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close this bookThe Human Settlements Conditions of the World's Urban Poor (HABITAT, 1996, 233 p.)
close this folderV. Reaching the urban poor
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentA. The changing international policy context for urban development and shelter
View the documentB. The sites-and-services programme in Zimbabwe
View the documentC. Brazil: the FUNACOM programme in São Paulo
View the documentD. An evaluation of the Employees’ Housing Programme (EHP) in the Republic of Korea
View the documentE. India: An evaluation of a series of Slum Improvement Programmes
View the documentF. Conclusions: Assessing the experience of projects/programmes aimed at improving the human settlements conditions of the world’s urban poor

F. Conclusions: Assessing the experience of projects/programmes aimed at improving the human settlements conditions of the world’s urban poor

In a review of international experience of the extent to which governments were introducing enabling strategies, UNCHS (1991c) observed that, “many countries have responded positively to the GSS and have already started to implement its recommendations in a wide range of areas”. It also goes on to conclude that, “most governments find themselves in a transitional stage in housing policy, somewhere between the old emphasis on production and direction and the new enabling approach of the GSS” (UNCHS, 1991c). This certainly remains true for this report. The evidence available, both in the review of human settlements conditions in chapter IV and the more detailed case studies above, suggests that governments continue to acknowledge the importance of GSS. Yet, in the light of widespread economic austerity throughout much of the developing world economic circumstances are hardly propitious for an expansion of the role of the private sector. At the same time, the impact of SAPs and other macro-economic reforms on the public sector has also meant that governments have, in most cases, yet to get to grips with the task of developing coherent enabling frameworks for shelter and urban development.

The four case studies above reflect different levels of government commitment to the concept of the enabling shelter strategies. The FUNACOM programme in SPaulo was clearly part of a significant and concerted attempt by one of the largest municipal authorities in the world to adopt many of the principles of the GSS. The SIP programme in India has been constructed around a community development approach which strongly embraces the idea of enablement. State agencies in Zimbabwe also demonstrated a willingness to liberalize many aspects of their approach to the delivery of sites-and-services projects before the programme succumbed to the twin problem of economic austerity and a severe drought. Even in the Republic of Korea, where evidence from the case study might demonstrate that the commitment to enablement is least, there is evidence of a conscious attempt to involve the private sector both in the construction and management of low-cost housing. Both the SIP programme in India and FUNACOM in SPaulo demonstrate progressive attempts to develop coherent local shelter strategies within an enabling framework and whilst the SPaulo strategy foundered because the Workers’ Party failed to secure continuing political support, the SIP programme (although project-based rather than a wholly strategic programme), is still able to evolve and develop because of its universal political support. This underlines a previous observation by UNCHS (Habitat) that,

“sustained political will is an essential ingredient in the success of any major policy change. To be effective, the GSS has to be supported at the highest levels of government over successive administrations” (UNCHS, 1991c).

Three of the four case studies also demonstrate that government bodies, both central and local, are taking cognizance of the advice given by the international agencies to withdraw from direct state provision in the housing market. Consistent with the findings of the UNCHS (Habitat) study (1991c), however, it remains the case that although these municipal bodies have played, and will continue to play, an important role in the development of local shelter strategies, there is a long way to go before these roles may be regarded as fully fledged and coherent enabling roles.

A second fundamental characteristic of the new orthodoxy is the development of partnerships between municipal bodies, NGOs and local communities in order to secure and enhance low-cost provision for low-income groups. Such a partnership was the central feature of the FUNACOM programme, although it was evident that there were some difficulties in changing attitudes and procedures within the municipal bureaucracy in a short period of time. There were also problems in mobilizing the technical resources through NGOs on a scale commensurate with needs across a highly decentralized programme throughout the city. The SIPs in India were founded on a community development approach and the replicability and continued success of this approach has been the major feature of these programmes. It has generated community-based initiatives on a broad scale and across a wide range of activities in each of the projects. There has clearly been less of a role for community participation in the formulation and implementation of the sites-and-services programmes in Zimbabwe and in the EHP in the Republic of Korea. Partly as a consequence, neither programme has succeeded in effectively reaching the low-income groups, save indirectly, in the case of Zimbabwe, through the subletting of properties.

