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Building for Hope in Costa Rica

Proceedings of the international conference held in Costa Rica to discuss the housing of poor people, with examples from the Philippines, Chile, Malawi, Sri Lanka and Turkey, as well as Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is the oldest established democracy in Latin America, having had free and fair elections for more than 150 years. Its army was abolished in 1948 and priority given to extending and improving the educational, health and social programmes of the country.

The National Housing Programme of Costa Rica in the years 1986-1990 achieved dramatic success in improving the housing conditions for the people. Inspired by the political will of President Oscar Arias and his energetic Minister for Housing, Mr Fernando Zumbado, the programme introduced a reduction in bureaucracy and an innovative financial system designed to incorporate low-income families into the housing market. The poor were no longer seen as a problem but rather as a major resource of the country.

In 1990 the achievements of this programme were recognised internationally when it received the World Habitat Award for its effective and innovative approach to housing provision. Representatives of other developing countries were invited to visit Costa Rica and saw for themselves what can be achieved when resources are diverted from military expenditure and the abilities and knowledge of the people are recognised and developed.

This report will inform. It will also encourage action with many excellent examples of how the poor can be housed, not only from Costa Rica but also Chile, Malawi, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

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