Affordable housing / A Cambodian housing revolution built on ‘Lego bricks’

Posted on: March 29, 2018 | Featured

Hav Kongngy hopes his affordable, interlocking bricks can help tackle a housing crisis that has left many Cambodians unable to afford a home

Hav Kongngy with his company’s famous bricks Photo: Hannah Hawkins for SEA Globe

What does My Dream Home do?
My Dream Home develops the most affordable houses on the market while maintaining high quality. My Dream Home has sold houses starting at $9,000 to 19,000 per unit, cheaper than what is offered by the [agreement] between Worldbridge International and the Ministry of Urban Planning and Construction [to construct affordable housing]. Ours… are built with My Dream Home’s bricks, famous for their easiness to use. They are commonly called ‘Lego bricks’ [because they interlock in the same way that the toy blocks do] and are easy-to-use, environmentally friendly and cheap to produce.

What inspired you to start My Dream Home?
When I added up the money that my family saved over the course of about seven years, we could not afford to buy a house in Phnom Penh. House prices were too expensive for the middle class and the poor… Looking at the [incomes] of Cambodian people… [there weren’t options that matched] the definition of affordable housing, in which people should spend less than 30% of their income on a house… In 2013, [Bangladeshi social entrepreneur and Nobel Prize winner] Muhammad Yunus came to Cambodia, and I was inspired by his speech: “Making money is happiness but helping others to make money is super happiness.” I learned from him that social businesses were a good way to help the poor in a sustainable way.

Why is your social enterprise important to Cambodia?
According to statistics from the government, Cambodia will need more than 1.1 million houses by 2030. The 2017 report from [Cambodian property management company] Vtrust revealed that there are no developers currently building houses that cost less than $25,000 in Cambodia… The Ministry of Land Management defines middle-income people as households who earn below $500 a month, and around one million houses are currently estimated to be needed for this market… [Which means] there is a very large need for more affordable houses priced at $10,000 to $20,000 and below.

How do you hope to see your company grow or change in the future?
My Dream Home has produced over two millions bricks that could be used to build nearly 300 houses. As a partner project, My Dream Home has built 30 housing units, 20 of which have already sold while 10 will be ready for the market soon. We are also planning to build more houses… but we want people to build houses by themselves, and soon we will launch a workshop to teach people to build their own ‘dream houses’ [using our product]. Allowing people to build houses by themselves would reduce more costs for the poor, as normally in the construction process, builders take a profit of around 20 to 30% [of the production cost]. If people build homes on their own, it could help to reduce the cost by up to 50%.

This article was published in Southeast Asia Globe’s Property Special 2018. For full access, subscribe here.