A third important criterion is the enhancement of the role of the private (commercial) sector. This is currently one of the least developed areas within the conceptual framework for local strategies. “For the poor, there remains little alternative but to rely on one’s own resources or to use informal sources of finance” (UNCHS, 1991c). Evidence from the case studies above demonstrates that in each example efforts have been made to involve the private (commercial) sector in these shelter initiatives for low-income groups, but with limited success. In SPaulo, the municipality entered into partnerships with the private sector over land development; in Zimbabwe, the municipal bodies sought partnership arrangements with the building society for private sector loan finance and with private employers for assistance with a range of administrative tasks; cooperation from employers was sought in the EHP programme in the Republic of Korea; and in India, the SIPs have (latterly) sought assistance from private companies with regard to training and enterprise development. Thus, private sector cooperation has been sought across a range of activities relevant to these shelter initiatives. None may be described as highly successful, however, and attempts by the government in the Republic of Korea to encourage small companies to assist with the EHP for the low-income groups have failed. The reason was affordability problems and the lacking capacity of small firms to provide housing management. Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe the involvement of the private sector and the liberalization of local authority controls further exacerbated the difficulties encountered by the municipalities in trying to target low-income groups in an increasingly expensive scheme and led eventually to changes in the socio-economic composition of beneficiaries. From the case studies, however, there is little indication of progressive developments in the enhancement of the institutional capacity of the private sector to assist low-income groups.

The promotion of self-help in low-cost construction and materials production is a further important component of effective low-cost shelter strategies. This was a strong feature of the FUNACOM programme with local Community Associations not only determining appropriate standards and materials, but also undertaking the majority of the construction work themselves. This helped to raise confidence, encouraged the development of skills, and created opportunities for local economic development involving construction and the provision of materials. A similar process is also being undertaken in the SIP programmes and, although local circumstances differ from project to project, the physical upgrading of shelter and the environment using self-help initiatives is at the core of these programmes. Where these initiatives are supported by regularization of tenure, loan finance for upgrading, and training programmes for construction skills, they have been particularly successful. There was also scope for self-build activities in the sites-and-services programme of Zimbabwe, and the establishment of ‘building brigades’ was intended to assist with the production of building materials and reduce costs. Although the self-build approach worked well in the initial phase, the building brigades were not a success and the rising cost of materials was a major factor in undermining the affordability of the scheme for low-income groups; and as the higher-income groups replaced those on low incomes, the principle of self-building became less relevant. There is little, if any, scope for self-help activity in the EHP programme in the Republic of Korea. The review of human settlements conditions in chapter IV confirms that formal housing provision is rarely accessible or affordable for the urban poor and a similar conclusion may be drawn from two of the case studies. Hence, the GSS urges governments to formulate explicit shelter policies for the poor. There has been increasing recognition in recent years, moreover, that women, and women-headed households in particular, are disproportionately represented amongst those living in poverty (see chapters II and IV). Hence shelter policies need to demonstrate that they are responsive to the particular needs of women and children as well as to those on low incomes. Certainly the FUNACOM programme and related shelter policies in SPaulo and the SIP programme in India, demonstrate approaches which are more effectively targeted and responsive to the needs of the poor and to women’s needs, than conventional government provision. Both programmes involved the conferment of legal title in squatter settlements (although this has not been universally applied throughout the SIP programme), and the FUNACOM programme was one of several simultaneous policies which were responsive in different ways to the shelter needs of the poor in SPaulo. Other related programmes included tenemental upgrading in central areas, squatter settlement upgrading in peripheral areas linked to relocation programmes involving sites-and-services schemes where in-situ upgrading was considered unwise in view of the dangerous nature of the existing site, and a low-cost new build housing programme. The SIP programme is also more effectively targeting the poor than conventional housing programmes, but the project approach has been seen to be a drawback in the effective targeting of the very poorest groups. Despite focusing on slum settlements, the SIPs have been criticized for failing to include all slum communities within their purview and, at the same time, for excluding consideration of pavement dwellers, street children and other destitutes.

Both programmes have also been responsive to the practical needs of women, involving them fully in the formulation and implementation of local activities. But as UNCHS (1991c) points out, it is much more difficult to make progress with regard to the institutional and market inequalities which exist and which inhibit or preclude the ability of women to hold land titles, to take loans, secure training or to obtain jobs.

The sites-and-services programmes in Zimbabwe, whilst originally successful in targeting the poor, have over time become a contradiction. The building standards required have become increasingly unaffordable for the low-income groups. There also appears to have been a policy vacuum over the issue of subletting. The result has been that many of the practicalities of renting have not been considered in a purposeful way and large numbers of those renting were dissatisfied. Furthermore, the throughput of serviced plots has been very small in comparison with housing needs.

Despite high levels of subsidy, the EHP programme has not been successful in targeting low-income groups because the costs remain outside their affordability. The eligibility criteria applied to the programme have also limited the access of the poor. Governments should ensure that shelter provision and upgrading is combined with infrastructural investment, with local economic development initiatives, and with health, educational and welfare provision to enable a concerted, and integrated approach, to urban poverty alleviation. Of the case studies, the SIPs most clearly demonstrate the advantages of this approach, but there is little doubt also that the project orientation and framework of the SIPs has been a constraint in seeking the broader objective of attempting to integrate slum settlements more effectively into the physical, social, economic and political networks of the city as a whole. Such an approach needs to be developed over time and involves the development of partnerships across areas of traditional expertise. In SPaulo, whilst the conceptualization of local development activity was broadly based, involving improvements in infrastructure and to community facilities, it is not clear whether a fully integrated strategic approach was adopted. In the remaining two case studies the targeting of the housing programmes on the low-income groups (at least in the latter stages of the Zimbabwe programme), was not effective, thereby precluding any attempt at an integrated approach towards urban poverty alleviation.

