Uruguay Families find Shelter thanks to the Solidarity of Swedish Co-operators

    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
                         July, 1996

Source : ICA News 2/1996

     Uruguay Families Find Shelter Thanks to the Solidarity of 
                     Swedish Co-operators

Uruguay was once known as the Switzerland of Latin America. It
was a rich country and a great place in which to live. But
that was a long time ago. The country suffered economic
problems which eventually led to a military dictatorship.
Uruguay is once again a democracy but there is still much
poverty due to unemployment and the galloping inflation of the
1970s and 80s.

There are two co-operative housing federations in Uruguay:
Fucvamand Fecovi. Both function effectively on small resources
and aredependent on financial aid from other countries such as
Sweden. One project they have been able to implement with such
aid is ajoint venture with Swedish co-operators. The project
rehoused a group of families living in a shanty town on a
small plot of land between a river and a highway. The shanty
town comprised about 100 sheds made of anything on which the
people could get their hands. Every spring, the river flooded
forcing the families out of these makeshift homes to sleep
under bridges or to take refuge in other shanty towns nearby. 

For years the authorities declared the town a health hazard
and barred the families from taking up residence there.
However, they did nothing to rehouse these poor people who had
nowhere else togo. As one father of five put it: "We know this
is not a suitable place to raise children but we have neither
land nor money and the banks are unwilling to help us".

Then the Swedish co-operative housing organisation (HSB) came
to the rescue. HSB had decided to put aside SEK 2 per member
annually for international solidarity work. With 600,000
members, this meant 1.2 million SEK (about US$200,000) per
annum. In Sweden, there is a system of 80-20 projects. This
means that if organisations collect 20% of project money from
their members; the government development aid agency will
match it with the remaining 80%. HSB works through the Swedish
Co-operativeCenter (SCC). It is an organisation which channels
money fromall Sweden's co-operative organisations into work
with different types of co-operatives in developing countries.
By working with SCC the US$200,000 collected by HSB became a
million dollars which was used to rehouse the shanty-town
dwellers. Swedish staff and people from Fucvam as well as
representatives from the target group met with local
authorities and banks and negotiated with the architects,
construction material suppliers and others.

The local people formed a co-operative with help and training
in co-operative management from HSB, who also transferred
theirknow-how in maintenance and administration. The Swedish
organisation paid for architects and building materials while
the local municipality agreed to donate a piece of land. With
technical training provided by HSB the local people built
their own homes and infrastructure starting with a common
building to house meeting rooms, a kindergarten and other
facilities for the whole community.

While the construction was under way, this building was used
as administrative offices, a temporary kindergarten and a
kitchen and dining-room for the member workers and their
families. When the work is finished they intend to throw a big
party and have a lottery to decide which family gets which

This is an example of a pilot project which shows both the
authorities and the local people how co-operatives can
successfully help to solve housing problems. In Istanbul
during Habitat II, a representative from Fucvam will share his
experience with people attending the ICA Housing Seminar. 

Rolf Throdin, Chairman, ICA Housing Organisation