The Solidarity Housing Fund was created in Chile to allow low-income families to not only apply for subsidized housing, but be part of the planning process, giving them a sense of agency; this initiative involved joint decision-making between government and local communities.
Problems and Purpose
The Solidarity Housing Fund (FSV) is a programme run by the Chilean Ministry of Housing and Urban Development that supports low-income families with subsidized housing. The programme was initiated after residents of Puente Alto began to speak out about the inadequacy of social housing and the lack of government support for low-income families. Subsequently, the Solidarity Housing Fund was created, giving families the opportunity to not only apply for subsidized housing, but to be part of the planning and development process. To this end, each housing development is planned and delivered in close collaboration with the community and local social housing organizations. The process of joint decision making translates into feelings of agency and control over important life choices, thus empowering economically marginalized individuals and families.
Background History and Context
Puente Alto is a community found in the Metropolitan Region of Santiago, Chile, which currently is part of Gran Santiago and is also simultaneously the capital of the Province of Cordillera . In accordance with the National Institute for Statistics, in the 2002 census, the community consisted of 492,915 inhabitants, meaning that this is the most populated commune in Chile, although projections suspect that Maipú’s population surpassed the commune in 2005 . It was estimated in 2008 that the community was inhabited by 702,948 inhabitants.
The application for this housing project by the community which includes the village San Pedro and San Pablo (the district of Puente Alto) began in 2006 when 150 families belonging to the camp ‘Los areneros’ began to make demands to the Municipality of Puente Alto for their inclusion in a housing project. The remaining 150 families are drawn from a committee made up of families that live in a population near the camp. In many cases, applications are from relatives from individuals living in the ‘Los areneros’ camp.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Solidarity Housing Fund is overseen by Servicio de Vivienda y Urbanización SERVIU (Housing and Urbanization Services), an independent governing body under the Ministerio de Vivienda y Urbanismo MINVU (Ministry of Housing and Urban Development). Since its development in the 1970s, each region's SERVIU has had the goal of improving the living conditions of those within its catchment. Accordingly, when the New Housing Policy of 2006 created the Housing Fund, it was only logical that it be put under the direction of SERVIU. All funding and personnel are supplied by the MINVU. The case of Puente Alto which illustrates the Supportive Housing programme involved the SERVIU unit for the Province of Cordillera in coordination with municipal officials.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The process of planning, developing, and delivering subsidized housing involves numerous actors, most of which play a permanent role in the delivery of subsidized housing:
- Members of SERVIU who oversee the Solidarity Housing Fund (Fondo Solidario de Vivienda)
- Applying Families: low-income individuals identified in the Social Protection Card who partake in an application for home purchase 
- Committee: representatives from the group organized by applications (Committee on Housing)
- Municipality: This is the local government in the district (in this case, Puente Alto). The Social Protection Card is taken in order to provide information on the lands and various housing set-ups, as well as to receive building permits and appraisals.
- Management of Social Housing Organizations (EGISs): aids families in all aspects which are necessary to lead to success in solving the housing problem. EGISs can be private organization or belong to the municipality, but both must have a convention signed with MINVU. Within this framework, it is particularly important to understand the role played by the EGIS. These are the public or private organizations which manage the housing project, interacting mostly with applying families and the Ministry.
Methods and Tools Used
The planning and delivery of subsidized housing to approved families uses a mixed-methodology to include as many stakeholders as possible. The process essentially functions as a community-based participatory research project, containing tools and techniques commonly associated with participatory reflection and action. By including construction contractors, social housing organizations, and future residents in the planning and development process, the government ensures the subsidized housing developments are financially and technically feasible and that they meet the needs of the community and their future inhabitants.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Decision Making
The Servicio de Vivienda y Urbanización SERVIU (Housing and Urbanization Service) in the Chilean Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning (MINVU) oversees the Solidarity Housing Fund. The planning, development, and eventual granting of each subsidised housing project involved three phases in Puente Alto, the first being project identification. The projects identified were:
- Family Applications and the Formation of the Committee on Housing
- Selection of EGIS (social housing organizations) and Construction Companies
- Territory Purchase
- Work Group and General Assemblies
- Design of the construction project
- Allocation of housing
- Delivery of houses
These seven steps ensure the scope and risks of the project are collectively assessed and that the corresponding design maximizes the opportunities the end result delivers to its stakeholders. The initial project identification phase also involves a financial analysis to determine the feasibility of the project and its aims in accordance with potential investment.
