About the FMSD
The Mario Santo Domingo Foundation (FMSD) is a non-profit organization created in 1953 in Barranquilla, Colombia, by Mario Santo Domingo, father of Julio Mario Santo Domingo, a Colombian visionary and entrepreneur. Although initially its focus was Barranquilla and the Atlantic region in Colombia, it then expanded its scope reaching Bogotá and Cartagena, where it now has branches. It has also supported a series of initiatives in other regions of Colombia and the world at large. During its early years (60s and 70s), the FMSD promoted technological and technical education in the country through donations, kicked off its micro finance operation, and was one of the main founders of the Universidad del Norte.
In its next stage, the FMSD promoted the Carnaval de Barranquilla Foundation, created the Santo Domingo Arts and Skills School in Bogota’s historic center, and carried out a series of education and health projects, including establishing the first hospital on the Barú islands, off the coast of Cartagena (see above timeline). Recently, it launched the Primero lo Primero alliance, which focuses on early childhood development, supported the reconstruction and construction of more than 10.000 houses in the city of Barranquilla and the Atlantic region for families affected by the 2010-12 floods, and since 2007 has been coordinating 2 of the largest housing projects (macro projects) in the cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena to address the main bottleneck of poverty reduction in Colombia. These projects will provide more than 40.000 social interest houses. Through innovative financial mechanisms, the FMSD was able to channel subsidies to build these houses from both the national government and from local governments, and was able to work with them to secure the necessary sites at a reasonable rate. Through its micro finance unit (Yo Prospero), the FMSD facilitates access for vulnerable families to micro loans to enable them to put down the necessary deposit to secure a house. The FMSD, Bancoldex and Kiva.org developed flexible financial instruments to do this jointly. In the above-mentioned housing projects the FMSD implements its own model of intervention known as Integrated Development for Sustainable Communities (DINCS is its Spanish Acronym). Its aim is to empower the community via community participation in management of the project, encourage good governance, provide social coaching or capacity building for the community, and develop an exit strategy for the FMSD. Profits associated with the construction of the houses are channeled through a social fund, which the community can access for its own projects and to ensure the sustainability of current initiatives.
Together with the Social Investment Bank (BIS) and other Colombian partners, the FMSD promotes innovative mechanisms for collective impact. During the last years it developed a financial instrument that allows low-income families access to a new house without needing a down payment and with monthly payments not higher than their current rent costs. The so-called Arriendo con Opción de Compra (ACOC) has been recently embraced by the Colombian government, as a sustainable and market based mechanism to tackle its housing deficit.
Why the focus on social interest housing?
The FMSD’s decision to focus on social interest housing is based primarily on five reasons: a) because adequate housing is critical to virtuous family dynamics and hence, for the creation of responsible and positive citizens, and for overcoming the intergenerational poverty trap; b) because the housing deficit in Colombia is above 3 million and projected supply will take a long time to address the demand; c) because current supply does not account for demographic changes; d) because the FMSD saw this challenge as a great opportunity to partner with the national and local governments to unlock the social interest housing market, by addressing the main bottlenecks on both the demand and supply sides e.g. low purchasing power by families, high land costs; and e) because it found in the macro projects framework an opportunity to undertake a public private partnership to develop sustainable communities, building on lessons learned by the Foundation in previous projects. The focus of the FMSD on large-scale housing projects does not exclude its other projects and partnerships.