Business & Economy

Sky-high prices put quality housing out of reach for ordinary Salvadorans

By Sara Acosta

San Salvador, Feb 20 (EFE).- A combination of low salaries and high home prices make it virtually impossible for ordinary citizens to aspire to quality housing in El Salvador, a country plagued by longstanding and persistent socioeconomic inequality.

The minimum monthly salary currently stands at $365 in commerce, services and industry, $359.16 in textile and apparel manufacturing and between $243 and $272 in the agricultural sector.

Meanwhile, newspaper ads list houses for sale at between $26,000-$40,000 in poor areas and at more than $90,000 in areas generally regarded as “safe.” Some houses are listed at between $200,000 and $700,000, which is completely out of the question for workers earning the minimum wage.

The cost of renting an apartment or home in “safe” or centrally located areas also is inaccessible for the vast majority of people, ranging in price from $1,250 to a whopping $2,500 a month.

In fact, even workers with relatively high salaries of $2,500 a month would have difficulty renting any of those properties, considering the cost of other expenses such as water, electricity and maintenance and security fees.

Inflation and a lack of supply have clearly exacerbated the problem.

Whereas a very small apartment measuring 34 square meters (365 square feet) in a lower-middle-class neighborhood cost $20,000 a decade ago, the current price is between $35,000 and $45,000.

“While the constitution states that housing construction is a matter of social interest in (El Salvador), we see that promoting accessible social housing for families in the country hasn’t been a priority,” William Murcia, member of the Foundation of Studies for the Application of Law (FESPAD), a non-profit organization, told Efe.

“Historically, it’s been shown there are sectors that have been excluded from housing access,” he added.

According to the 2021 Multiple Purpose Household Survey, around 50 percent of families do not own their own home and roughly 40 percent of households live in overcrowded conditions, Murcia said.

“A housing solution can be anything, and in our country a housing solution may consist of a mixed wall and three walls made out of sheet metal,” he said.

According to Murcia, amid the lack of housing accessibility, “irregular settlements are established due to the need to have a roof, shelter, a somewhat livable solution with a lot of shortcomings.”

Those settlements are located both on government-owned and privately owned land, and in some cases the families living there are forced out after many years.

El Salvador has been under a nationwide state of emergency since March of last year, a measure that populist President Nayib Bukele’s administration says is responsible for a reduction in homicides in the country. In that regard, the government has touted the recovery of homes in low-income areas that had been controlled by gangs.

“People say there’s no social housing and they can’t go to the most dangerous areas … that’s why we’re convinced that public safety is a determining factor and the spearhead for any development and growth,” Housing and Urban Development Minister Michelle Sol told Efe by phone.

The official said the hard-line measures have led to the “recovery” of some 6,000 homes in El Salvador, many of which had been “under the control of gang members.”

These homes, whose average price is around $10,000, are now being put up for sale with no down payment and a 3 percent mortgage rate. EFE


Related Articles

Back to top button