Finding affordable housing in Guatemala is a big problem for many people. A 2012 IDB study estimates that roughly 67% of the population live in substandard housing, while the Guatemala ministry of communications estimates a housing deficit of 1.5 million homes. This deficit continues to grow as demand for new housing increases by 60,000 homes a year, while new construction only provides for 20,000 new dwellings. (according to the Construction Chamber of Commerce.)
Constru Casa, a nonprofit organization created by Caroline van Heerde , is an initiative dedicated to helping poorer families in rural Guatemala by providing them with volunteer-built housing. The organization focuses on Guatemala for their house building, and has a full-time staff dedicated to this area along with a group of local masons who build the houses. The organization also has a board of directors in the United States (Friends of Construcasa) and a board of directors in Holland (Stichting Construcasa) who help oversee and manage everything. People from all over the world volunteer, and work alongside masons and carpenters, helping wherever they can for tro to four weeks, which takes a house from the ground up.
When a family wants a home, they can pick from a few selections of types of houses that they would like, depending on their income and family size. The houses are one, two, or three rooms large, again according to family size and poverty level. The houses themselves cost $4,800 USD each, and are constructed of concrete block wall, concrete floors, and corrugated metal roofs.
Families moving in are asked to pay for one-third of the cost, over a series of monthly installments to instill a sense of ownership, which the organization says is a very valuable thing to have. A family must also have a Proof of Land Ownership for the site where a house is built. This is sometimes a bit of a challenge, because many people simply don’t have the legal documents to prove this. Constru Casa realizes this, however, and always looks for alternative ways to help people.
To many, these houses may not seem like much, but for these families they are lifesavers, often literally. Constru Casa and all of its volunteers are doing a great thing here in Guatemala, and we have nothing but the highest respect to give them.