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A phased-construction project in Texas, United States, which provides low-cost mortgages for families that adapt and grow when they need to expand and extend their homes has today – Thursday 16 December 2021 – been named a Bronze Award Winner in this year’s World Habitat Awards.

The Rio Grande Valley (RGV), on the Texas-Mexico border, is one of the poorest areas in the United States. Many of the local residents, specifically Mexican and Mexican Americans, are trapped in a cycle of chronic financial instability, suffering the effects of extreme poverty and a lack of affordable housing.

MiCASiTA is a phased construction housing project which enables families to take out low-cost mortgages that grow as they expand their homes, mitigating the accrual of large debts and encouraging long-term homeowner investment. The project was developed by the organisations buildingcommunityWORKSHOP and ‘come dream. come build.’ (cdcb), whose partnerships with lenders and private investors created the flexible loan product, as well as a mortgage fund.

Homebuyers are helped to reduce debt and save for a deposit before designing their dream home. An initial loan enables residents to purchase the core housing unit, which consists of a kitchen, bathroom, dining room and bedroom. Extra rooms can be added over time as the family’s financial situation improves or as their needs change.

MiCASiTA will complete 6 homes over the coming year, which cost 15% less than market price, and is poised to expand into other impoverished regions, improving financial stability and building equity in communities where this was not previously an option.

Maria Gaona, a mother living in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, purchased a home and was able to make design choices to ensure the house fit her family’s specific needs. Once the home was complete, she and her children were thrilled with their new house.

“Ever since the first time [the children] saw the house, they were incredibly happy. They couldn’t believe it. They kept asking me, ‘Mom, this is my house?! This is my house?! [I said] yes, my love.’”

As Ms. Gaona describes, she had many opportunities to design her house exactly how she wanted it. Working closely with designers from buildingcommunityWORKSHOP, she was able to choose where she wanted the kitchen, living room, and bedrooms to be situated along with other details that make her home unique.

“[You can make your house] exactly how you want it, where you want this, where you want that, and everything,” Ms. Gaona says.

David Ireland, Chief Executive of World Habitat, said: “The MiCASiTA housing design was developed out of an emergency housing model. It provides homes for rural and low-income people. The modular design can grow with the family and their ability to be able to afford to add new modules and improvements to their home. What is so insightful is that people’s circumstances, their families and income levels, change over time. MiCASiTA homes adapt in parallel and grow with that change. Most houses are static and constant, but this is a real home for life.”

The World Habitat Awards Advisory Group judging panel said: “The concept of evolutionary housing such as this is an interesting development for high-income countries such as the USA – along with the creation of a financial product which works in this context.”

The World Habitat Awards are organised by World Habitat in partnership with UN-Habitat.


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