The second phase, participatory design, seeks to involve all actors in the project design who consider themselves affected by the development of the project including:
- Actors in charge of the Supportive Housing Fund
- Applying Families
- Committee on Housing
- Municipal officials
- Social Housing Organizations (EGISs)
Development of the Work Plan
At this point, various EGIS (Social Housing Organizations) are responsible for the following services:
- Representing families before the SERVIU
- Supporting the work in the Committee or among families
- Designing and executing activities in the Social Inclusion Plan
- Collecting different background data to receive the subsidy and verify that application and savings requirements are fulfilled
A very high level of compliance can be noted when observing the submitted results, particularly in reference to housing — size, territory, and materials — and additionally, the possibility for expansion according to what was mentioned by families to construction companies. It is important to note in this point that Puente Alto represents the largest case in terms of the constructed area. Additionally, this district represents an increased awareness according to community in terms of further possibilities offered by this housing project. One can therefore state that both arguments reinforce the positive evaluation given to the building company.
In terms of savings, a large amount of coordination in the community can be noted of which is most evidently shown in the organization of activities so that families could count on the necessary amount for an application. In terms of purchasing of land, the community suggested an initial proposal to construct houses in the same location as the camp. The private land’s condition prevented this proposal from ever going through. Even so, after a land survey, EGIS chose for the construction to take place in the village of San Pablo and San Pedro. The compliance for this location shown by the families is high and it is considered fundamental to maintain this opinion in order to remain in the same district. This area allows for access to the train, which additionally eases access to services such as clinics, schools, and police stations. In terms of the work groups, it can concluded in this case that a high level of assistance for these projects by all actors involved — Construction Company Bio-Bio, EGIS, and the Community — permitted ease in the disbursement of information and ample space for participation in areas like housing design.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The project in Puente Alto serves as an example of the positive outcomes that result from a multi-stakeholder approach to the planning and development of social housing. Specifically, Puente Alto's housing development has accomplished the following:
- Practical experience and guidance arose which allowed for the incorporation of citizen participation in the decision making process in the project’s development and administration.
- During the three months following the delivery, families were able to provide demands to the construction company. According to interviewees, a large level of satisfaction was reported in the executed solution.
- Coexistence and cooperation within the village can be described as positive, both in terms of integration within the village as well as in the general environment.
- Reported satisfaction was also high in regards to green areas and plazas on which the community relies. A skating ring is also available for use by the community’s children.
- There is a high level of compliance expressed by the families in terms of the location. The maintenance of this opinion is considered fundamental in order to remain in this district where convenient access to trains is found. This allows for access to services like schools, police stations, and clinics.
- The realized benefits of the process are proven in the job offers given to the individuals involved in this role in the same municipality who worked specifically with social issues. As a result, the organization has observed and considers this a worthwhile investment for those involved.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
An analysis of participation in the framework of the Solidarity Housing Fund was undertaken with the goal of recognizing the experience and lessons among families who have participated in this process. As such, the evaluators attempted to:
- Account for the perception of families during main changes, i.e. in their environment, and social changes, which are experienced during the process of encampment to the house itself
- Develop an analysis of the district areas and forms of participation, differentiating according to steps in the project, and considering the distinction of roles between grassroots leaders and community
- Assess how satisfied families are in regard to the participatory process and the results of their housing situation.
- Notice difficulties, limitations in the participatory process and purchases of newly built housing
- Account for the mechanisms and areas which allow for greater participation and satisfactorily satisfying housing demands in contexts of extreme poverty
Taking into account the satisfactory accomplishment of the set objectives and the numerous positive effects that the project created, there have also been some negative aspects to its development. Some problems have been caused by outside factors outside the control of the project, but some other aspects were rooted in internal causes that can be improved in future projects.
Throughout the process, there were families who were forced to quit the endeavour due to challenges in saving money. Another problem existed among families who refused to move to the village due to the fact that this move was perceived to be risky due to new neighbors in both adjoining villages and neighbors in the relatives committee (unequal participation).
In regard to acquisition of land, the community suggested an initial proposal of construction in the same location as the camp. However, the quality of the private land prevented the development of any such construction.
Even though the community was able to make various decisions, space for consultation was limited and was normally reserved for leaders. Some conflict was perceived by the community that was based on the fact that the leaders chose the best houses in the village. Additionally, leaders’ families were given preferential treatment. These arguments are however weakened by the fact that most perceive the houses to be of the same size and quality.
Decreto Supremo No 174, (V. Y U.), (2005) D.O. de 09.02.06 Reglamenta programa Fondo Solidario de Vivienda. División Política Habitacional, División Jurídica MJM/CCHV 10.04.08.
Hurtado Acuña, Constanza and Contrucci Hohlberg, Isabel. Informe de práctica Centro de Investigación Social un techo para Chile (CIS) Participación ciudadana en contextos de extrema pobreza ¿Oportunidad de empoderamiento? Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Instituto de Sociología.
 City Population (2018). Puente Alto. Retrieved from https://www.citypopulation.de/php/chile-admin.php?adm2id=13201
 subsidio (n.d.). ¿Que es el Fondo Solidario de para la Vivienda? Ues Comunicaciones. Retrieved from http://www.subsidio.cl/fondo_solidario_para_la_vivienda/que_es_el_fondo_solidario_de_para_la_vivienda/113/#axzz5Yx2iiPtD