Turning money into mortar: Transforming the housing landscape in disaster-prone Philippines

By Climate Champions | June 15, 2023

Location & Region: Philippines, Asia

Partner: Build Change

Impact Systems: Infrastructure and Human Settlements / Finance

Direct beneficiaries: 45,000 people 

Nestled in the heart of the Pacific, the Philippines holds an ominous title: The World’s Most Disaster-Prone Country. Year after year, the nation battles against an unending torrent of typhoons, floods, earthquakes, and landslides. In 2019, a sobering estimate by Race to Resilience partner Build Change, revealed over 15 million precarious homes in urgent need of attention, most of them sheltering the country’s economically marginalized families. Just the following year, nature’s wrath laid bare the vulnerability of the Filipino people, affecting over 5 million lives and destroying more than 425,000 homes.

In this context, Build Change initiated a transformative concept: Resilient Housing. Beyond simply standing against the elements, resilient homes serve as bastions of security and prosperity, enhancing the occupants’ wealth, health, and well-being. These homes are more than mere structures; they save lives, safeguard possessions, generate jobs, and fuel local economies. They are a long-term, cost-effective response to the severe housing deficit, preventing livelihood losses, forced migration, and displacement in the wake of disasters.

In 2014, Build Change began a journey to strengthen Philippine homes, infusing engineering, technology, and innovative financing to create over 4,000 resilient buildings. This endeavour unearthed a significant market appetite for retrofitting loans, proving that low-income families could indeed afford these improvements. Further, it illuminated the willingness of private financial institutions to champion this cause, paving the way for resilient housing loan products.

Capitalizing on the robust microfinance landscape of the Philippines, Build Change forged partnerships with six Microfinance Institutions (MFIs). These partnerships aim to elevate living standards by providing localized financial services. Institutions like Kabuhayan sa Ganap na Kasarinlan Credit and Savings Cooperative, Alalay sa Kaunlaran Inc., Country Builders Bank, ASA Philippines, RB Gattaran, and Ahon sa Hirap Inc., have responded to the call. Together, they have developed resilient housing loans attainable for low-income families and implemented home fortification projects from Albay to Bulacan.

This collaborative mission strives to enhance the MFIs’ technical prowess, strengthen their housing loan resources, and mitigate lending risks. By engaging bigger, more financially capable lenders with a higher risk tolerance, Build Change aims to invigorate the mainstream financial market, funnelling more extensive resources into the hands of the MFIs.

Build Change’s commitment to refining these microfinance products ensures they continually address homeowner’s needs. To this end, the organization has introduced an incremental approach featuring multiple loans and reinforcement stages, making home improvements more economically manageable. It’s experimenting with schemes to fund the construction of new homes.

The impact of this revolution is palpable. By making strengthening 4,000 buildings, Build Change has ensured the safety of over 45,000 individuals through more resilient homes and schools. Its efforts have instigated a change in mindset for homeowners and builders, training more than 14,000 people in safe construction practices and creating 3,500 jobs. Women constitute 95% of the borrowers in this program, and the repayment rate exceeds 99%, a testament to the success, inclusivity, and potential of this model to reshape housing finance for global disaster and climate resilience.

This project is expected to be replicated in Indonesia, so hundreds of women can secure resilient housing, making families and communities safer.

In the words of Janet Hombria, a homeowner transformed by this initiative, “We’re no longer afraid of future calamities. We know we’re safe in our house.”

Learn more below:


Build Change will be launching a new video on its microfinance work in the Philippines next month. Contact monica@buildchange.org to be added to the invitation list.

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