Habitat for Humanity Guatemala
Habitat's work in Guatemala
Housing need in Guatemala
The housing deficit in Guatemala is estimated at approximately 1.2 million homes. Many of these families live in poorly constructed houses made of unstable materials, such as adobe, corrugated metal sheets, wood planks or palm thatching. Others, who lack even this basic structure, pay more than half of their monthly income on rent or crowd into homes where several families occupy the same small house or room.
One of the most significant challenges to housing in Guatemala is access to land. Many low-income families have no legal proof that they own the land they inhabit; in other words, despite having viably purchased or inherited their land, they lack legal tenure. In other cases, informal settlements inhabit property belonging to the state or private enterprise, where families face the daily risk of forced eviction. These properties rarely have basic utilities and are often located in vulnerable areas, such as ravines and river banks.
Even when a family has moderate income or has managed to save a small amount of money, obtaining a loan to purchase land or buy a home in Guatemala is often still challenging. Many Guatemalan families attest that, without Habitat for Humanity, they would not have been able to build or improve their home.
Habitat for Humanity in Guatemala
Established in 1979 with the purpose of improving the lives of low-income families in Guatemala through the construction of adequate, affordable housing, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala was the first Habitat organization in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Since the construction of its first home in Aguacatán, Huehuetenango over 30 years ago, Habitat Guatemala has served more than 32,218 families and has extended its work to each of the country’s 22 states.
Habitat for Humanity does much more than just build houses. Working towards a world in which every person has access to adequate housing, Habitat organizations raise awareness about the cause for adequate housing, advocate to improve housing policy, and more.
Guatemala Dream Project: The Guatemala Dream Project (GDP) channels aid specifically to families with the greatest level of need, living in the seven poorest departments of the country: El Quiché, Huehuetenango, Sololá, San Marcos, Baja Verapaz, Alta Verapaz and Totonicapán. The first phase of the project exceeded its goal of 210 houses in these departments. The second phase begun in April of 2008, and aims to build an additional 250 houses.
Housing developments: Habitat for Humanity Guatemala is working hard to help families across the country to obtain secure, legal access to both land and housing. With this goal in mind, the organization builds housing developments, or “colonias”, where families can obtain both a house and the land on which to build it. Services such as electricity, water and sanitation systems are also provided, to ensure that families live in safe, healthy surroundings. Habitat for Humanity Guatemala’s housing development loans have a term of twelve years.
Advocacy: Under the slogan, “Our work is great; the need is greater,” Habitat for Humanity Guatemala recognizes the need to promote housing rights in Guatemala and around the world. Events are held throughout the country to raise awareness among higher income populations about the reality of those who are in need.
Financial Education: This project is aimed at educating and accompanying partner families in the planning and administration of their home economy. The manuals and methodology used are the result of a project designed by Habitat for Humanity International and financed by Citi Foundation. Through a series of workshops, families learn to administer their income and expenses, and learn to design a budget, analyze and control their expenses, and follow a savings plan. Families are also informed about the risks and advantages of taking out loans with Habitat for Humanity or other organizations.
Habitat for Humanity Guatemala also supports several initiatives, in addition to traditional complete home construction.
New house construction: Habitat Guatemala’s basic house is a four-room, steel-reinforced concrete structure measuring approximately 50 square meters. Partner families may choose from eight different home designs, all with strong metal roofs and concrete floors, and are generally required to repay their loan within a term of eight to ten years.
Progressive housing: For families unable to build a complete house, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala offers a progressive housing option. These are smaller, two-room houses, also built of steel-reinforced concrete. When the family has repaid half of the original loan, they have the option of expanding the house.
Improvements and additions: Recognizing the financial constraints of those most in need, Habitat for Humanity Guatemala offers families the opportunity to make an improvement to their current home. Improvements may include a new concrete floor, a reinforced wall, the replacement of a leaky roof, smokeless stoves and others. Habitat Guatemala also builds home additions to help large families who are living in small spaces to improve their health and quality of life.
Installation of basic services: Adequate housing is more than four sturdy walls. Many families in Guatemala lack access to water, drainage, electricity and more. Habitat for Humanity Guatemala helps families to acquire these basic services.
Learn more about Habitat for Humanity in Latin America and the Caribbean.