Echale promotes sustainable social housing production and social inclusion through technological empowerment, financial education and associative development.
Focus: Enterprise Development, Housing, Urban Development
Geographic Area of Impact: Mexico, Central America
Model: Social Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 147,000 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 5 million (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 90%
Recognition: Regional Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Latin America, 2011
Nearly 1.1 billion people around the world live in deficient homes, and in Mexico approximately 25.8 million people live in physically unstable structures. The average monthly income of a person living in an unstable home is US$ 120–600. In recent years many companies have marketed to individuals at the base of the pyramid by selling housing construction materials, such as cement, in smaller quantities. The result of this self-build strategy has been a housing process marked by poor planning, high waste, high costs and long completion times (10–15 years). In the long term, these homes are costlier to build and in many cases they are more physically vulnerable in the event of a severe hurricane or earthquake. Stable homes and vibrant communities are linked to child development, reduced crime, improved democracy and economic growth. Hence, it is important to find low-cost, effective approaches to community building and house construction for the poorest of the poor.
Innovation and Activities
Echale has devised a housing construction strategy for the poor to become owners of structurally sound houses in a cost-effective and sustainable way. It begins by creating social housing production units that work with a combination of sweat equity and facilitated capital. Echale helps the units create community trusts, creating both financial and social capital. With this capital, and a partnership with the federal mortgage authority, Echale can offer mortgages and financing to community members. Home ownership, in addition to creating more stable communities, offers the residents collateral and an asset through which they access other opportunities.
Echale trains communities on how to create AdoBlocks, which are made from 90% soil and clay, thus reducing waste and creating naturally-insulated homes. Additionally, Echale promotes the use of other sustainable technologies (rain water collection systems, solar heaters, biogas digestors and grey water filtration systems) in its housing construction, promoting ideals of sustainability and environmental preservation through the production process. Over time, Echale works with communities to form a micro-construction industry for the area, through which community members can generate income and assist in the construction of each others’ homes. This “sweat equity” approach cultivates greater community ownership and instils a sense of pride for self-made communities.
Nearly 25,000 homes have been built through Echale across Mexico. Additionally, the process of construction has generated significant income increases for those engaging in the micro-construction industry. Echale hopes to construct 125,000 housing units by 2016.
Francesco Piazzesi, who grew up in Mexico learning about his family’s construction business, is deeply passionate about home ownership and community building for the poorest of the poor. After writing his PhD dissertation on “Sustainable Housing Microfinance Mortgage”, he founded Adobe Homes Aid n 1985, as a non-profit that teaches communities how to make robust construction materials out of 90% natural earth. Realizing that community building and home ownership requires other components such as social capital, financial literacy and credit instruments, in 1997 he transformed Eco-Block into the social business Echale a Tu Casa.