13 July 2021

Sustainable housing for low-income communities

“We tackle the housing crisis by providing sustainable and affordable housing solutions for the BoP market. We thus contribute to safe water supply, clean energy and sanitation while protecting the environment" (Antonio Aguilar, CASSA)

CASSA – Affordable self-sustaining housing for low-income communities in Guatemala

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CASSA builds sustainable social housing that provides clean water, clean energy and sanitation and makes them affordable for low-income Guatemalans. Apart from offering direct benefits to customers, CASSA spurs economic development and the provision of ecosystem services in whole communities, improving local income, health and psychological well-being.


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Guatemala’s worst health and environmental problems stem from poor housing. The country's housing shortage forces about half the population to live in inadequate, unsanitary dwellings that lack one or more basic services – water, energy and sanitation – and have harmful, wasteful impacts on the environment.

While Guatemala has ample water and forest cover, both resources are disappearing fast. Most people cook over open wood fires, which depletes forests and aquifers and causes respiratory ailments – now the country’s leading cause of death. Many people dig unregulated wells and use open-pit latrines, and most piped sewage is discharged untreated into waterways. Over 95% of rivers are polluted. Widespread sustainable housing solutions could solve many of these challenges.


Entrepreneurial Approach and Innovation

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CASSA builds sustainable social housing in Guatemala that provides customers with clean water, clean energy and sanitation while saving them money and protecting forests and water bodies. In addition to full-service sanitation, CASSA-built homes feature solar panels and efficient smokeless stoves; capture, filter and store rainwater; and reuse grey water in a family garden.

More than half of Guatemala’s population live below the upper-middle income line. Nevertheless, current estimations suggest that about 500,000 households are able to pay a low monthly mortgage payment. With houses selling for an average of USD 10,000, Guatemala represents a huge potential market for CASSA.

CASSA partners with local and international financial institutions to offer customers long-term micro-mortgages and with providers of water filters, water pumps, solar panels, smokeless stoves and building materials to ensure uninterrupted supply.

CASSA Business Model

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With the support of the Swiss Re Foundation, CASSA conducted a thorough revision of its business model. And to take it to scale, the enterprise used the grant to hire more personnel and launch a wide-ranging marketing campaign. The number of projects under construction is increasing and the company received additional funding to fuel its growth and create impact to better and more sustainable housing in Guatemala. In 2020, 51 projects have been realised with more than 1,300 residential beneficiaries, an installed clean water collection capacity of total 29,200 m3 and over 410,000 kWh clean energy being delivered.

Success factors

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There is a number of factors contributing to businesses long-term success. This business case has been honoured by the International ReSource Award program mainly due to the following success factors: 

Entrepreneurial spirit Entrepreneurial spirit stands for:  CASSA is known for creativity because the company uses SDGs and local construction material as key resource. 
Leadership skills Important leadership skills are CASSA's founder Antonio Aguilar is known for his extraordinary personality. He loves to build and maintain relationships and he thinks visionary.
Access to finance   CASSA is particularly successful in national and international fundraising. 

Apart from the success factors mentioned above, this start-up has been recognized by the Swiss Re Foundation because of its planning and review expertise and technical operation skills.

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