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Stairways to Heaven: Building Up, One Step at a Time

December 16, 2017

May you build a ladder to the stars, may you climb on every rung ...

Middle-class folks in Latin America build their homes in stages, so seeing things like this stairway to Heaven surprises no one.

Starter homes in subdivisions come ready-made for expansion, with foundations and steel ready for a second story.

The second house is built on the same floor plan as the first, with some significant (and unfortunate) improvements.

Now look closely at this picture. What do you see?

Look at the boards stacked on the roof. Look at the stones stacked against the wall.
What you’re eyeballing is one family’s savings account.

In places like Ecuador, where poor folks don’t necessarily have bank accounts and a stock market does not exist, people—especially poor people—take their extra pennies and buy building materials.

They store them, sometimes for years, until they have enough to erect a wall or install a roof.

The current president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, has committed to providing every Ecuadorian a home —all of them. He says, “If every bird has a nest, and every wolf a den, and every fish a rock to hide behind, why wouldn’t all of our people have a home of their own?”

When asked why the state would give away homes with many giving nothing back in return, he replies, “Is it not enough they give us their happiness in return?”

Then he provides a more persuasive argument, pointing to agricultural reforms that gave the indigenous population small plots of land, and preventing an armed revolt in Ecuador, unlike what happened in neighboring Peru and Colombia that had bloody guerrillas for decades.

“If your employees have a home of their own,” he told a group of businesspeople at a luncheon last week, “…they will be less apt to pick up a gun and kill you.”

Fernando Pagés Ruiz is ProTradeCraft's Latin America Editor. He is currently building a business in Ecuador and a house in Mexico. Formerly, he was a builder in the Great Plains and mountain states. He is the author of Building an Affordable House and Affordable Remodel (Taunton Press).

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