakfast and at the annual business meeting. A larger-than-normal delegation attended in HFH’s first year of membership to expose people to the workings and mechanisms of SEEP. Additionally, few SEEP attendees escaped the three days of meetings without meeting at least one HFH delegate and hearing of the importance of financing methodologies for simple, decent housing for the poor.

Habitat delegates were active participants. In fact, Habitat’s first year as members was marked by the first SEEP presentation on scaling up housing microfinance. Jane Katz, director of International Programs at HFH’s Washington, D.C., office, facilitated the workshop, while Christy Stickney, director of International Finance at HFH’s LA/C office, served as a panelist with delegates from ACCION International and the Christian Housing Foundation. Habitat delegates also participated in the SEEP working groups that work together for a year after the meetings, pursuing strategic industry. The Financial Services Working Group (FSWG) that Paul Hamalian and Patrick Kelley participate in is considering adding housing finance innovations to its scope.

If you have any questions or would like further information about any of the items above, please contact Patrick Kelley at PKelley@habitat.org.