Shelter from the Storm: Upgrading Housing Infrastructure in Latin American Slums

Publication Details

Galiani, S, Gertler, P, Cooper, R, Martinez, S, Ross, A and Undurraga, R, 2015. Shelter from the storm: upgrading housing infrastructure in Latin American slums, 3ie Impact Evaluation Report 21. New Delhi: International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)

Link to Source
Sebastian Galiani, Paul Gertler, Ryan Cooper, Sebastian Martinez, Adam Ross, Raimundo Undurraga
Institutional affiliations
None specified
Grant-holding institution
None specified
Latin America and the Caribbean
Urban Development
Urban Housing
Gender analysis
Urban Housing
Gender analysis
Equity Focus
None specified
Evaluation design
Difference-in Difference (DID), Randomised Control Trials (RCT)
3ie Series Report
3ie Funding Window
Open Window Round 1


The study uses a randomised controlled trial in which the eligible population was randomly assigned to either a treatment or a control group. In the case of UTPMP, budget and personnel constraints limit the number of housing units that can be upgraded at any one time. Hence beneficiaries were selected through a lottery system.

The sample is drawn from UTPMP projects in three countries: Mexico, El Salvador and Uruguay. There were a total of 1356 households in the intention-to-treat group and 1017 households in the non-intention-to-treat group across the three countries.

A major strength of this study is that it is an evaluation of the same intervention implemented by the same NGO in three countries and hence has a high degree of external validity.

Main findings

The study showed that the intervention led to substantial increases in beneficiary satisfaction in terms of quality of life; families were happier with their houses and their lives. There were also gains in child health as reflected by reductions in the incidence of diarrhea. However, this was only found in two of the three countries the intervention was implemented in.

The authors found no changes in security and safety, possession of durable goods or labour outcomes.

One of the main policy lessons from the study is that to improve health and employment outcomes, improving housing is not enough and additional programmes are needed. As a result TECHO, the NGO implementing this housing intervention, has started to design and implement other programmes aimed at addressing health, employment, and other community problems in addition to its flagship-housing programme. For instance, TECHO has started implementing vocational training programmes, microfinance programmes, and health campaigns aimed at addressing other important areas that housing does not impact have an impact on.

TECHO has now also set up its own monitoring and evaluation unit, and it intends to conduct impact evaluations of all its future programmes.

Additional publications

About this impact evaluation

Adequate housing, along with food and clothing, is considered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a basic requirement for achieving a minimum living standard. Yet, inadequate housing, a primary characteristic of slum dwellers, is a problem facing 45 per cent of the global urban population.

Despite the importance of housing, there is surprisingly little scientific evidence on the causal effects of housing programmes on the welfare of beneficiary populations in low-income countries.

The study contributes to filling this gap by evaluating the impact of providing inexpensive basic pre-fabricated houses to poor populations living in slums in Mexico, El Salvador and Uruguay. The programme Un Techo Para Mi País (UTPMP), is youth-led and provides such houses to poor populations living in the slums of 14 Latin American countries.

The main objective of the programme is to improve household well-being and increase the beneficiary household's probability of exiting extreme poverty. UTPMP targets households in sub-standard housing which are typically made of materials such as cardboard, tin and plastic, and have dirt floors and lack services such as water and sewage.

The study evaluates the impact of UTPMP housing on physical and mental health, socio-economic, and security outcomes. It also examines if there are spillovers to non-beneficiaries living in treatment communities.

Website :

Read the study findings on TECHO's website 

Read more about the project and study findings here

Watch videos on the slum upgrading project and the impact evaluation by J-PAL

Scroll to Top