Agenda 21 (United Nations, 1993a) has increased the emphasis on two further requirements for the formulation of shelter strategies. It encourages a greater concern for environmental issues and a recognition of the need to develop strategies which were sustainable. Certainly the aim of each of the case study programmes has been to improve the quality of housing and environmental conditions of beneficiaries. By concentrating on existing slum settlements often devoid of infrastructural provision, the upgrading programmes in SPaulo and the SIPs in India have tackled the problems of environmental degradation directly, and by adopting self-help mechanisms have been particularly cost-effective as well as successful in mobilizing local communities around issues of shelter and the environment. These programmes have also encouraged the use of locally available low-cost materials thereby increasing the potential for employment creation and generating a beneficial impact from local income multipliers.

The issue of sustainability, however, is a complex one. The FUNACOM programme, along with other shelter programmes in SPaulo, although evincing many of the characteristics of an environmentally sensitive and sustainable programme consistent with the GSS, was unsustainable because of local political change. There are also difficulties with the sustainability of the SIP programmes but for very different reasons. The external resourcing of the SIPs and the subsequent development of an independent managerial orientation has meant the projects have adopted staffing levels and norms and standards which will be difficult to sustain once the major capital funding stage has concluded and local statutory bodies begin to assume responsibility for the projects. There are problems too for the sites-and-services programme in Zimbabwe. The high standards of shelter and infrastructural provision have already been modified to reduce costs, but unless the number of serviced plots is greatly enhanced and more consideration given to arrangements for letting, the programme is likely to remain inaccessible and beyond the means of low-income groups. These criticisms of the Zimbabwean programme correlate strongly with general criticisms of the project approach to emerge from an assessment by UNCHS (Habitat) which concludes that projects:

· invariably addressed only the needs of a proportion of overall demand, and often a very modest proportion;

· tended to focus on technical efficiency rather than a community-orientated approach;

· were often beyond the affordability of the poor, or if not, created problems because of a lack of availability; and

· were generally not conceived in terms of the impact they might have on broader urban development issues (UNCHS, 1991b).

Ironically, insofar as the EHP was something of a pilot programme in the Republic of Korea, it seems that of the case studies, whilst it least adheres to the principles associated with the GSS, it may nonetheless prove to be the most sustainable programme. There are nonetheless some important lessons to be learned from the EHP if it is to be more effectively targeted on the urban poor in the future.

A related issue to that of sustainability is the extent to which shelter programmes may be replicable and capable of scaling up to make a more effective contribution to overall housing needs. Whilst the SPaulo programme was a city-wide strategy, its output (albeit at the commencement of the programme), resulted in new and improved shelter conditions for approximately 100,000 households and yet over a similar duration (1989-1992), the population increase in SPaulo during these four years would have amounted to about 1.2 million people or almost a quarter of a million households. This not only demonstrates the scale of the shelter problem, it also underlines the urgency of the need to develop strategic approaches which dramatically scale-up the level of provision.

Perhaps with the exception of the Republic of Korea there are major problems in scaling-up current levels of provision in urban areas in India, Brazil and Zimbabwe. One of the key problems is the scarcity of resources (and the relative incapacity of state government resources in the Indian context is amply demonstrated in the case study), but similar problems are apparent in Brazil and Zimbabwe (and throughout much of the developing world). As a consequence UNCHS (Habitat) argues that the most important elements in seeking to scale-up shelter programmes are, “popular participation (so that people ‘own’ the process and are committed to making it work themselves), financial self-sufficiency (through cost recovery, user-charges, and micro-economic development), and administrative capacity (at all levels so that programmes and policies can be implemented efficiently over time)” (UNCHS, 1991c). The latter is particularly important: “Unless the local authorities are strong, well-resourced, efficient, flexible, and accountable, they will be unable to promote the right framework within which the household and private sectors can play their roles” (UNCHS, 1991c).

Finally, in order to be fully aware of the progress being made both in general and specific terms, the international agencies recommend a capacity for the monitoring and evaluation of shelter programmes. To an extent each of the case studies has been the subject of research and evaluation exercises but the one programme in which monitoring and evaluation processes have been used in an integrated way to learn from experience and modify subsequent development has been the SIP programme in India.

From this brief review of four case studies of low-income shelter programmes in Zimbabwe, Brazil, the Republic of Korea and India it may be concluded that the programmes in SPaulo and in India demonstrate the closest association with the key principles recommended by the international agencies and the EHP programme in the Republic of Korea, the least. Each of the programmes, however, does exhibit some characteristics of the new GSS agenda.