Holcim Apasco, Mexico: Affordable housing initiatives: "Mi Casa".

Holcim Apasco, Mexico: Affordable housing initiatives: "Mi Casa"

Around 60% of the cement produced in Mexico is used to build houses. Concrete is a popular building material, the Mexican impression being that "only a concrete house is a good house". The housing shortage in the country is currently more than 4.6 million and this figure rises each year. Government social housing programs can only support 80% of current demand, even without reducing the historical deficit.

However, because of financial limitations and limited knowledge of building techniques, around a quarter of these homes have neither running water nor drains. In addition, building materials are only available from centrally located stores, leaving those who want to build their own homes with little access to affordable materials and professional advice. Holcim Apasco's "Mi Casa" scheme is concerned with both, helping people self-build to an acceptable standard, and with improving the availability of affordable construction materials. This concept arose as a result of some surveys indicating that self-construction needs support carrying out people's projects and that they are looking for safety, more value for their property, credits, the possibility to incrementally enlarge their houses and also legal advisory.

Since 1996, Holcim Apasco has brought together trades people, local authorities, housing law experts and credit institutes to offer holistic housing solutions. By October 2008, Holcim Apasco has set up more than 1100 standardized "Mi Casa" centers (building materials depots) that allow resellers to have the full range of building materials and products available locally at reasonable prices.

Working as a team with its distributors, Holcim Apasco provides a specialized technical advisor who is in charge of providing technical assistance to the self-builder regarding the optimal manner of building, expanding or improving his home. Around 115 enthusiastic technical advisors are working now for the "Mi Casa" scheme. Through this program Holcim Apasco has trained more than 400,000 self-builders in the skills needed to build their own homes.

We estimate that through the "Mi Casa" initiative Holcim Apasco has supported the construction or improvement of about 250,000 homes all over Mexico during the last eight years (2000 to 2008).