Lidasan: Culturally sensitive housing that is Shariah-based

AL QALAM Institute of Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia of the Ateneo de Davao University are honored to be a part of the Social Housing Finance Corp. (SHFC) and Ateneo de Zamboanga University project in promoting culturally sensitive and community-driven housing programs for the Muslims and other ethnic groups in Mindanao.

This is a great opportunity to reach out to our brothers and sisters, Muslims and Christians in need and to be able to provide one of the basic necessities of families — which is a decent roof over their heads and a home they can call their own.

The realities surrounding the lack of access of many Filipinos to affordable and decent housing are known to many. We have seen in the media and some of us even know people who are informal settlers, displaced families due to conflict like many here in Zamboanga, and those who don’t have a sufficient source of income to buy their own houses.

For some Muslim families who have the financial capacity to buy homes, the problem extends to the matter of discrimination. Some housing developers refuse to sell homes to Muslim families due to stereotyping and biases.

This project addresses those needs and even more. The creation of a Culturally-Sensitive Housing model is a bold move and a remarkable step, especially today as our nation moves forward towards “inclusive growth.”

Through this, SHFC is showing it’s sincerity in creating and providing housing that fits the very needs and preferences of the people. In the part of Al Qalam and the Ateneo community as a whole, we see this as another victory in our thrust to uphold cultural diversity, meaningful community intervention, and in the bigger picture, in the context of peace building in Mindanao.

Al Qalam Institute was inspired to promote a culturally sensitive housing based on our learning from University of Minnesota.

According to Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, an Associate Professor in Interior Design at the University of Minnesota, “Culturally sensitive housing is one way by which designers, planners, developers, and policy makers can begin to work toward housing that meets the needs of everyone. Culturally sensitive housing is housing that accommodates diverse ways of living.”

For Professor Hadjiyanni, “Culturally sensitive housing is not culturally-specific housing; culturally-specific housing stereotypes what a ‘way of life’ entails, positioning everyone who calls themselves based on their ethnic or religious identities. Instead, culturally sensitive housing acknowledges the many ways to belong, the multiple ways by which one can be a Hmong, Somali, Mexican, or American and everything in between. Therefore, culturally sensitive designs are adaptable and flexible.”

She added housing characteristics, such as ventilation systems, window types, spatial layouts, and material selections can impact the residents' ability to practice traditions that foster health and well-being.

Professor Hadjiyanni's work includes exploring how the design of interior spaces intersects with culture and identity through the experiences of new immigrant and minority groups in Minnesota. Her approach to culturally sensitive housing designs has appeared in leading journals and conferences.

On the part of Al Qalam Institute, the integration of Shari’ah-based mechanisms in the whole project development brings us a step closer towards our goal to promote understanding and cooperation and in reinforcing appreciation of our cultural and religious diversity.

Apart from providing a strong impact on social service, we are also changing mindsets and creating an environment for peaceful coexistence which is in line with Al Qalam’s vision and mission.

Moreover, the project is a unique Shariah Based home financing product that has been carefully designed to provide the beneficiaries of SHFC with some unique benefits. Under the terms of our project the beneficiaries will never repay an interest bearing loan.

Instead, the homeowner association and the beneficiaries become co-owner with the SHFC, from whom they acquire full ownership through affordable monthly payments.

Each of their payments is comprised of two components: the first option goes toward their use of the home, an amount that we called ijarah fee, rental fee. The remaining portion allows them to acquire an increasing share of ownership. As they make their monthly payments, the portion that is applied toward their housing share increases while the portion applied to the property decreases until eventually, the beneficiaries become the sole homeowner.

With this program, one of the great advantages is that the beneficiaries are always a partner - never a debtor. As a result the beneficiary enjoys certain opportunities not available with a conventional house financing.

Our partnership with SHFC is founded on a vision that is increasingly shared by our community - to honor the principles of Shariah while benefiting from the best of what is available in the modern financial marketplace.

It is our mission to incorporate that vision on a daily basis, into every interaction with our partners and our communities.

We thank Ateneo de Zamboanga University, SHFC, our partner communities and all people who are contributing and looking forward to the success of this project. We wish that this will mark the beginning of a long standing partnership and more projects in the service of our brothers and sisters.
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