Central America and Panama are home of 9,060,086 households, with a current 3,987,087 housing units deficit. Nicaragua has the greatest deficit with 90%, followed by Honduras with 71%, Guatemala with 40%, El Salvador with 26%, Panama with 17% and finally Costa Rica with 15% (CCVAH, 2009).
Government programs in the region evidence a small scale. In 2008 the country with the highest level of public investment in housing relative to GDP was Honduras with 2.42%, next Costa Rica with 1.67%, Panama with 1.03% and with less than 0.5% Guatemala (0,19%), Nicaragua (0,14%) and El Salvador (0,12%). In addition, housing deficits widen due to the lack of market incentives for low-income sectors lending. The market works for the middle-income sectors borrowing for solutions within the US$30,000 to US$70,000 price range, while high-income sectors can access finance with less difficulties. For poorer people the access to housing in urban areas is limited due to high prices of construction and land.
The financial systems in the region favor lending for middle and high income sectors and large urban projects. On the other hand, the micro finance system has still a small scale. Thus, the majority of poor households depend on self-construction solutions without regulation and supervision, with low quality materials and risky constructions, and with an informal property situation that creates additional barriers for traditional financial supports and the development of a second-owner house market.
Notwithstanding, credit for housing has been growing in recent years (Figure 1). However, as stated before, it is not sufficient to reduce housing deficits in the region. Currently, Panama and Honduras allocate the highest share of credit in the region, relative to GDP. On the other hand, Guatemala and Nicaragua present the lowest levels of housing financing.