Through Habitat for Humanity’s global advocacy campaign, Solid Ground, Habitat for Humanity Honduras is addressing barriers to secure land tenure and housing by mobilizing people and influencing laws and policies.
The housing need in Honduras is great. Honduras is one of the Latin American and Caribbean region’s most rapidly urbanizing countries; its rural population decreased from 77 percent in 1960 to 45 percent in 2015. Today many Hondurans live in informal settlements, lacking secure land tenure along with basic services. The Honduran population is just over 8 million, while their housing deficit is estimated at 1.15 million housing units. Additionally, 80 percent of privately held land is untitled. Secure land tenure remains out of reach for many.
Although the country’s Constitution establishes housing as a human right, it’s not uncommon for a significant gap to remain between such a high-level statement and a tangible transformation of the housing and living conditions of its citizens. Two of Honduras’ largest barriers to poverty and housing inequality are gang violence and gender norms.
Gang violence: Land security is greatly impacted by extortion and gang violence. People living on gang-controlled territory are frequently made to pay bribes to stay on their land. If unable to pay, people are forced to leave or receive retribution. With one of the highest homicide rates in the world, this threat is very real. From 2000 to 2014, gang violence internally displaced 174,000 people. 750,000 Hondurans live outside of the country, with gang violence as a leading cause of their departure.
Gender norms: Strict gender norms act as a barrier for women attempting to access secure land tenure. Although women have equality under law, the cultural norm that men are the head of household, and thereby the rightful landowner, prevails. In 2003, women owned only a quarter of land plots. Since land ownership is often used as collateral in Honduras, women have a harder time accessing credit to open their own business, making home repairs, and making other investments in their homes that would benefit them, their families and their communities.
In response to these barriers, Habitat Honduras and partners have created 227 new land and housing policies since 2009, with an additional 13 awaiting approval. Habitat Honduras has seen incredible results through these guidelines, with 106 of these new land and housing policies approved between 2015 and 2018, granting secure tenure to 1.2 million people. Municipal governments approved budgets under these new policies, allocating well over $50 million in funding for land and housing.
Over the past decade, Habitat Honduras has advocated at the municipal level, working to empower local actors through a bottom-up advocacy approach. They are doing this by bringing together civil society and community members in each local community and empowering them to create, negotiate and monitor implementation of fair housing policies.
Every housing policy promoted by Habitat Honduras follows strategic guidelines to ensure the highest level of success. Habitat Honduras views adequate housing and access to basic services as rights which should be guaranteed for all groups of people, regardless of identity. Land policies should guarantee people’s right to land acquisition and ownership, contributing to secure tenure. Additionally, it is important for community members to participate in the creation of the policy, meaning the process must be transparent and reflective of community needs.
According to Habitat Honduras’ guidelines, housing and land policies should be incorporated into the longer-term, strategic Municipal Development Plans, with clear implementation strategies and budgets. Any land and housing policy should contribute to community development that is self-sustaining.
A decade ago, the housing crisis in Honduras looked insurmountable. Today thanks to the advocacy work of Habitat Honduras, and in leveraging the Solid Ground campaign, over a million lives have been positively impacted, with more success to come.