Affordable Dreams
Bay Islands’ first low income housing project nears completion

July 1st, 2007
by Thomas Tomczyk


The crew works on the roof of one of 137 hoses in Colonia Santa Maria.

The crew works on the roof of one of 137 hoses in Colonia Santa Maria.

Until now many people thought that affordable and low income housing on the Bay Islands could not be done. While 100 unit condos priced at $160,000 and up were permitted and springing up all over the place, homes for the blue collar workers were nowhere to be found.

A few projects are underway to change that. One of them, a 137 home development site in Brick Bay, has breathtaking views of Cayos Cochinos, a designated green area for a future children’s playground, kindergarten and school. These concrete block houses built for Lps. 700 a square meter, or $3.70 a square foot, are constructed for a fraction of nearby condominiums, resembling more monthly retail rental prices in West Bay.

The project is funded by Fundacion para el Desarrollo de la Vivienda Social Urbana y Rural (FUNDEVI), a NGO offering affordable housing to the working poor. While FUNDEVI has funded 41, 300 individual homes on mainland Honduras, this is their first project on the Bay Islands.

The coordinator of the project is Elmer Santa Maria, a 30-year-old schoolteacher, who learned of FUNDEVI’s projects while attending a pedagogical university in La Ceiba. He volunteered to start FUNDEVIS’s first Bay Islands project and after five years of training, filling out permits and waiting, the project is almost complete.

The requirements to qualify for a FUNDEVI house are simple. You have to be in a formal family, have a stable job, have no outstanding debts nor own other property. Hector Nolasco, a high school teacher living in Coxen Hole, is the head of one of the 137 families looking forward to moving to colonia Santa Maria.

“This is a social, not a commercial project and we need to participate,” says Nolasco as he paints the metal angles that form the rafters of his future 36 square meter home. Nolasco, with his wife and four children spent Lps. 3,000 on rent for the past 11 years and when he moves to his home in September his seven year mortgage will be only 200 Lps. more.

Nolascos were originally one of 450 families interested in participating in the FUNDEVI project. After more then half of the families dropped out or lost interest, a 2005 lottery amongst the families decided who gets which lot, even the most coveted corner lots.

Each lot then was allocated with a house size that reflected the ability of the lender family for making payment. Rectangular 25, 30, 36 and 45 square meter homes were laid out on each one of the 120 square meter lots.

The houses are given to the families turnkey, and it is then the families who decide how to divide the raw, one-room space into rooms. Nolasco already has plans on adding two additional rooms to the house.

Emilio Silvestri, an island businessman who sold the project site to FUNDEVI in 2004 for Lps. 6.85 million, is looking at bringing another FUNDEVI project to Oak Ridge. “The government allows all these condo developments to break ground, but they do little to help the island’s poor,” said Silvestri. The Santa Maria development was delayed for over a year pending a Ministry of the Environment permit.

Most of the project’s construction crew live in three 40 foot metal containers on the construction site. They work 12 hours a day, seven days a week and once a month leave for three days to visit their families on the mainland. “A mason costs Lps. 600 here and we couldn’t find anyone willing to work for Lps. 300,” said Santa Maria. The 40-man crew run by Enedilio Janez is paid after completing key portions of each house: foundation, walls, metal roofing. “All the materials are more expensive and arrive delayed,” said Janez, who has been working on FUNDEVI projects though out Honduras for the past five years.

The 137 individual homes are divided into seven blocks with three parallel streets. As the project nears completion a black water treatment center is planned and several island businessmen offered their assistance in the development. Dale Jackson’s Diamond Jack provides free dock to work site materials transport and Julio Galindo gave Lps. 50,000 towards a purchase of an electrical transformer. The project is expected to be complete in September. [/private]

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