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close this bookVolunteer Participation in Working with the Urban Poor (UNDP - UNV, 64 p.)
close this folderII. Insights derived from community-based programmes
View the document(introduction...)
Open this folder and view contentsUrban informal sector
View the documentLow-income housing
View the documentInfrastructure and basic services
View the documentHealth and HIV/AIDS prevention
View the documentNon-formal education and functional literacy
View the documentWomen, gender and development
View the documentChildren of the street
View the documentImplications for VSAs

Low-income housing

Housing is a major concern of low-income urban groups, for which there are several examples of successful community initiatives to meet the need. An excellent example is the FUNDASAL Housing Programme of San Salvador, which received funds from the World Bank. In the late 1970s, the FUNDASAL Programme was building 1400 units a year. FUNDASAL integrated housing construction with community organisation and cooperatives through a two-pronged approach: i) progressive development: construction of each unit in stages dictated by the resources of the beneficiaries: and ii) mutual help: all participating families collaborated by working in groups of twenty to build the initial units. To achieve this, the project relied on a large number of social workers (one for every 150 families) and an organisational structure where every 25 families elected representatives to a central community board. In this way, housing was used as a vehicle for social change, which was considered vital to the broader institutional commitment to the social development of the groups involved and Salvadorean society as a whole.

Another successful example, and the most impressive in terms of its comprehensiveness and scale, has been the Villa El Salvador Resettlement project in Lima, where community self-government was integrated within a very large site-and-service scheme. In this case, it was the government which encouraged community participation in the form of neighbourhood groups through the help of SINAMOS, a state agency.

A major obstacle in obtaining efficient and accessible urban land markets for low-income groups is the inequitable distribution of land, often owned by politically influential families. An innovative solution to this problem is a much-referenced land-sharing case in Bangkok. In this situation, inhabitants of illegal settlements, fearful of eviction, were able to successfully negotiate a compromise whereby they gave up part of the land they had occupied in exchange for security and the right to stay. This example has inspired several similar agreements.

In general, most self-help and participatory approaches to low-income urban housing problems have involved the free provision of land, as in Bangkok and Lima, described above. It is useful to note that while some projects may refer to community participation, they evoke a cost-sharing scheme without capacity-building steps. The Dandora Site and Service Schemes in Nairobi and Lusaka, funded by the World Bank, are two examples where the emphasis of the project was on cost sharing (of the financial and technical project components) and finishing the project, rather than capacity-building. This differentiation should be kept in mind when developing strategies which emphasise participation and building upon local initiatives.