During the period that I worked for Habitat for Humanity, I tried to find new and innovative solutions to resolve in some way the lack of houses in Arges County, Romania.
Between 2005 and 2007, my team helped through hundreds of volunteers to renovate three 35 year old blocks with 31 apartments. Comparing the results of renovation with the financial resources used to complete these projects, I can say that creating affordable housing by renovating old buildings was very successful. Unfortunately, the number of old buildings to renovate is limited so it was the time for a new solution to create affordable houses.
In April 2007, ten months after we started negotiations with the Oarja Village planning commission, the mayor and the local council, we succeeded in signing a partnership contract with the Oarja City Hall that gave us free use of two pieces of land near the old renovated blocs.
This was a big success for us because in that area we already had the entire infrastructure we needed (water, sewer system, garbage disposal, and electricity). Unfortunately, these two pieces of land were very narrow and finding the best building solution was a challenge for us. After we analyzed the facts, consulted an architect and conducted more discussion with the planning commission in Oarja we decided that the best solution for that location was to build two new blocks of flats. In this way it was possible to build 16 apartments on the same surface of land appropriate for just two individual houses.
In 2007, we started the construction works for the first four apartments. The total cost for one apartment was about $14,500 at that time when a similar apartment in Pitesti city (10 miles away from Oarja village) was on the market for over $40,000.
Goals of the project:
- Building new homes for people in need of housing;
- Secure tenure of the homes;
- Decreasing the monthly payments for families (rent, heating, etc.);
- Avoiding health problems generated by bad living conditions (especially for the children).
The construction solution used was a concrete structure for the blocks and a wood panel structure for the walls and roof. The exterior walls of the apartments were covered with thermal insulation and the exterior windows and doors were complying with high thermal insulation standards in order to reduce the heating loss and costs. The construction works were done by the partner families and local and international volunteers with supervision from Habitat for Humanity Pitesti specialists. The materials used for building the apartments were chosen in order to assure improved comfort in the homes for a very long period of time without other interventions.
This project created 16 new affordable housing units in the Habitat Oarja Neighborhood and will ensure normal standards of living for over 30 adults and 35 children.