Between 2005 and 2007 the Urban Institute (UI), funded by the BPRM implemented a Housing Purchase Voucher (HPV) scheme in Western Georgia. The scheme was designed partially to enable the Government to free up strategic buildings such as kindergartens and schools which were being used by IDPs from the conflicts of the early 1990s. UI issued 175 eligible IDP families with vouchers ranging from $2,200 to $7,000 depending on family size and redeemable for cash against a property purchase.
Concurrently IDPs were evicted from properties used as collective centres which the original owners wished to re-possess. Repossession was contingent upon payment to IDPs of financial compensation. Each family received $4,200 in Kutaisi and $7,000 in Batumi.
An increase in property prices meant neither UI HPVs nor investor compensation was adequate to purchase appropriate property. Many recipients of HPVs returned them, being unable to find suitable property for the voucher values. Other beneficiaries purchased substandard or derelict property in a bid to escape from their collective centres which many described as ‘a prison’.
It was unfortunate that for many beneficiaries, the programmes transferred them from arguably adequate yet inappropriate accommodation, to arguably appropriate yet inadequate accommodation.
The NRC, recognising the needs of these IDPs, and in support of the 2009/10GoG Durable Housing Strategy and IDP Action Plan, implemented a programme to alleviate the often appalling conditions in which beneficiaries found themselves living. The programmes funded by both Sida and (more recently) the NMFA,rehabilitated a total of 224 urban and rural houses and apartments1for PA IDPs. Sida funded the rehabilitations via stand-alone components of a wider IDP project implemented in partnership with the DRC. An NRC developed self-help model providedmaterials plus technical and legal assistance to enable IDPs to rehabilitate their properties into dignified homes and anchor reintegration.
The evaluation interviewed fifty NRC selected Privately Accommodated IDP beneficiary families2 of the Sida and NMFA funded programmes. Those assessed for this report had been either recipients of an HPV3, bought a property with investor compensation, or in a few cases had been given unfinished apartment space by the MRA4.
Undertaking sixty one structured, semi structured and informal interviews with programme beneficiaries, key stakeholders, host community members and independent experts, the evaluator identified the NRC self-help model’s strengths, weaknesses and replicability.
The NRC self-help project(s) were effective and had a highly significant impact on beneficiaries; enabling them to live and develop with dignity. Without the programme it is difficult to imagine how many beneficiaries could have continued to live in their properties5.
Furthermore the NRC projects provided a significant enhancement to beneficiaries’ psychological well-being. Self-worth and esteem were enhanced, dependency was lessened and children’s behaviour and academic performance improved. Although dependence still manifests itself, it is clear that many beneficiaries have made significant steps towards independence. All but five families had contributed extra funds or materials to enhance that provided by NRC. Of the beneficiary families interviewed all but one said they had benefitted psychologically as well as materially from the programmes.
The programmes also enabled families to develop in what they considered a ‘normal way’ with daughters and particularly sons being able to marry – something considered impossible previously due to the living conditions which they considered unsuitable for a new spouse.
In other cases, beneficiaries no longer felt marginalised by society by virtue of their poor living conditions and were able to take an active and proud role in their community.
Interviews evidenced that the process of application, assessment, materials prioritisation, delivery and installation was undertaken in a fully inclusive, participatory and coordinated manner. Of note was the prioritisation of urgent cases such as examples where roofs required urgent repair prior to autumn rains.
The programme was designed ‘in house’. Staff and beneficiaries have highlighted a number of recommendations for improvement should the programme be replicated.
Self-help methodology is often viewed as a cheaper alternative to using contractors.
However while cost savings of 40% were found in the Balkans6 it is likely that any unit cost saving in Western Georgia will be in the region of 20-30%.
NRC has demonstrated in Western Georgia, that self-help can be a successful, appropriate and efficient principle with which to assist PA IDPs. This report recommends developing this model to suit different contexts. It furthermore urges donors and the GoG to consider the use of self-help as a programme strategy to support PA and other IDPs who continue to live in sub-standard accommodation.