HFH Ecuador helps with advocacy efforts for housing as a human right -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

HFH Ecuador helps with advocacy efforts for housing as a human right

By Colleen Fitzgerald

In 2005, Habitat for Humanity Ecuador helped form an advocacy coalition that worked to reinstate funding for a vital national housing subsidy. This coalition, called Contrato Social Por La Vivienda or Social Contract for Housing, centered their advocacy efforts on the concept of housing as a human right.

The history of the effort dates back to 1998, when Ecuador entered into an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to receive US$62 million in loans to improve housing. The primary goal of the loans was to set up a system of direct subsidies to benefit low-income Ecuadorians. The result was the subsidy system, Sistema de Incentivos para la Vivienda (SIV). SIV provided grants for housing improvements and construction of new homes.

To create the program, IDB agreed to provide partial funding on a decreasing scale (80 percent in the first year, 60 percent in the second year, etc.), with the government of Ecuador eventually taking over responsibility. However, in 2005, when the time came for Ecuador to fully fund the SIV, the program was eliminated from the national budget.

In response to this elimination, Contrato Social Por La Vivienda (CSV) organized a national advocacy campaign to reinstate the funding for SIV. After completing initial research, it was determined that the Ecuadorian Constitution recognizes housing as a fundamental right. CSV leveraged this finding to argue that SIV was one of the few national policies that helped make this right to housing a reality; accordingly, it should be protected and expanded.

CSV continued to use the concept that housing is a human right to effectively frame their advocacy messages. For example, one tactic of the advocacy campaign was a series of marches held in key locations around Ecuador, including in front of the National Congress and the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing. The marchers carried signs with messages such as “For the right to housing” and “We children have a right to housing.”

CSV was successful in restoring funding for the housing subsidy in 2005 and was even able to achieve the addition of a subsidy for land titling. Due in part to the advocacy work of CSV, the subsidies were increased and expanded in April 2007 to: ·

  • Land title—up to US$200 per family
  • Improvements to existing housing—up to US$1,500 per family
  • New housing construction—up to US$3,600 per family

Habitat for Humanity Ecuador utilizes all three subsidies in their work with families and continues to play a key role in CSV.

CSV is now working to capitalize on a unique opportunity in Ecuador—the chance to help craft housing language for the country’s new Constitution. Earlier this year, Ecuadorian voters passed a referendum to rewrite the Constitution and the process is expected to begin this fall. CSV is advocating for the Constitution to go beyond declaring that housing is a human right by making a more specific, detailed statement about what that rights means for the people of Ecuador.

Colleen Fitzgerald has worked for HFHI for over two years. She began her career with Habitat as Associate Director of Congress Building America, a program that links Members of Congress with Habitat affiliates in their home district. Before coming to Habitat, she worked on Capitol Hill for a US Senator. She attended Penn State University where she was involved in the campus chapter of Habitat.

She can be contacted at CFitzgerald@hfhi.org