7.3.2 Upgrading projects
This report has demonstrated that in many cases, dramatic
progress has been achieved in developing and implementing projects to improve or
upgrade existing low-income settlements. In some cases, such as the Kampung
Improvement Programme in Indonesia, these have taken an engineering emphasis and
been implemented to such a scale that a majority of the low-income households in
a city have been reached. In other cases, such as Zambia, the emphasis has been
on using projects to achieve social objectives, by encouraging people to work
together for common benefits.
There is, of course, room for both these approaches and many
more. An important consideration, however, is to maximize the degree of local
initiative and control over the process of selecting project components and the
way in which they are organized. In this respect, upgrading has an advantage
over new shelter projects, since residents are in place and usually keen to
articulate their needs and resources. If made aware of the true costs involved,
international experience suggests that most people are realistic about what can
be provided and make sound decisions on alternative options. The main constraint
is to establish an institutional framework in which such collaboration can
develop between local residents and the staff in the relevant shelter agencies.
An institutional framework that enables low-income communities
to identify their needs, and ensure that these are addressed in local authority
resource allocation procedures, would enable upgrading projects to flourish
without necessarily placing greater demands upon such resources. In Turkey, and
many other countries, such systems have been in place for many years in the form
of the mahalles. These enable informal settlements in different parts of
a city to obtain the access roads, water supplies, drainage networks, or
schools, etc. that they require, based on locally determined, rather than
centrally planned, criteria. When local people can receive the goods and
services that they demand, the prospects of them paying for, and looking after,
them are invariably greater - and therefore cheaper in the long term.
A major element in the success of upgrading projects has been
the contribution played by NGOs. These deserve emphasis and support throughout
the world, not just in developing countries. Their commitment and accountability
to local communities, together with the high degree of professionalism which
most NGOs embody, place them in the best position to act as intermediaries
between communities and local authorities.
Many existing low-income settlements contain a significant
proportion of tenants, and these often constitute the poorest households in an
urban area. By definition, many of these will not be able to afford access to
new shelter projects, at least in the short term. They will therefore depend
upon upgrading projects to obtain any improvements in their living conditions.
If these projects generate significantly higher environmental conditions than
existed before the project, such groups will be placed in an extremely
vulnerable position, since they will be unable to respond to corresponding
increases in rent levels imposed by land-owners. This problem may arise even if
the costs of such improvements are not attributed to plot owners, because they
may see the rental value of their property as capable of supporting higher rents
and greater profits. For this reason, upgrading projects should assess the
proportion of households that pay rent and their potential for meeting the
likely costs of rent increases resulting from different levels of upgrading.
This should be reflected in the level to which a settlement is upgraded, or the
rate at which improvements are made.
The range of upgrading projects is considerable and this report
has only mentioned a few. One which deserves particular emphasis, because it
reflects the degree of sophistication that has been achieved, is that of
land-sharing. This approach is used particularly in central Manila and other
high-density city centres, to enable squatters to obtain security of tenure. The
land-owners are, in return permitted to redevelop the site for a combination of
commercial and residential units. The profits generated from even a limited
number of commercial units are sufficient to finance the construction of new
high-density apartments on the remainder of the site for the original residents.
The land-owners are still left with more profits than if they had sought full
possession of the land through the courts without receiving planning permission