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World Housing builds community-oriented homes

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Children outside of their homes in Stueng Meanchey. Photo Supplied

World Housing builds community-oriented homes

Over the past year-and-a half, Cambodia Children’s Fund in Partnership with World Housing has built 360 homes for underprivileged families in Stueng Meanchey. The ambitious goal was to create community-oriented homes that operated on a principle of a one-for-one real estate gifting model that allows families to rent homes at an affordable price. Post Property spoke with Graham Brewster, the managing director of World Housing about the success of the project.

When did the housing project begin and what inspired it?
World Housing’s foundation in Cambodia goes back to 2010, when co-founder Pete Dupuis was introduced to Scott Neeson of the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF). Pete was writing his master’s thesis at the time, centred on the idea of creating a model to build homes for families living in slums around garbage dumps.

In 2013, the concept became a reality when we built our first community of five homes together with CCF. Since then, we’ve built hundreds of homes and discovered the real impact comes with building communities, which is so much more than a group of homes.

How big is each house? What are the materials used and in terms of durability, how long can each house last with regular maintenance?
The homes are approximately 3.6 square metres, elevated on stilts about two metres off the ground. This creates a lockable, private area on the inside of the home, and a space for cooking and socializing underneath the home. The frame of the home is galvanized steel, with colour bond steel paneling on the outside, wood floors and insulated walls. The wooden doors and windows are locally made. The steel structure is very robust, and with regular maintenance, there’s no reason they won’t last for 20 years.

How much does it cost for each home to be constructed?
The cost is approximately $2,500 for the home itself. However, what we’ve learned is that there is much more that goes into building a successful and thriving community, from the initial land preparation to community facilities like wash-houses, playgrounds, communal spaces, fencing, pathways and gardens. This is what makes it a true community, which can thrive long term, rather than a cluster of homes.

The homes built to date have been primarily the result of our partnership with Westbank Development Corp’s Vancouver House project in Vancouver, Canada. For every unit sold at Vancouver House, a home is built for a family in Cambodia.

What conditions are needed to classify people and families to receive homes from WH and CCF?
We identify families that are demonstrably passionate and invested in improving their lives, the lives of their families, and the general community. The criteria for selecting families includes parents who encourage their children to go to school, there is no physical or substance abuse at home, the parents do not gamble, and the children won’t undertake paid labour.

Since the beginning, how many homes have been handed over to families?
We’ve built 360 homes and housed 1,800 people and are building more all the time. While most of these have been in communities in Steung Meanchey, we’ve also built a number of communities in different provinces across the country.

In terms of issuing land titles for the homes that are built, do they belong to the families, the NGO or government property?
As for land, the most common arrangement in Steung Meanchey is to arrange a long-term lease on a large parcel, where families can live with the security that they will not be evicted off the land at a moment’s notice. In other cases, the land is owned by the local partner, or in some cases (particularly in the provinces), the land is owned by the families themselves.

Families living on the leased land in Steung Meanchey make a monthly contribution of $15, which contributes to the upkeep of their community, land rental, and maintenance of the communal facilities. More importantly however, this small payment provides a sense of pride of ownership in the home and community.

When will your project in Steung Meanchey be completed?
Our biggest challenge in continuing our work in Steung Meanchey is the availability of suitable land. Despite that, we plan to begin work on a larger community projected in the spring of 2016, completing in the summer. This is a first for us, the first community that we’ve completed through funding from individuals, and we’re excited about it. All homes previously had been funded through partnerships within the real estate community.

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