Without doubt, 2004 was a good year for Costa Rica real estate and construction, especially for the housing sector.

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Between January and December a total of 11,190 family housing bonds were given out, representing a total investment of ¢28,851 million (currently 462 colones = US$1).

Of the total, 2,705 were assigned to buy Costa Rica real estate property and build, 7,069 to build, and 693 for expanding, remodeling and repairing existing housing.

These statistics are taken from the last reports both from Ministerio de Vivienda y Asentamientos Humanos (MIVAH) – Ministry of Housing and Human Communities – and the Banco Hipotecario de la Vivienda (BAHVI) Mortgage Bank for Housing.

As the minister, Mr. Helio Fallas, commented that this is the highest number of projects in the last three years. During the administration of president Abel Pacheco, a grand total of 25,358 family housing bonds were granted, for an investment of ¢62,113 million.

Although Mr. Fallas admitted that fewer housing solutions had been approved than in former administrations (4,326 in 30 months), he pointed out that great effort has been made to make sure that the houses were larger and better built.

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“Up to now, only 18 building sites have been handed out, the rest of 4,326 cases belong to houses, while other administrations handed out about 2,000 properties, and many houses with serious technical defects, or missing permits.” said Mr. Fallas.

The head of the Ministry of Housing also commented, that besides erecting many homes, these also have to be well built. With this in mind, during the year 2004, all of the constructions were raised strictly within the “Directriz N° 27” (see Note), which regulates the quality standards for houses and vicinities.

“Taking these quality standards into consideration, we are taking care of the different needs of different groups of families, all within a humanistic policy. It is not only important to ‘count’ houses, but it is also essential that these are well built, and are adapted to the needs of those who receive them”, specified the minister.

He added that the MIVAH approved 32 housing projects, which translates into 2,372 solutions to eradicate squatters, emergency situations, and extreme poverty.

In 2004 a total of 692 bonds were granted for the Program of Repair, Expansion, Finishing and Remodeling of housing (RAMT) for and invested ¢833.7 million. This is much more than the former RAMT-bonds handed out in 2002 (208) and 2003 (264).

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Mr. Fallas explained, that with this program (RAMT) the life span of about 7.000 houses in urban areas can be restored, a goal that is planned for the next two years. However he pointed out the benefits of the current ABC-bonds to buy houses no older than five years and in good conditions. The boards of directors of the BANHVI approved this in October 2004. Before, ABC-bonds only could be used to purchase new houses.

According to MIVAH, in 2004 only two complaints about anomalies in the building quality were received, while in 2002 there were 50, and in 2003 26, which proves that the families are happier when moving into housing of superior construction.

Mr. Fallas added, that these houses now exceed 32 m², ranging from 42 m² to 50 m². (1m² = 10.7639104 square feet) Among the targets still to be reached, the Minister mentioned the necessity to establish “electronic dossiers” for the official procedure to obtain a housing bond, reduce the environment deficit with the aid of the “My house and our neighborhood” program and finish helping all those who were affected by last year’s earthquakes and floods. This year it is expected to hand out about 11,500 new houses, with a value of ¢31,092 million.

Note: Decree N° 27 (Directriz Nº 27) Is the one that regulates the quality standards for housing and housing projects. Among other, it mentions:

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  1. Technical specifications an directives for the architectonic typology for housing and other buildings, according to climate, culture, and the specific needs of the benefited families.
  2. These norms establish that the constructions have to be secure in all aspects of their structural, electrical and mechanical detail.
  3. All the houses have to be totally completed and painted, with septic tanks according to the Health Ministry’s regulations, with adequate ventilation in hot climates, and pylons in flood-endangered areas.
  4. Those houses, which form part of a housing development, have to be provided by sidewalks, children’s playgrounds, paved streets, green zones, electrical power, and a guaranteed supply of potable water.
  5. All approved projects have to include specifications for the type of housing and housing developments, number of members of the family nucleus, indigenous housing, and for disabled persons.

Current rate of exchange on date of this article is 462 colones = US$1
1m² = 10.7639104 square feet
1 metre = 3.2808399 feet

Sources: MIVAH y BANHVI.

Our thanks to Gloriana Gómez and our friends at La Nacion – Costa Rica’s largest Spanish circulation newspaper for their permission to use their article in English.

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