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Informal structures

Just a few of the houses built by Un Techo Para Chile (A Roof for Chile). Images courtesy of Un Techo Para Chile.

Informal structures such as those used by Un Techo Para Chile, which was set up in 1997 to provide decent housing for some of Chile’s poorest citizens. Under the programme, recent graduates and young professionals spend two years working on various projects, building houses and turning slum dwellings into safe and decent homes. The organisation has now spread across South America, enlisting hundreds of thousands of volunteers to build over 40,000 homes. By 2010, they hope to build a further 10,000 homes across the continent. Until recently, Un Techo Para Chile had no legal status – it was simply a loose network of students, young professionals and residents. Felipe Berrios who launched the initiative believed that this was the best arrangement – it allowed the volunteers to have ownership over the project and also meant that Un Techo Para Chile could not be sued by landowners. In 2005, Un Techo Para Chile began to collaborate and work with the government to provide housing on government land. In order to do so, they had to become legally constituted. Another example is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which is organised as a membership network rather than a formal organisation in order to prevent bureaucracy.