EU hands over new homes under ‘Homes not Houses’ project

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Funded by the European Union, jointly implemented by Habitat for Humanity and World Vision Lanka, the ’Homes not Houses Project’ is expected to benefit more than 215,250 internally displaced people in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka.

Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka and World Vision Lanka successfully concluded this multi-year, multi-faceted undertaking that empowered more than 2,370 conflict-affected families to resettle and rebuild their lives and future through sustainable housing and community economic development.

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For a majority of these families, this is the first home they have ever owned, as many of them had been displaced due to decades of war. Focused on providing housing support for the most vulnerable, the ‘Homes not Houses Project’ has been able to successfully provide safe shelter solutions to 116 families of persons with disabilities, 12 child-headed homes – where both parents have been lost; and more than 644 homes which are headed by women.

Promoting eco-friendly and climate appropriate construction practices was an integral component of the ‘Homes not Houses Project’ design. In addition, as compared to other existing housing programs in the country, the project adopted an innovative “home owner driven” approach where the households contributed directly to the design and construction of their home. It also featured the use of innovative, sustainable and low-carbon construction technologies and materials locally produced such as compressed stabilized earth blocks1 with about 45% of the houses built. It is known as one of the best examples of Habitat’s climate-sensitive initiatives where families and masons had opportunities to learn about the benefits and utilize sustainable construction technologies and materials that are an alternative to mining sand known for their negative impact on the environment but also an alternative to use of costly and carbon intensive imported cement.

Another aspect of this vision towards community transformation is the development of sustainable livelihoods. One approach adopted by the project is utilizing the land usage plans to equip homeowners to identify and efficiently avail resources from their own land to increase family income. Making informed decisions about placement of perennial crops, seasonal crops, home-garden and livestock rearing are just some of the benefits already visible amongst families who adopted the land usage plans.

Encouraged and heartened by increased and sustained income generation, families benefiting from the ‘Homes not Houses Project’ have transitioned to focus more on their children’s health and education. Others have expanded their livelihood to micro level businesses providing employment to others in the neighborhood contributing towards social cohesion. These first fruits of social transformation are proof that this project is not just about building houses but about transforming lives. It’s no doubt that the long term social, economic and environment impact of the ‘Homes not Houses Project’ will reverberate through generations to come.

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