22 January 2012

Affordable Housing for Low to Middle Income Households, by Robin Black, Habitat for Humanity International

Habitat for Humanity has many years of experience in offering simple, decent and affordable housing to people in need. For the purposes of this conference, Habitat for Humanity focused its presentation on two of its projects in Eastern Europe (Romania), implemented in collaboration with ArcelorMittal: ‘Casa Buna’ and ‘Mansard Extension & Thermal Rehab’. Both projects used steel to provide low income housing adjusted to the particular context.

Steel was chosen over timber for a number of reasons: material life cycle, building waste, volunteer involvement, split between pre-fabrication and on site, margin for error, local availability. It was used in this context as part of a process that offered jobs and skill training. The cost was kept low by effective management, family involvement and significant volunteer contributions. Robin furthermore presented the lessons learned out of these experiences, in relation to steel.

These projects are more closely related to development work than emergency sheltering. It was confirmed however during the steel days conference, that the learning done in development work can positively inform emergency sheltering, and vice versa. The presented technologies, and typologies, may be applicable to middle-income countries struck by disaster, or offer solutions for more urbanised contexts. The claiming of roof space for extra dwelling units was, in that respect, a unique concept to investigate further.

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