|The Management of Revolving Funds for House Improvement Loans (HABITAT, 1991, 142 p.)|
|I. THE REVOLVING FUND FOR HOUSE IMPROVEMENT LOANS|
|A. Some general information - the actors|
The Dominican Republic is the eastern part of the island of Hispaniola in the Carribean. It has an area of slightly more than 48,000 km2. Its total population is estimated at 6.5 million and average density amounts to 125 persons/km2. In addition, approximately 2 million Dominicans live in the United States of America and maintain close contacts with their relatives on the island. Their influence (not only economically) is substantial. The expectations and aspirations of most low-income households are oriented towards the Land of Promises.
Nearly 2 million, or a third of the population, live in the ancient but also modern capital of Santo Domingo. The second largest town Santiago de los Treinta Caballeros, has a population of approximately half a million. The other 24 urban centres are considered medium and small towns with populations ranging from 5000 to 150,000 each. Considering the relatively small size of the country and the good communication system, it is easy to travel or commute.
The rapid urbanization process commenced at the end of the 1950s. Whereas only 16.6 per cent of the population lived in urban centres in 1920, that share increased to 23.8 per cent in 1950 and 52.0 per cent in 1981. Between 1950 and 1981, the population of Santo Domingo increased from 181,550 to 1,313,170 inhabitants and that of Santiago from 56,560 to 278,680. Such an urbanization is the result of various factors such as the concentration of landownership (despite or as a result of land reform), the modernization of the economy, excessive investment in urban areas in general and in the capital in particular, rural-urban income differentials, the modernization of society and the attractiveness of the big towns.
Santiago, the second largest town of the Dominican Republic, was founded in 1495, three years after the landing of Columbus in that part of the world. It is located in the wealthiest agricultural zone of the Dominican Republic, the Cibao, and benefits from a moderate though tropical climate. Santiago is a flourishing industrial, commercial and administrative centre which has competed for generations with the capital. It is estimated that nearly 70 per cent of the towns population of half a million live in squatter settlements, located in the south, the east and the centre of the town.
Pekin is located 4 km from the centre towards the south of Santiago, a zone with 128 squatter settlements and approximately 60,000 inhabitants. It is named after the Chinese capital of Beijing although it has nothing to do with it, nor is it inhabited by Chinese. Many of the squatter settlements in the Dominican Republic have been named after war and crisis zones which made the headlines at the time of their findings as, for example, Katanga, Viet Nam, etc.
Despite its urban features, Pekin still maintains some rural characteristics. Its occupation and consolidation took place during the period 1955 to 1974, when the Municipality of Santiago leased plots to families who had been resettled there from other parts of the town, due to the construction of roads and public buildings. All the land is owned by the Municipality which in some cases has issued land leases. However, many of the plots have changed hands several times and practically none of the residents pay rent, with the result that only a few of them have contacts. Due to the de facto though not de jure recognition of this status quo, the settlement is not bound by the formal building norms and standards of the municipal authorities.
Pekin does not substantially differ from most marginalized squatter settlements in Santiago and the Dominican Republic. The roads are poor (during the rainy season inaccessible), water supply is infrequent, drainage is natural rather than man-made and electricity breaks down daily for many hours. (However, the same can be said about middle- and even higher-income residential estates.)
The population of Pekin amounted in 1981 to 24,500 or 4089 house holds, of whom 52 per cent were women. Average density amounts to 211 per sons/ha. The great majority of the adults are rural migrants from the vicinity and the entire Cibao (68 per cent).
A SECTION OF BARRIO PEKIN
House Improvement Loan Programme Projects Area
The settlement is characterized by its heterogeneity as are most comparable zones. Some one third of the houses are built of blocks and may be considered adequate. The rest are traditional and sometimes beautiful timber houses which are gradually being replaced by block ones, as well as a large proportion of dilapidated shelters built of a variety of materials.
Only some 25 per cent of the heads of household are permanently employed in the formal public and private sector. The majority are casual workers, self-employed mainly in commerce, or as construction workers, while a few are farmers. It is hardly possible to make a valid statement regarding income, taking into account the share of casual workers and the fact that the regularly employed are likely to have a second or even a third source of income. Also, income distribution is characterized by its heterogeneity and fluctuations.
Nearly one quarter of the inhabitants, mostly the older ones, are illiterate and only 45 per cent have attended, though not necessarily completed, elementary school. Most children attend public elementary school but there is a considerable shortfall. As a result of the educational explosion of the last two decades, there is an impressive cadre of younger educated professionals living in the settlement.
Fourteen resident organizations and clubs were counted in Pekin and the surrounding squatter settlements of the south of Santiago. There are church organizations, sports clubs, school associations, youth clubs and organizations for the development of the settlement. Despite goodwill and dedication, most of them are weak and unstable. Very often, works and activities which have been planned and even commenced cannot be completed due to the shortage of funds. Most of the community leaders are active in several organizations.
Community ties and interactions are not very strong or pronounced. Migration took place individually and extended-family networks tend to disintegrate rapidly, although some remnants of village of origin solidarity have survived. The process of rural to urban migration, modernization, orientation to new urban values and towards the USA, the search for livelihood and consolidation at the individual level, have also led to the atomization of society in the squatter settlements. The new urban culture is still in its formative stage and the emerging social networks are fragile.
Pekin is thus a typical squatter settlement. It embodies the urbanization process in the Dominican Republic as in many other third- world countries - the heterogeneity, the contradictions, the daily struggle for survival and the ingenuity of solutions found to meet urgent needs and solve persistent problems.