The Seed House is an alternative progressive approach to housing. It stems from the economic situation in this country – where it is currently impossible for a low – income family to access a loan for a full house. It is different from the “core house” approach because it focuses on training and empowerment so that the homeowner can complete the house correctly following a plan and managing their resources efficiently.
A Seed House needs, ideally, a plot of 8,66 x 20 meters, free of previous structures and obstacles. One condition of Seed House construction is to assure the homeowner has secure tenure of the land. In Argentina, perfect title deeds are extremely difficult to come by in informal settlements. So HPHA makes sure that there is sufficient documentation to prevent the family from being evicted, and helps the family understand the importance of a title deed and the way to initiate the long process.
The Seed House methodology includes:
- 50% loan and construction
- 50% training and empowerment
During the construction, which typically takes a year, HPHA empowers and assists the family in the process of learning how to manage a construction budget and plan, work with suppliers, masons, and architects, and build each phase of the structure as needed to ensure the rapid and efficient construction of their Seed House.
In turn, this methodology offers families in housing vulnerability the possibility of gradually building a larger dwelling. The Seed-House model provides an initial loan for the construction of a bathroom, kitchen-dining room, and bedroom space, together with the additional foundation to build a complete 3-bedroom house. Equally important, during the first year of construction this model also provides: the plans and budget for a completed house; technical construction training; and related social assistance (e.g. family and community relationship support). Finally, groups of volunteers (brigades) are coordinated to assist the family with construction, which helps provide the essential thrust and motivation during the long and complex process of building a house.
As a methodology used by Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina, the Seed House model is considered to be the most comprehensive housing solution for several reasons: First, it makes financial assistance available to a family through a zero-interest loan for assisted self-construction. Second, it provides education in the form of technical training and the social support a family needs to successfully undertake and complete home construction. Third, it shortens primary house construction time to between 10 and 12 months. Finally, the model offers on-going support for financial management, assisted self-construction, and related social and community network needs during loan repayment up to a maximum of 15 years. All of this is accomplished through advice provided by technicians, contact with local organizations working together on housing solutions, and with the support of companies and individuals that help finance the houses and/or volunteer labor needed for a family to build everything.
The financial component of the Seed House is one of its most important innovations. The loan available to families may be mixed: cash funding through a loan and/or in-kind contributions of labor or materials. The loan allows the family to choose materials, compare prices, and otherwise manage their own money; all of which promotes financial empowerment and independent decision-making.
The loan contributes 80% of the cost of the Seed House. The remaining 20% must be provided (usually by labor or materials in kind) by the family itself. This helps to develop the necessary skills and experience for future stages of house construction the family completes on its own. The amount of the loan and related repayment installments are calculated based on 50% or 60% of the family’s saving capacity to help ensure the family is able to repay the loan, as well as to continue to invest in the materials and labor required to complete the additional room(s) of the Seed House.