|The Human Settlements Conditions of the World's Urban Poor (HABITAT, 1996, 233 p.)|
|VII. Agenda for future work|
In seeking to strengthen shelter strategies for the very poorest groups there is a need for action at two levels, firstly, at central government level in persuading governments not to abrogate their responsibilities to the urban poor; and secondly, at the operational level, to use such resources as are available in the most effective way to promote the interests of the poorest.
For many years housing investment came to be perceived by governments as a drain on scarce public sector resources. Recent shifts in international policies through SAPs and the GSS have imposed tight restrictions on public expenditure and encouraged a more market oriented approach towards shelter provision. Given the severe economic problems confronting governments in many developing countries and the lack of political influence exercisable by the poorest groups, there is a danger, as articulated by Coulomb (1994) in Mexico, that shelter issues will slip even further down the list of priorities as governments feel that such problems are now to be dealt with more appropriately by market forces. There remains a need to counter such perceptions by strongly promoting the arguments outlined by UNCHS (1994) and UNCHS/ILO (1995) and elaborated in chapters III and VI above, favouring enhanced investment in the shelter sector, not only from an economic perspective but also from the health and environmental viewpoints advocated by Agenda 21. Habitat II will provide an important international opportunity for promoting the case for greater investment in shelter and human settlements development.
Invariably, however, public sector resources will remain modest in relation to the shelter needs of the urban poor, hence the need to consider carefully the use of these resources in local shelter strategies. Local authority staff as well as those in NGOs are likely to need training and institutional support in order to formulate and implement strategies which determine priorities and use appraisal techniques to make best use of scarce resources between various policy options. These options are likely to include, the acquisition of development land for the urban poor; low-cost new build programmes (e.g. sites-and-service schemes); incentives to encourage slum improvement programmes; infrastructural investment and relocation projects; the use of public funds to lever private resources through partnerships; the formulation of incentives to encourage responsible renting in the privately rented sector; and the direct use of resources for shelter provision for the most disadvantaged groups, such as, street children, the homeless, the physically and mentally handicapped, some women-headed households, etc., a sadly neglected area of local policy. Currently only the authorities of the largest cities are capable of conceptualizing strategies of this kind and working towards their implementation. For enabling strategies to work, however, this implies that local authorities will have to analyse and respond to the local housing market in a way they have not done hitherto. It also implies accepting more directly responsibility for formulating local policies which make provision for the neediest groups.