Habitat helps Argentinean families leave tenements behind
Since they cannot access the formal rental market (they need a property guarantee or extremely high down payments), they rent small, rundown rooms, with a shared bathroom and kitchen, without permission to receive visitors.
Aware of this problem and of the limited supply of low-income rental housing, Habitat Argentina launched its “Recycling Urban Homes” project with the objective of putting to use many abandoned and illegally occupied spaces in Buenos Aires.
Last December, they inaugurated the first old tenement turned into a four-story apartment building, in the historic neighborhood of La Boca. The building was appropriately named “Trail of Hope”. Hundreds of Habitat volunteers, both local and international, helped to rebuild and turn this old building into an adequate place to live.
Two families, who until then had only known inadequate housing, are already living in the building and paying market rental rates (Assisted Rentals); six others will soon join them.
Irma, the first tenant, is a 43-year-old widow. She has 4 teenage children and one grandchild. For 23 years, they had moved from one informal rental situation to another. She slept in fear every night of the fires that frequently threaten the lives of squatters in derelict wooden city buildings. Her children were brought up with the damp smell of rotting wood, and a number of cats intended to keep the rats away.
“Many families pay 2,000 pesos (around US220) to rent a room in a ‘conventillo’ or tenement without comfort, but with capacity and willingness to pay. They only lack the opportunity to demonstrate that they can live differently”, says Ana Cutts, Habitat Argentina national director. “We act as financial guarantee and give workshops to prepare them to adapt to the change that leaving the tenement means”.
The Assisted Rentals program is not intended to transform tenants into owners, explains Ariel Sosa, Habitat Argentina Programs coordinator. “The idea is that they can live in this building two or four years and, with that payment history, they can have access to a permanent home”.