Costa Rica

Fundación Promotora de Vivienda (the Foundation for Housing Promotion, or FUPROVI)

A prime example of self-management, this Costa Rican nonprofit produces 1,000 units of housing each year. Low-income communities organize themselves and receive support from FUPROVI to effectively design, build, and ultimately own the housing that they desire.

Background and Key Principles

Costa Rica is a relatively well-off Latin American country: 98% of the country’s five million inhabitants have access to improved drinking water, and GDP per capita comes in at $17,000 per year.1 The majority of the country’s population has been urbanized since 1990.2

Nonetheless, this country still has its share of housing challenges. Recent economic crises have hurt households across the country, and housing instability has risen as a result. Around 30% of households live in poor conditions and illegal settlements.3

Fundación Promotora de Vivienda (FUPROVI), the Foundation for Housing Promotion, was founded in 1987. At this point, Costa Rica had a total accumulated deficit of housing units of 26%.4 It focuses on assisting the organization and construction of housing for low-income families in urban areas, and has evolved to incorporate community development into its mission. FUPROVI has facilitated the production of over 15,000 housing units, and is currently producing around 1,000 units per year.5 Importantly, it develops this housing in line with three primary objectives:

  1. Promoting the development of housing through assisted self-help construction and mutual aid,
  2. Promoting the improvement of low-income families’ economic conditions by increasing their ability to generate income, and,
  3. Bringing about a greater degree of organization, participation, and involvement in the community and encouraging participation and democratization in local policymaking processes.6

FUPROVI has a proven track record of efficiently producing high-quality housing through self-management.

Implementation and Impact

FUPROVI projects draw upon the tripod of self-management. Here, the government provides financial subsidies, FUPROVI technical staff provides construction and management expertise, and the community provides labor. Community groups are responsible for self-organizing and initiating their projects with FUPROVI. This requires a considerable amount of individual initiative and investment. This aligns with FUPROVI’s overall approach of making communities responsible for the success of their projects. While difficult, this arrangement confers empowerment and community self determination. 

At the same time, FUPROVI provides expertise and facilitation. Before construction starts, FUPROVI plays an essential role in property acquisition and legalization. From there, the organization provides administrative and construction training to families involved with the project. Critically, FUPROVI works as a facilitator, involving families in the design, budget, and construction planning of their project. FUPROVI also works as a credible and trustworthy intermediary between the government and families, facilitating logistics around land formalization, financing, permitting, and other details.

Families are responsible for the construction of the housing itself and the supporting infrastructure, while FUPROVI provides the necessary engineering expertise and project management skills to ensure success. This promotes skillbuilding while empowering families. Each household within a project community contributes about 30 hours of labor each week.7 Families hire contractors for specialized work such as development of water treatment facilities. If the community’s budget is large enough, portions of the construction labor is sometimes contracted out.8 

As of February 2020, FUPROVI is responsible for 132 different housing projects across Costa Rica.9 This includes some projects specifically targeting immigrants and refugees. FUPROVI has trained nearly 40,000 people in its community strengthening techniques, and has won more than 20 national and international awards for its work.10 

Project Financing

When a community group reaches out to FUPROVI for support, the organization first takes stock of the group’s financial situation. Initial land legalization and construction is financed with a loan from FUPROVI’s revolving fund. These loans are contingent upon FUPROVI’s evaluation and approval of households’ ability to repay. As such, this model provides housing to low-income workers, who would otherwise lack this kind of access to credit, and includes workers in the informal sector. However, FUPROVI programs typically do not provide for the poorest in Costa Rican society.11 Data from 1996 shows that only 20% of FUPROVI households earned below one minimum salary and 80% earned below two.12 While FUPROVI does enormous good, other mechanisms are needed to provide housing for the poorest Costa Ricans.

FUPROVI provides the initial bridge loans needed to finance communities’ housing projects, and households start making payments on these loans once their project is fully legal and complete. These repayments take the form of a government-subsidized mortgage. Payments on that mortgage pay for the housing costs, repay FUPROVI’s loan, as well as a fee amounting to roughly 12% of the total project cost.13 

FUPROVI-assisted projects construct housing at roughly 60-65% of the cost of equivalent projects produced by private firms.14 This is largely due to two factors: the lack of a profit margin as well as the reduction in labor cost due to households’ participation in construction. Because of its consistent success and financial independence, FUPROVI has a good reputation with government institutions and with private banks. In light of this, the federal government regularly elects to use some of its housing subsidy budget to fund FUPROVI’s housing development programs.

Self-management and Governance Structure

Compared with other examples of self-management, the technical assistance firm, FUPROVI, takes a fairly central role here. While communities are empowered throughout a given project, it is less clear how community groups organize themselves and work to develop a relationship with FUPROVI. This is especially important, as that relationship plays a critical role in the access to funds and the overall housing development process. Further, while construction of a project is underway, households do not know if they will receive a unit or not. FUPROVI makes this determination once construction is finished by ranking households in order of how much they contributed to the project.15 Going down the ranked list, households are able to choose their home from the remaining available units. Here again, FUPROVI is central. It is unclear if communities are able to amend that allocation process, or opt for other allocation mechanisms altogether, such as allocation to households with the greatest need. 

Enabling Legal and Political Framework

At the request of Costa Rica’s Housing Ministry, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) helped design and finance what would become FUPROVI. 16Today the program is self-financed.17 The Costa Rican Housing Ministry has and continues to play a critical role in helping FUPROVI access clean and legalized property titles.18 Overall, the federal government of Costa Rica supported FUPROVI’s success: its legal, political, and financial support have gone a long way in creating and sustaining such a high capacity organization. Its subsidy of mortgages to low-income families provided credit, and in turn homeownership, to families that would otherwise be excluded.


[1] Central Intelligence Agency, “Costa Rica,” last modified March 13, 2020,
[2] Karin Grundström and Laura Liuke, “Coping in Costa Rica,” in Coping with Informality and Illegality in Human Settlements in Developing Countries. (University College London, 2001), 2.
[3] Grundström and Liuke, “Coping,” 3.
[4] Grundström and Liuke, “Coping,” 3.
[5] FUPROVI, “Versión Ingles-Video Institucional,” last modified February 25, 2020,
[6] Grundström and Liuke, “Coping,” 4.
[8] Grundström and Liuke, “Coping,” 7.
[9] FUPROVI, “Versión Ingles-Video Institucional,” last modified February 25, 2020,
[10] FUPROVI, “Versión Ingles-Video Institucional,” last modified February 25, 2020,
[11] Grundström and Liuke, “Coping,” 6.
[12] Mario Rodríguez and Johnny Åstrand, “Organized Small-Scale Self-Help Housing,” Building Issues 8, no. 4 (1996): 15.
[13] Grundström and Liuke, “Coping,” 6.
[14] Grundström and Liuke, “Coping,” 6.
[15] Grundström and Liuke, “Coping,” 6.
[16] Manuel Sevilla, “New Approaches for Aid Agencies; FUPROVI’s Community Based Shelter Programme,” Environment and Urbanization 5, (1993) 111.
[17] Grundström and Liuke, “Coping,” 2.
[18] Sevilla, “New Approaches,” 114.