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According to United Nations (UN) Habitat, approximately one billion citizens around the world are living in inadequate housing, in urban area slums. Around the world there are many non-profits, large and small, working to solve the lack of proper social housing. Unfortunately these organizations rely on external sources of funding and use most of their time and energy fundraising and reporting back to donors. This takes away valuable resources that could be used in their field of impact, working with communities to bring empowered solutions for their housing problems.
But there is hope! ConstruCycle is a for-profit social business that has developed an innovative system to continuously provide direct large scale funds to NGOs building social housing, by upcycling, creating value and selling resources available within the communities.
According to the UN, 80% of the Nicaraguan population lives on less than US$2 per day, and 43% on less than US$1 a day. Nicaragua has 980,000 inadequate houses, of which 356,000 (2005 National Census) are made with precious wood planks, which unfortunately are badly constructed and lack proper infrastructure. According to the Nicaraguan Ministry of Construction, 52% of houses do not have proper insulation, flooring and roofing, and 45% of all existing houses have a dirt floor. This affects the family’s physical health, mental health, self-esteem and dignity.
Families living under these conditions earn less than $2 a day, making it impossible to afford a home with better conditions. For this reason, non-profits providing social housing for them have to rely heavily on attracting external funding to build, which limits their capability, and consequently their impact in a community. As an example Habitat for Humanity, one of the largest organizations, has only been able to build 5,600 houses in 28 years of operations in the country. We expect to provide enough funding to build the same amount of houses in only 7 years of operations.
The wood these families use to build their houses comes from precious wood trees. This wood is decades old and has a historic character and a unique touch, which makes it very valuable and customers are willing to pay a high price for furniture made from it. ConstruCycle upcycles the wood and transforms it into beautifully designed reclaimed wood furniture, which is sold in high end U.S. stores for profit, where the total sales in 2012 for reclaimed wood furniture totaled $730 million. The generated profit is then channeled through non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity to build a better house made of earth blocks for the family. With the help of ConstruCycle, they will own a home they are proud of, kept healthy and warm in, and able to grow in with one less hindrance and worry.