September 15, 2005
Heading north: Habitat’s program moves into new areas where the need for decent housing is still overwhelming
DELHI, 15 September 2005: On-the-ground work is set to start this month on a series of pilot projects with a range of new partnerships that will see Habitat for Humanity India move into new areas in the north of the country. The pilot projects could eventually pave the way for larger schemes designed to benefit thousands of poor families in hundreds of villages.
At this stage, Habitat is providing funds and expertise to boost sustainable house-building skills as well as to deliver direct benefits in the form of permanent homes to nearly 600 families in at least 150 villages in four northern states.
The new projects involve three new partnerships and one with an existing partner as well as innovative models of spreading the Habitat concept.
The pilot schemes all involve a Save & Build-style micro-financing to finance home repairs and construction. In each case, one-third of the costs are borne by the new homeowners, one-third come in the form of an inflation-adjusted, no-profit loan from Habitat, with the remaining one-third provided by the local partner.
In the past, Habitat's work in India has been largely in the south and has relied on the traditional Habitat affiliate model where concerned citizens form volunteer groups lead and manage Habitat’s program in their communities.
The projects in brief:
Homes and Skills in Bundelkhand
Habitat will work with Development Alternatives in a drought-prone area of central India known as Bundelkhand, one of the poorest rural parts of the country. DA is a well-established microfinance group that has strong roots in the area, which straddle the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Habitat is supplying financing and technical support for a Save & Build-style project to provide homes for 100 landless and marginal farming families in ten rural villages. The scheme is to be implemented by DA.
Two other key components of the US$170,000 project are training 20 masons at one of DA’s existing building centers as well as establishing village building committees to plan future improvements in community housing.
A secular non-profit organization, DA operates a well-entrenched developed micro-credit network in Bundelkhand providing micro-loans to the poor, especially women, for income-generating projects. Whether producing textiles, pottery or building materials, DA’s emphasis is on using local, appropriate and environmentally-sound technologies.
Habitat is lending up to one third of house costs to prospective project homeowners, local branches of the State Bank of India are providing one third, with homeowners providing the final one third in cash or kind.
The pilot phase of the project is expected to last 18 months, with a second 24-month phase reaching a further 200 families in ten more villages, to be carried out later.
Explained Vincent Thakur, program advisor for Habitat for Humanity India’s northern operations, “We know one immediate impact of adequate shelter and infrastructure is on the burden to repair and maintain kutcha or existing houses.”
Proper homes lead to better health and adequate space for poor families to work on income-generating activities. A decent home enhances social security and stability allowing families to concentrate on livelihood activities, he added.
Housing Empowered by Women’s Groups
Habitat’s work in India is now taking it into the arid northwest. It is contributing to a project that will boost the capabilities of the Social Centre for Rural Initiative and Advancement, a group that has long organized women’s groups, known as sangathans, and provided micro-credit loans to fund alternative sources of income for subsistence-level farming families, few of whom own their own land. SCRIA emphasizes village-level decision-making in all its work.
Habitat’s support will allow families to carry out repairs, renovations and additions to their homes. The scheme targets families in 100 villages across southern Haryana and north and northwest Rajasthan, a desert-like area about three hours' drive from Delhi.
The sangathans will select which members need the housing loans.
The 18-month project will cost about US$365,000. Homeowner families will contribute one third of the cost. SCRIA will provide one third; it receives untied funds from the Indian government for housing improvements as well as money from the European Union and various Western governments.
“In the past, SCRIA support for improving housing and sanitation has been constrained by a lack of funds,” said Thakur. “Habitat’s backing will help our partner to reach a greater number of people.”
Drug Company Fosters Corporate Social Responsibility
Habitat is funding housing loans for homeowners in 40 villages and also helping villagers learn to build and maintain their own homes in the northern state of Madhya Pradesh.
Habitat is to support the work of Lupin Pharmaceutical which has a strong corporate social responsibility program in the rural area. Over the years, Lupin has helped with building and running schools, medical facilities, irrigation and roads as well as training and providing micro-credit loans for women’s self-help groups
During the first 12-month phase of the project, Habitat and Lupin will work with ten communities to build 100 permanent houses with proper sanitation and kitchen facilities, and access to a safe water supply. Currently the villagers live in temporary structures with inadequate water, sanitation and drainage systems.
The three-year, three-phase US$205,000 project should provide pakka or permanent homes for at least 600 families.
Again Habitat is providing one third of the funds through a no-interest, inflation-adjusted loan, with homeowners providing one third in cash and kind. Lupin provides the remainder through a soft loan.
Lupin's work is supported by the Indian government; it is involved in a national program under which it develops building construction centers and a model house which can then be replicated. The program also experiments with new building techniques, using materials such as cement and hollow bricks.
“Homes of Hope” with Delhi Partner
Recently Habitat began working in the capital Delhi through a partnership with Delhi-based Discipleship Centre to repair and renovate houses with residents of a slum relocation colony (www.hfhap.org/news/india_002.html  ). The project, known as “Homes of Hope” will benefit 33 families during the first year of this three-year US$32,000 project.
Habitat has partnered with the Discipleship Centre on other projects in the south of the country, including tsunami recovery efforts.
Homes of Hope plans to benefit a total of 120 families by the end of the project, which will take place in Madanpur Khadar, south Delhi, one of 47 government resettlement colonies for migrants relocated from slum areas in the city.
Homeowners will be active participants in the building process, contributing to costs through sweat equity and savings.
In addition, the Discipleship Centre will be supporting education opportunities for homeowners' children as well as sponsoring healthcare programs and helping homeowners find ways to improve their income.