Buy a Home, Build a Home


worldhousing_3 It is estimated that just over 1 billion people across the globe live in slums. To combat this housing crisis, Peter Dupis, one of the founders of World Housing, focused his Master’s thesis on the one-for-one model. This approach is inspired by TOM shoes, a venture in which every purchase of a pair of shoes sees another pair donated to someone in need. Dupis interviewed people from multiple countries, and gathered information on how slum dwellers live and how contractors view the housing crisis that plagues many people across the Global South. To test the process, two homes were gifted to two families in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to gauge the success of this innovative way of combating housing situations. Shortly after, World Housing was officially formed.

World Housing is currently the only organization that offers a “one-for-one real estate gifting” program. This innovative idea is simple: for every condo unit sold by an official World Housing partner in the Global North, a permanent, sustainable home is built for a family in need in the Global South. Their project specifically targets families living in slums. These homes provide families with a new sense of empowerment, physical and environmental security, and the capacity to focus on their personal growth, education, and employment.

worldhousing_2Families that are chosen to receive a new home are those who show they are working towards creating a better future for themselves. World Housing, in partnership with local NGOs, picks families who have their children enrolled in school, with parent(s) who are actively seeking employment. Then, by providing them with a permanent home, they are one step closer to achieving a better future. World Housing also provides jobs in these local communities by hiring people for construction. They are properly trained in a factory setting, and physically construct the home on-site.

There is a multi-step process for this program. First, World Housing partners with developers in the Global North who are building condominium complexes. After establishing a partnership, the contractors donate roughly $2,900USD for every unit that they sell. People who purchase the condos are told about the program and are encouraged to learn more about the situation in the community where the home is being built. They are also connected with the family that will receive a new home and are invited to attend the unveiling either in person or via an online connection.

After receiving funding to build a new home, World Housing partners with local NGOs that focus on community building within the slums, as they know the context of people living there and can provide the best knowledge needed. Local NGOs also help decide which families can participate in the program.

worldhousing_1Their first official project launched in April 2014, with a condominium building in Vancouver, British Columbia. A partnership was created with the Cambodian Children’s Fund, and all of the purchased units in Vancouver created 395 homes built in the Steung Meanchey Landfill. More projects are set to be announced this year through purchases in Canada, Taiwan, and the United States, which will provide housing in slum communities in Cambodia, Mexico and Philippines. The goal is to provide homes for 30,000 people by 2020.

World Housing has received some negative criticism for focusing on the housing crisis overseas rather than in North America. The group has stated that they can’t focus on providing sustainable housing in North America because the costs of construction are too high. They recognize that both Canada and the United States have housing issues, but it is not within their budgetary system to build homes in these locations. Rather, they focus on building homes in the Global South, specifically Cambodia, where constructing a house costs much less and is therefore more economically viable.

For more information, visit their website.


Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth is a writer currently based in Kitchener-Waterloo.

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