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The Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter

Through the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, Habitat for Humanity facilitates more efficient and inclusive housing market systems making affordable housing possible for millions more families. 

Habitat for Humanity formally launched the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter at the historic Habitat III, which took place in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016. The Terwilliger Center is one of Habitat’s key commitments toward the implementation of the United Nation’s member states’ New Urban Agenda.

The Terwilliger Center consolidates more than a decade of experience in developing market-based solutions for housing and the body of work resulting from these early efforts, formerly referred to as the Center for Innovation in Shelter and Finance. Through the Terwilliger Center, Habitat will accelerate and facilitate better functioning inclusive housing markets to enable more than 8 million people access to improved shelter solutions by 2020.


Their guiding principles

Strive for scale to reach many families

Market-based approaches can achieve large-scale impact because of the ability to self-replicate successful business models. The ambition to achieve large-scale change does not mean interventions themselves have to be large in terms of resources. Small test projects to determine if a product can be sustained are perfectly valid.


Lasting solutions come from strengthening the abilities of every company and market actor they work with, ensuring the solution is aligned with market incentives. In other words, the business delivering the product is able to recover its costs and generate some profit on top, and the product is affordable.

Focus on the private sector

They take a positive attitude toward the role of the private sector in affordable housing, recognizing that the cement companies, contractors, equipment suppliers, banks and other actors play an important role, and that profits can drive the incentive to expand services.

Avoid market distortion

They favor the use of indirect subsidies that promote lasting solutions that will continue to benefit households after our intervention. Direct subsidies that cannot be depended upon or that the market might orient itself around are avoided because of the danger of distorting the housing market.

Act as a facilitator 

Their role is to be catalytic, stimulating changes in a market system without becoming part of it. Their team provides advisory services and technical assistance to market actors and companies to support their abilities to help low-income households obtain affordable housing, while remaining external to the housing market.


Their strategy

MicroBuild Fund: Mobilizing capital to the housing sector

Directing investment capital to the housing sector is an important part of insuring that there is an adequate supply of housing products and related services in the market.

Housing products and services: Facilitating and advising housing market actors 

They address both the supply and demand sides of the market when they advise firms who are considering introducing housing products or services.

Publications and videos: Advancing the knowledge of housing markets 

They are committed to furthering the understanding around key trends in housing finance for low-income populations.

Read the 2015-16 State of Housing Microfinance report in English and Spanish.

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