Cover Image
close this bookTraining for Elected Leadership - The Councillor as Enabler (HABITAT, 1994, 18 p.)
close this folderPart II - Workshop on the councillor as enabler
View the documentOverview
View the documentWarm-up exercise: the nine dots
View the documentTrainer presentation
View the documentExercise: service delivery options
View the documentExercise: stakholder's map
View the documentCase study: the Million Houses Programme
View the documentSeries Skill transfer exercise

Case study: the Million Houses Programme

Time required: 60 minutes


This case study is to provide an opportunity for councillors to visualize and appreciate the strength of decentralization and citizen involvement in dealing with complex community issues.

The case should not be used as a substitute for the stakeholder map exercise but might be used to supplement it in a full-day workshop design. In any event, participants should be provided with presentation material on the strategies used by the community energizer, consensus builder, and "enabler," before being introduced to this case.


Distribute copies of The Million Houses Programme and ask participants toread the case. If possible, arrange to provide participants with copies of the case to read before the workshop.

After participants have read the case, divide them into small groups of four to seven. Give each small group the tasks of.

1. Identifying the stakeholders in the case and making a list of them using the worksheet at the end of the case.

2. Answering the four questions following the case.

Reconvene workshop participants after about 20 minutes and ask for reports from each small group. Encourage a general group discussion.



The Million Houses Programme is a unique approach to shelter production developed in response to economic and demographic conditions in a developing country. It remains one of the few examples of national housing policy in which the role of the public sector is confined entirely to the direct provision of technical and financial support to individual low-income households and communities.


Ten years ago, administration of the country's National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) was decentralized to the district level. Emphasis at the start of the programme was placed on the development of a system for community housing administration instead of constructing or upgrading individual dwellings. To accomplish this, the NHDA assisted local housing authorities to train community development officers whose principal responsibility was to stimulate the formation of community development councils (CDCS) representing between 50 and 100 households in slum or low-income housing areas. With the assistance of the NHDA housing officers and local community development officers, the CDCs were responsible for subdividing and platting land, formulating building standards, deciding on the level of infrastructure provision, and managing the disbursement and recovery of governmental loans. The CDCs resulted in a new layer of government to serve as a liaison between individual households and the established urban local authorities.

The Million Houses Programme developed a process of learning-by-doing by participants at all levels. In a relatively short time, the national government had converted the NHDA, established for the centralized control of public-housing production through the construction of costly and highly subsidized dwellings, into a participatory technical and financial assistance agency. Through this process, some 50,000 families have benefited each year. It has been estimated that small government loans (a maximum of US$350 per household) have stimulated the release of nearly three times that amount from the private savings of low-income homebuilders. The construction industry's artisan level and the building-materials market have grown rapidly, creating new jobs and incomes at the lowest levels. Through partnership between the public and the community sectors, a new form of community confidence, stability and development has been generated in those urban areas reached by the Programme.


1. What were the major actions or decisions that account for the positive outcomes in this case?

2. What do you suppose would have happened had the NHDA continued to exercise centralized administrative control over local housing production?

3. What types of community programmes and services might be addressed effectively by a highly decentralized and participative system or organizations like the CDCS?

What are the two or three most important lessons to be learned from this case about enabling others to take greater responsibility for community problems?

Note.. The situation described in this exercise is based on a 1984 Sri Lanka programme aimed at decentralizing shelter provision and establishing a partnership between communities and local authorities with a focus on community participation.


In this space below, make a list of those individuals or groups that you believe are stakeholders in this case.