Holcim Lanka, Sri Lanka: Affordable housing initiatives: "House for Life".

Holcim Lanka, Sri Lanka: Affordable housing initiatives: "House for Life"

In Sri Lanka, almost 23% of people live below the poverty line. The challenge is to provide well-constructed affordable housing to the most needy. Some 12.5% of the population still live in wattle and daub huts with few, if any facilities. As the leading provider of cement to the Sri Lanka market, Holcim Lanka is looking to address the housing needs of this country's very poorest. Launched in 2005, 'House-for-Life' is a partnership initiative between Holcim Lanka and microfinance provider Ceylinco Grameen.

Through this project, local micro-entrepreneurs borrow money to buy a house. This custom-built home has been specially designed as a shop-house, providing each family with the premises to run a small business. Through the partnership with Ceylinco Grameen the project aims at combining micro credits with Holcim's affordable housing concept. Loans follow the successful Grameen Bank model, with few local adaptations.

In late 2004, Holcim Lanka set up a revolving fund of $50,000 to be replenished through loan and interest payments. An initial seed fund was invested in the Grameen housing loan scheme, an additional sum financed the development of the model shop-house and the construction of an initial ten houses. To ensure these shop-houses provide the best quality and most cost-effective solution, with close attention also paid to environmental factors, Holcim is collaborating with the National Building Research Organization. Houses are built with cement locally produced by Holcim as well as other locally sourced building materials (roofing tiles, clay bricks and steel), providing new commercial opportunities for local producers and distributors.

To strengthen resources locally, the first few houses were constructed in Moratuwa, south of the greater Colombo area an inland community, upgrading slum dwellings to decent housing. So far, however, the expected self build input to home construction has been much lower than anticipated. In order to keep building costs down, Holcim Lanka is considering training local people in supervised self-construction or encouraging them to work with local masons who have already benefited from the Holcim training program.