For decades, 52 families lived together, sharing one toilet, in an old, dilapidated house in Hankins Compound in Pasay City. Each family occupied a room of about 12 square meters, forcing family members to sleep in shifts and the children spending most of their time out in the streets. Because of the serious threats to the residents’ health and safety, Pasay City condemned the building and earmarked its demolition.
This came to the attention of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2007, resulting in Pasay’s selection as one of 15 cities to pilot the Millennium Development Goals Family-based Action for Children and their Environs in the Slums (MDG-FACES) program. Its aim was to provide solutions at the family, community, and city levels that would address children’s concerns on health, food, education, and the environment. In collaboration with the Pasay City government, the UNDP brought in UN-Habitat and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) as project partners.
The MDG-FACES program helped organize the Hankins compound residents into a homeowners’ association named SANAHACO (Samahan ng Nakatira sa Hankins Compound) and administered the MDGs for some 40 children in the community. Various quick response projects were implemented, including urban gardens and savings mobilization which established the creditworthiness of SANAHACO. In March 2010, SANAHACO entered into a partnership with the PBSP and obtained a loan to construct a four-storey building with 112 housing units, which cost P5.5 million to construct. The PBSP and UN-Habitat also ensured the community members’ capability to pay for and manage their housing units through various capacity-building interventions.
The Pasay City government granted usufruct rights to the community for the use of the property and provided counterpart funding of P4 million to be paid by the families over 25 years. With the support of project partners, the community members organized themselves into working committees for project implementation and monitoring. Because of prudent management and close monitoring, each 24-square-meter housing unit cost only around P187,000 in 2010. The monthly amortization was P2,000 over seven years.
Each finished unit has a kitchen-dining area, a toilet and bath, a living-sleeping area, and a service balcony. The community even boasts of a hydroponics garden at the building’s roof deck and an organic wastewater treatment facility.
A key element of the MDG-FACES program was the Bayanihan LIGHTS Centers (BLC), a grassroots banking system owned and operated by the community. The principal source of funds is its members’ savings deposits, with the savings record as the basis for credit. The system was founded on the principle of self-help, which, together with a sustainable savings habit, was forged through weekly values-formation meetings.
At the core of the BLC is the acronym LIGHTS, which reminds the families of their collective goals: Learning and literacy; Intercession and prayer; Good governance; Holistic intervention; Transformation of condition and behavior; and Savings.
When the BLCs were formed, the members met weekly and P500 weekly savings were collected from each member. Pasay City’s Cooperatives Development Office facilitated the meetings and guided the officers and members in their BLC journey. In just two years after their formation, SANAHACO members generated savings of P463,000. These savings helped leverage their PBSP loan, demonstrating their discipline and ability to pay for the loan.
What was once only a dream had become a reality. The Hankins Compound families now live in a safe, humane, comfortable, and thriving community. Key to its success were community participation, which gave the members a strong sense of ownership that helped them overcome the difficulties they encountered; and partnership among the project’s key stakeholders, which facilitated the effective coordination of critical actions.
But perhaps most importantly, the Hankins Compound story demonstrates that seemingly intractable slum conditions can be reversed and rectified through cooperation, collaboration, and community empowerment.