| National trends in housing-production practices |
In most developing countries today, the provision of shelter is grossly inadequate. This is so despite several decades of direct government intervention in the shelter sector. The adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000 (GSS) in 1988 implied a global recognition of the severity of the housing problem. Since the public sector has shown itself unable to meet the increasing housing demand, the GSS calls for the adoption of new roles and responsibilities of the various actors in the shelter-delivery process. It does not, however, propose that governments should withdraw from housing. On the contrary, the GSS places significant responsibilities on the public-sector agencies for creating an enabling environment and ensuring the availability of shelter for all. By emphasizing the need for flexibility and local initiative in designing the new housing policy, it recognizes that the response of government in various countries may differ, depending on their respective housing conditions and the state of administrative and regulative system.
That is the point of departure for this publication, which is a series of four volumes on national trends in housing-production practices in India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria, respectively. All four countries have recently adopted new national housing policies that incorporate the enabling approach advocated in the GSS. These publications identify problems encountered and lessons learned during the process of initiating enabling shelter strategies. Yet, because the experiences in different countries in many ways are unique, it is necessary to discuss the experiences gathered against the background of a more comprehensive discussion of the shelter- delivery process in the individual countries. None of the four publications in this series thus attempts to compare the experiences of different countries. That has been done - with a particular focus on the lowest income groups -- in a separate publication entitled National Experiences with Shelter Delivery for the Poorest Groups.
The four volumes take a close look at the implementation of the GSS at the national level. They also review lessons at the sub-national level, by presenting the experience of the cities of Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi in India; Jakarta and Bandung in Indonesia; Mexico City, Ciudad Obregon and Papa in Mexico; and Lagos in Nigeria. A particular emphasis of all four publications is the presentation of data documenting the performance of the shelter sector at large and of the various actors involved therein.
Each of the four volumes consists of four main parts. The first part takes a close look at the development of national shelter policies and strategies in the light of the introduction of enabling shelter strategies. It also describes the scope and scale of the shelter problem in each of the four countries. The second part analyses the changing roles and responsibilities of the various actors in the shelter-delivery process, including relevant financial institutions and instruments. It also provides figures on actual housing production at the national level. The third part takes a closer look at the above issues at the city level. The fourth and concluding part, is just that, a conclusion to the above discussion. The chapter highlights obstacles to an effective housing supply, as well as particular innovative approaches towards alleviating the housing problem in the country.
The main conclusion that can be drawn from these studies is that the shelter problem today in most developing countries is worse than it was before massive public-sector interventions were initiated two to three decades ago. The example of Indonesia can serve as a good illustration of the rather limited success of two decades of direct shelter provision by the public sector. Total public-sector housing supply during the entire 1974-1991 period is less than the annual housing need created by population growth alone. Furthermore, there are signs in all four countries that public-sector involvement in housing is being reduced, i.e., while the volume of units produced is increasing, public-sector investments in housing are decreasing. This indicates a trend where the focus of formal-sector housing production is turning away from the production of ready-to-move-in units and towards the provision of a wide menu of actions that lead to the construction of a dwelling unit. This results in a situation in which more units (although qualitatively different) can be produced with the same amount of funds. Yet, if the total formal-sector investment is reduced, this may indicate the beginning of a trend where the importance of shelter is being reduced rather than strengthened.
However, the picture is not altogether bleak. The four publications also show examples of how the shelter problems can be effectively addressed. We should, nevertheless, keep in mind that in any market, choice is a positive function of income. The consequence is that in a situation of housing shortage, the poor have no choice in housing at all. Any strategy to alleviate the shelter problem should keep this in mind. Unless housing supply is fully able to meet the need, direct interventions are required if the needs of the poorest groups are to be addressed.
We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Dr. Basil Obi Achunine for the preparation of the case study on which this publication is based.
Dr. Wally N'Dow
United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat)