What’s the catch? It seems too good to be true but a 2009 DM winner, International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), has successfully developed a bamboo prototype and payment scheme that is affordable and appealing to the poor.
The project entitled "Elevated Bamboo Houses designed to Lift Communities above Flood Zones" is being implemented in Ecuador and it is already being considered a victory. Even before the project has completed its funding cycle with the DM, the European Commission and Common Fund for Commodities have contributed €1,647,959 and $2,007,300 respectively so the project can scale up.
This will allow the project team to continue its activities beyond the two-year DM project period. Based on their success in Ecuador, INBAR is now looking to replicate the model Asia, Africa and in other countries in Latin America where recurrent floods are destroying peoples’ homes and livelihoods as the result of extreme weather events related to climate change.
The pricing model is very attractive to low income households. Overall the cost of the house is US $450. The government subsidizes the price with a contribution of US$144, while the prospective home owner covers US $186. The process of acquiring a house takes about four to six weeks. Families eligible for a house are: low income, with multiple children, and registered owners of plot of land. The project helps families secure titles to their land. The family must also have sufficient income to guarantee they can pay back the cost of the house in three years at US$5 per month.
For project implementation INBAR is partnering with Viviendas del Hogar de Cristo (VHC) a Christian NGO based in Guayaquil .VHC is working to increase access to housing for the poor. VHC has been in existence for 30 years and has built more than 60,000 houses. VHC has developed its own method of producing low cost housing from Guadua bamboo that is both extremely rapid and very cheap. And VHC was heavily involved in the initial phase of the project, which developed and tested the prototype being used here.
VHC also helps bridge the gap in government sponsored programs by offering intermediary services. For example, a family can arrange to pay off their house loans at the VHC office. By paying at VHC the client can simultaneously receive medical attention and lunch for themselves and their youngest children, subsidized by the government. They can also pay with their social welfare of US$11 per month or other income and in some cases they are supported by VHC's charitable funds.
After Hurricane Mitch in 1998 2.7 million people were left homeless. Then a popular solution was rammed earth houses reinforced with concrete. But the cost was prohibitive at US $9,000 for one house. As the devastating effects of climate change increase there will be even greater demand. A $450 house made of bamboo is a smart alternative.