Award-winning global approaches to housing for all

The winners of the 2023 World Habitat Awards cover the globe and a range of different solutions to one of the world’s most challenging problems – making sure people have a safe, healthy, affordable place to live.

The two Gold Medal winners are from Scotland, focusing on low-income renters, and Senegal, which focuses on informal households. One of the silver medal winners is from Spain and Catalonia, promoting a cooperative approach to housing, while the other focuses on supporting microfinance institutions worldwide so they will lend money for people to upgrade their homes. The two bronze medal winners are from India, a project that empowers urban slum dwellers and France, an innovative residents’ cooperative.

Homes for Good (Scotland)

Homes For Good is spearheading the growing social investment movement in affordable housing across the UK, proving it is possible to operate profitably by letting good-quality homes at affordable rents.  It manages 500 homes – of which it owns 300 – in Glasgow and the west of Scotland.  

Since 2014, it has raised £20 million ($25 million USD) in social investment to create a portfolio of affordable, good-quality homes. Both a rental agency and property developer, Homes for Good purchases and renovates empty or dilapidated homes.

Homes For Good supports tenants with advice on reducing energy bills and about benefit claims. Its Love Home program partners tenants with an interior designer so they can create a home that reflects their needs and preferences.

UrbaSEN and Senegalese Federation of Inhabitants

More than 20,000 people have directly benefitted from the work of UrbaSEN and the Senegalese Federation of Inhabitants, including 15,000 members of the federation, 8,000 people whose homes have been upgraded and 600 craftspeople who have been trained.

The Housing and Living Environment Improvement Programme for Vulnerable People in Precarious Neighbourhoods, which works to improve quality of life and build resilience to climate change in informal settlements in 18 municipalities across Senegal, is led by the community, organized into the Senegalese Federation of Inhabitants (a federation of women’s saving groups), with the support of local NGO urbaSEN.  

Women make savings and take out loans from the Federation’s revolving fund to implement improvement work to homes, sanitation infrastructure and public spaces. UrbaSEN provides technical support and training for residents, who carry out drone-mapping and supply data to municipal authorities. This data also helps generate Certificates of Occupancy as a first step towards land tenure regularization.   

The silver medal winners are Sostre, Catalonia’s first co-operative construction company and the only umbrella housing cooperative in Spain and Catalonia with a significant number of projects and partners, and the MicroBuild Fund, which was launched in 2012 by Habitat for Humanity to demonstrate how housing-specific microfinance can tackle the vast global housing deficit.

Sostre Civic

A right to use cooperative housing movement is emerging in Spain and Catalonia as an alternative to traditional owner-occupier or private rental models. Sostre Cívic, an umbrella organization that supports cooperative groups to purchase and/or develop buildings, currently has 1,000 members and 17 ongoing projects in Catalonia, comprising 236 homes, usually on municipal land. It aims to diversify tenure options so that in 20 to 30 years 10% of Catalonia’s homes are cooperatives.

Under the right to use model, the cooperative retains collective ownership of the property and its members have the right to use the dwellings indefinitely. Residents pay an initial contribution, which is returned if they leave, and a monthly fee similar to rent. These fees are directly related to project costs and are not linked to the real estate market.

MicroBuild Fund

Recognizing that more than 1.6 billion people worldwide don’t have access to traditional financial products to improve their housing, Habitat for Humanity launched the MicroBuild Fund in 2012 to show how housing-specific microfinance can tackle the vast global housing deficit. 

The $100 million USD 10-year fund, which helps MFI partners create or refine housing-specific loan products for low-income clients,  has so far dispersed $151.6 million USD to 59 institutions in 33 countries. It has directly benefitted 1,048,720 people – 80% of them women. That is more than double MicroBuild’s initial target figure. 

The project has also triggered growth in housing microfinance by unlocking more than $582.9 million USD in additional capital, positively impacting an additional 3.5 million people. While MicroBuild began winding down in July 2019, a follow-on fund with a stronger climate agenda will build on the project’s successes.

Winners of the bronze medals are Mas Co-op, an innovative residents cooperative in France, and Jaga Mission – Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission in India, which is empowering marginalized communities to achieve large-scale slum upgrading and promote equality for millions of India’s urban poor.

Mas Coop

A residents’ cooperative in Southwest France is paving the way for a new model of affordable housing that bridges the gap between ownership and rent for low and middle-income households, while also addressing environmental and social concerns.  

Mas Coop, in the village of Beaumont-sur-Lèze, consists of 11 eco-homes and a communal building and garden. It is home to 29 residents, aged one to 74, who manage the scheme and share core values of non-speculation, solidarity, environmental awareness, and social and inter-generational diversity. 

The cooperative, which paid for the land and construction with a €2.07 million ($2.2 million USD) state–subsidized social rental loan, retains ownership of the land and buildings. Residents must buy shares in Mas Coop and pay a monthly fee to cover repayment of the communal loan and other expenses. When a member leaves, Mas Coop returns their initial contribution, which is then paid back into the cooperative by the newcomers, so the scheme will remain affordable in perpetuity.  

Jaga Mission – Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission

Jaga Mission is the largest land titling and slum upgrading scheme in India and one of the largest in the world. It is scaling up across Odisha state thanks to a mentoring model, under which 62 specially trained mentors from 28 pilot cities have gone to support other cities during their slum upgrading work. Their experience has helped orientate newer cities to the program’s nuances, speeding up the upgrade process.  

Jaga Mission’s decentralized delivery model is being held up as an example to be replicated elsewhere in India of how to empower marginalized communities. In the northern state of Punjab, the project is already being replicated to directly benefit an additional 1.4 million slum dwellers. 

Photo credits: All the photographs are from the World Habitat Awards gallery