Although in Ecuador’s coastal city of Guayaquil many of the 2 million people live below the poverty line, Hogar de Cristo, a Catholic social services organization has created a housing boom by offering homes for $530.00.
Delivery and assembly of these houses brings the total cost to close to $700. Only the low income families qualify for these single room homes with bamboo walls and zinc roofs. The popularity of these basic homes is evident after viewing the hillsides of Guayaquil which are now covered with Hogar de Cristo homes; replacing slums into neighborhoods. It is estimated that Hogar de Cristo sells 50 houses per day and has sold 130,000 in Guayaquil and its surrounding areas.
The Catholic organization of Hogar de Cristo, which translates to, “Home of Christ,” began with an idea by the late Father Alberto Hurtado S.J. He later founded the organization in 1944; then other Jesuits continued his ministry in the 1970s. Today Father Robert Costa, S.J. is the organization’s director.
Although the price of $530 is what Hogar de Cristo believes the poorest of the poor should be able to spend on housing, they also offer financing for those that still cannot afford the base price. Some families will be given the option to finance the house interest free over three years for about $14 per month. Yet, this monthly payment could be reduced to as little as zero if the family is truly in need. “Our goal is to never turn a client away for financial reasons. So we have to keep costs to a minimum,” said Father Costa to Inside Costa Rica.
Although the homes are wildly popular the company has faced some criticism. Some people believe that the houses are too basic, as they do not include things such as glass windows, electricity or plumbing. Father Costa explains, “Bamboo is a symbol of poverty in this area. And in fact, I’m not proud of these houses. People shouldn’t have to live in these conditions. But we say, ‘Better a wood and bamboo house today than a brick house five years from now.’ Our view is that people who don’t have a roof over their heads can’t wait. Some of our applicants are literally living under pieces of cardboard.”