¡Échale! provides low-income Mexican families with the opportunity to own a safe, affordable and sustainable home through innovative lending and a self-building program.
¡Échale! a tu Casa aims to provide low-income families in Mexico with the opportunity to own a safe, affordable and environmentally friendly home through innovative lending and through an assisted self-building program where communities are trained with the appropriate technical capacities to build their own homes and supervised by certified architects.
For the nine million Mexican families living in shoddy housing,1 the chance to build their own safe, clean and affordable home might sound too good to be true. But it’s exactly what the social enterprise ¡Échale! a tu Casa is trying to help them do.
In the face of a severe housing shortage, and the failure of stretched government programmes to tackle it,2 the organisation’s founder Francesco Piazzesi developed a fresh response to the problem. His model aims not only to increase the quantity of high quality accommodation for lower income groups, but to use the process of home creation to foster financial and technical skills, and boost social inclusion.3
Many Mexicans without the collateral to secure a mortgage get stuck in low quality accommodation, which harms their health and well-being, as well as their wallets. Low-income families are thought to spend an average of around 30% of their income trying to build or improve their homes. But without technical or financial help, they often pay high prices for poor materials – and a poor result.4
¡Échale! makes community a part of the solution, co-designing homes with families and setting up housing committees. It also buys over 60% of building materials locally and provides employment to local construction workers.5 Under its assisted self-building programme, participants receive the materials and technical training necessary to build a two-bedroom house within one month, as well as supervision from a certified architect.6 The resulting homes, made from ¡Échale!’s patented compressed earth blocks,7 are designed for minimal energy and water use, making them eco-friendly as well as cheap to run. Green features include solar water heaters, wood-saving stoves and systems to harvest rainwater.8
As a social enterprise, ¡Échale! is dedicated to making its product affordable. It offers low-interest credit designed specifically for its customers, as well as financial workshops to help families manage incomes and save money.10 By harnessing construction innovations, it has also managed to streamline the self-build process, keeping costs down and construction rates up. Thirty thousand houses have already been built and over 150,000 homes improved in Mexico alone. And ¡Échale! Is exporting its technology to Belize, Egypt, Haiti, Nicaragua and the UAE and developing a social franchise model to allow others to replicate its success.11
That success is clear from the figures: by 2014, ¡Échale! had reached 1 million people, and was achieving annual turnover of US$5 million.12