How Solid Ground is improving access to land in Honduras

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A decade ago, the housing crisis in Honduras looked insurmountable. Although the country’s Constitution establishes housing as a human right, it’s not uncommon for a significant gap to still remain between such a high-level statement and a tangible transformation of the housing and living conditions of its citizens. Many families in Honduras, even with such a constitutional provision, lived in shacks made from whatever scraps of wood or metal they could cobble together. Single mothers confronted laws and a culture that placed land ownership — and therefore homes where their children could grow and thrive — out of reach. And in some areas, access to affordable land was so hard to come by that even when families scrimped and saved to buy property, they couldn’t afford to build a house on it.

Now, a decade later, new policies and partnerships are changing lives and making safe, stable, and affordable homes a reality for more and more Hondurans each day. More than half of Honduras’ 298 municipalities have passed housing policies, with a goal of the rest having policies in place by 2018. A study of just ten of these municipalities showed a total increased investment in housing by US$1.93 million reaching nearly 23,500 people.

The catalyst? Many hands — and many hands working together. Citizens, churches, community groups, government agencies, nonprofits including Habitat for Humanity, for-profits and financial institutions — all have joined forces to advocate for a national housing policy that directs financial and human resources to the most vulnerable families and communities.

Habitat’s global advocacy campaign, Solid Ground, helps countries like Honduras address housing problems through advocacy that mobilizes people and influences laws and policies. In just over a year, Solid Ground already has taken root in more than 30 countries, from Australia to Cote d’Ivoire, Brazil to Bulgaria, and has helped an estimated 1 million people gain access to land for shelter.. In Honduras, Solid Ground is contributing technical and financial support. And we’re seeing incredible results! Hear about some of the lives being changed each day through access to safe and affordable shelter…

Hear Their Stories 

Safety from Storms: Estella, Puerto Cortės

As a young woman, Estella played guitar in her father’s Latin pop band. Now 83 and wearing her long, silver hair in a messy bun, she dances around her kitchen in Puerto Cortės, singing lyrics from back in those days. “I am happy again,” she says.

Estella has had many good times during her eight decades. She also has had her share of very difficult stretches. Most recently, she and her 23-year-old grandson, Manuel, had been living near the Caribbean coast, in a shack made of scrap materials. Their home had electricity but no bathroom.

During the heavy rains common to this area, Estella and Manuel hurried around as the structure flooded, hoisting food and beds on cinderblocks to keep them from getting soaked. Sometimes, the wind picked up and flipped the flimsy roof inside out, and everything got ruined.

Estella now welcomes the storms. She and her grandson live inland, in a new Habitat house. Although the time it took to build the two-bedroom house was relatively quick, the life-changing development represents years of advocacy efforts and collaboration between Habitat Honduras, other community stakeholders and city officials.

Estella's story is part of a larger battle for systems that provide access to shelter and land rights around the world. Read more about Solid Ground’s systemic work in Puerto Cortes.

Keeping Families Together: Fanny and Fredy, Puerto Cortės

Fanny and Fredy knew that their cramped apartment was about to get even tighter once the new baby arrived. Then they found out that they were having twins. “The pregnancy was a surprise,” Fanny says, “and when they told us there were two babies, that was another surprise. We needed a bigger space.”

The couple is seated in the living room of their new turquoise Habitat house in Puerto Cortės. The twins, Kennet and Breanne, now 3, are playing hide-and-seek with the lace kitchen curtains and chasing each other around a coconut tree in the front yard. Sixteen-year-old Isaac is keeping one eye on his little brother and sister, the other on his phone and the texts coming in from friends.

“Before, we were adrift,” says Fanny, who describes their beautifully decorated house as a kind of anchor that keeps her family grounded. For Fredy, it is more like the glue that bonds them all together. “As the children grow up in a good environment, they will follow our example of owning their own home and keeping their families together,” he says.

Fanny and Fredy's story is part of a greater movement for strong and stable homes that help families stay together. Find our more about the policies and partnerships that made it possible.

Transforming Communities with Stable Housing: Germán, Santa Cruz

In the early evenings, Germán sits on his front porch in Santa Cruz. It is the perfect spot to reflect on all the good things that have come his way recently. His new burnt orange house sits at the top of a hill overlooking a valley and steep mountains. It is among the first to go up in a new development, the direct result of a local housing policy focused on increasing the availability of affordable land and homes.

Germán sees his grandsons, 10-year-old Jobeth and 6-year-old Josué, kicking a soccer ball and laughing it up with their new neighborhood friends. As is most often the case, Josué has on a straw hat, part of the costume of the folk art dance troupe he belongs to. The boys are happier here, Germán says, and that makes him happy. “My grandchildren are my life,” says Germán, who is raising the children on his own. “They are everything. Everything.”

Germán waves to his new neighbors walking by. He acknowledges that bringing up kids a second time around has been more taxing and is so grateful for the built-in support system that came with the house. The neighbors, whom Germán now calls friends, look after the boys when he is working at the mill grinding corn for tortillas and tamales. The boys prefer their cooking and are happy to go, Germán laughs.

Soon, there will be more neighbors to meet and more friends to make. Twenty-three homes have been built in the new development, with 32 more on the way. The boys can’t wait for the new soccer field that should be going in soon. Neither can Germán, who played and coached a team for many years.

Change doesn’t stop with shelter. Learn about the impact of Habitat homes on transforming entire communities in Santa Cruz.

Providing Stability and Better Futures for Our Children: José and Martha, Santa Cruz

José is the father of two young girls and a math teacher to many students at the public high school in Santa Cruz. Both roles require that he lead an exemplary life, he says. “Part of setting an example is providing your family with a secure place to live.”

He wants to teach his daughters, 10-year-old Génesis and 6-year-old Madelyn, that a home is where families bond and grow strong together, he says, where children flourish in body and spirit.

He wants to teach his students that hard work, perseverance and responsibility is the equation for success. It is the one he followed to become a homeowner. “I have to bring this message to young people, so that tomorrow they can benefit the way that I have.”

Positive impact multiplies across generations. Read about how Habitat homeownership is improving futures for José, Martha and their children.

Municipal Policies Change Lives: Telma and Milady, Cane

In the small city of Cane, Telma makes lunch in her house built by government contractors. Her young daughters have more space and are much happier here, she says, than they had been living at their grandmother’s with a dozen relatives.

A few blocks way, Milady reads to her young children in their new Habitat house. “They radiate happiness from the moment they come into the house,” Milady says. “That makes me feel like the happiest woman in the world.”

Telma and Milady are among the many families that have benefitted from a housing policy adopted almost a decade ago with a simple but bold goal – a safe and stable home for every Cane citizen.

When municipal governments partner with Habitat and other nonprofits, citizens, community groups and private businesses to commit to good housing policy, countless lives improve. Learn more about Solid Ground’s partnerships in transforming the city of Cane.

Be a part of someone else’s story. While all of these stories represent huge strides and lives changed, many families around the world face the same challenges that Estella, Milady, Germán, and their fellow homeowners are now overcoming. By donating, you can be a part of our efforts to impact 10 million people around the world. We also need your voice. Join the Solid Ground campaign by taking action today.