Cover Image
close this bookThe Human Settlements Conditions of the World's Urban Poor (HABITAT, 1996, 233 p.)
close this folderVII. Agenda for future work
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentA. Countering urban poverty
View the documentB. Shelter, good governance and the enabling role
View the documentC. Specific policy areas in need of development
View the documentD. Strengthening shelter strategies for the poorest groups
View the documentE. Harnessing the benefits of research
View the documentF. The future role of local authorities
View the documentG. The role of CBOs and NGOs
View the documentH. The role of the private commercial sector

F. The future role of local authorities

The three major roles envisaged for local authorities have already been outlined and discussed (see section B above), this section will seek to explore some of the implications of these roles for human settlements development. Local authorities will be expected to assume a more strategic function. This implies that they will be expected to increase their effectiveness in at least three areas of urban development, firstly, in urban planning and land management. They will be expected to anticipate population growth and urban expansion and to exert greater control over that expansion in accordance with a planned strategy which seeks to maximize the use of resources whilst minimizing the growth of illegal and squatter settlements. Secondly, they will need to plan carefully the provision of infrastructure not only for it to be effectively coordinated with planned urban growth, but also to extend its coverage of the existing urban environment. Thirdly, local authorities will be expected to begin to formulate local shelter strategies which seek shelter solutions much more within the context of the operation of the local housing market. The adoption of a strategic approach implies a much more pro-active and entrepreneurial approach than most local authorities are accustomed to, a substantial improvement in their information base and a greater analytical capacity than hitherto.

For the implementation of these strategies local authorities are expected to continue with some of their core administrative activities, e.g. land-use planning, but to rely increasingly on an enabling approach to secure policy objectives. Hence, it is anticipated that local authorities will increasingly withdraw from the role as a direct provider of shelter (except perhaps with respect to the poorest groups), in favour of a greater reliance on other bodies (CBOs, NGOs and the private sector). Principally, as far as programmes for the urban poor are concerned, this will mean working more closely with NGOs or with the communities themselves. This will again involve local authorities in a more pro-active, creative and catalytic role than hitherto, seeking to explore innovative solutions to the backlog of shelter, providing technical advice, guidance and incentives to encourage upgrading, working with NGOs to secure new building arrangements, exploring potential partnerships with landowners and developers, and so on.

Local authorities must also retain their role as regulators, however; a role which is performed with enormous variation in developing countries from the exercise of Draconian powers to a practically non-existent influence. In this role local authorities are having to adjust to a presumption in favour of more market-oriented strategies which will require major changes in attitudes and approaches. Calls have been made, particularly in the areas of building and planning regulations, for example, for greater flexibility in the exercise of codes and standards. Whilst the liberalization of codes and standards is justified, it does highlight the need for enhanced professional competence in making judgements which safeguard the health and safety interests of the community at the expense of the individual.

In conclusion, these new roles for local authorities, in seeking to develop enabling strategies in shelter and human settlements development, will be highly challenging.