Value Added Housing

April, 2010

with Michael Murphy

Post-Disaster/Conflict Housing

Development financing happens in phases. After a conflict or a disaster, massive amounts of relief financing is opened up quickly to provide immediate solutions to basic amenities like shelter, food, and health. Often, this temporary relief becomes permanent and long term while more sustained aid is proposed and expected. Generally emergency mandate NGO’s provide access to this aid and these related services. After a time of relative peace and stabilization, emergency mandate NGOs are phased out and more development focused, long-term support NGOs enter providing different services and different sources of financing. In both cases, money and resources are wasted based upon the phase of development their mandate allows them to operate within. Our project asks the question if we could rethink the inter- section of this transition (in Liberia this was about seven years after war) and allow emergency mandate NGOs to provide more permanent infrastructures, and development NGOs to work on more immediate services, a potential cost-savings and solution oriented practice could emerge. Realizing that this would require different and upfront financing, we propose to think about housing within a carbon credit financing system to suggest more permanent shelter in what would be considered a temporary scenario.

Value Added Housing

The value of shelter is typically correlated to the value of the property, land plus structure. This model relies on stable property markets and clear tenure rights. However, these conditions do not apply to much of the world’s population, specifically in urban informal settlements. How else could the value of shelter be valued to relate to the specific environments in which these people live? Shelter, through the act of dwelling, may have other valuable benefits than the basic correlation of property value. To evaluate these benefits, it is necessary to model shelter as a system with inputs and outputs that have values attached to them. In the typical association of shelter to property value, ownership in a supply and demand market generates property value. In this new model, shelter’s value is dependent on many additional factors beyond ownership, such as tax revenue, provision of available labor, advertising rights or carbon offset credits. By creating multiple ways of valuing shelter, more economic sources can be tapped for the improvement of shelter beyond typical bank mortgage solutions. These additional streams of potential revenue may allow governments to provide greater investment in public housing stock, encourage the involvement of NGOs or provide investment opportunities for public private partnerships.

Value Added Systems: Carbon Credits

When that shelter and its systems are aggregated into larger developments, cost savings are provided by a number of variables including sharing of resources, community centered services and the bundling of finances through different investments. That applied to the context that the community lives within (for example how long since a conflict or disaster) can be a useful – if not reductive – gauge for the type of investment opportunities available. This time line also highlights the type of NGOs and development groups working in the country focused on Emergency mandate, Long Term Development solutions, or Government financed poverty reduction developments. By harnessing clever models of home building, for instance through new opportunities like the Carbon Market, potential exists to build better buildings earlier than typical financing would suggest. The Kuyasa project shows an example of how a South African project was able to use carbon credits to provide better homes to people with the help of Government financed schemes and a mix of private investment. We aim to investigate these types of projects further to see if this financing could be applied to countries in earlier stages of development, closer to the stage of conflict/disaster, and that have significantly less financing available – like Haiti or Liberia.

Value Added Housing Components

Value Added Housing Components can be divided into three categories: Construction, Land Management and Energy. These three groups describe the type of system that is being modified to capture greater value through the creation, deployment, and use of housing. Construction refers to the method and means of building the housing units. Here, the construction method is conceptualized as an on-site prefabricated system that efficiently builds reproducible units that can be measured and tested for compliance to applicable standards. On-site prefabrication brings additional jobs to the local community and creates an initial infrastructure for future light manufacturing. Land management describes the method of deploying housing units on a site. In this case, each house has been paired with a tree to combat deforestation. The relationship of each tree to house is governed by solar access for photovoltaics and the aggregated spaces created between units that may serve as places for future expansion. Energy Use encompasses all of the components of a house that may directly or indirectly reduce the amount of energy used, thereby cutting the CO2 emissions generated by a given unit, and increasing the amount of carbon credits that can be traded for.

Carbon Credit Model

Carbon Credit programs require a long validation and approval process. Currently thousands of proposed projects wait in the approval process and are undergoing significant review. Once a program activity is approved however, this type of project can easily be replicated in differ- ent locations. One type of project, called a Program of Activities, or a POA, bundles multiple approved project types or components to easily argue for the increased carbon absorption, sequestration, or offsets. We propose to bundle our housing project for Mirabalais with two ap- proved types (afforestation and the Kuyasa utility concept) with a proposed program of carbon absorption materials. We used Novacement as an example of building materials which absorb carbon instead of creates emissions. While there are others, this example provides unique insight into how dramatic the built environment is on the quantity of carbon emissions in our atmosphere annually and the tremendous opportunity to rethink construction through carbon credit financing sources.

Value Added Housing can create large new housing settlements that respond to housing crisis around the globe. By leveraging mechanisms such as carbon credit markets or local economies, housing for the displaced and low-income may become an investment opportunity rather than a charitable donation. Housing then becomes an asset, enabling future economic growth and building wealth at a local level.