Rooftops visits Kenya and South Africa
In November 2014, on behalf of ONPHA, myself and five social housing colleagues witnessed the work that Rooftops Canada and its partners are doing in Kenya and South Africa. I had been in Africa about 40 years ago, and I recently raised funds for the Kenya Home Water Project because I know how important water is in Africa.
In Kenya, we visited housing co-operatives with shared ownership in the Nairobi area where members worked together to save money and determine the type and planning of their own homes. They showed an incredible strength of will in putting aside a little money every month to create their own futures.
We saw how the water project fundraising would benefit these communities, some of which have already dug deep boreholes, established solar powered pumps, and provided water to all members. This is a vast improvement over bringing water by foot or cart from some distant well.
In South Africa, we visited some truly impressive social housing organizations and their funders. These developments would not look out of place here, except perhaps for the lack of insulation and heating.
Witnessing the entrepreneurial approach of these organizations and the engagement of their members, I felt that there was a lot we could learn from their common resilience in a difficult financial environment.
Land ownership – title – is very important in Africa, and achieving ownership is not easy. Mortgages are uncommon and short-term borrowing is the normal approach. Mortgage rates in one African country are as high as 37 per cent. Owning land and a house, however basic, provides an opportunity for families to change their lives, and taking this step to home ownership can make all the difference in the world.
Contributed by Hugh Lawson, Director of Strategic Planning & Stakeholder Relations, Toronto Community Housing.