Cover Image
close this bookAssessment of Experience with the Project Approach to Shelter Delivery for the Poor (HABITAT, 1991, 52 p.)
close this folderVII. Conclusions and recommendations
close this folder7.3 Future emphasis and priorities in housing projects
View the document(introduction...)
View the document7.3.1 Projects to provide new shelter
View the document7.3.2 Upgrading projects

7.3.2 Upgrading projects

This report has demonstrated that in many cases, dramatic progress has been achieved in developing and implementing projects to improve or upgrade existing low-income settlements. In some cases, such as the Kampung Improvement Programme in Indonesia, these have taken an engineering emphasis and been implemented to such a scale that a majority of the low-income households in a city have been reached. In other cases, such as Zambia, the emphasis has been on using projects to achieve social objectives, by encouraging people to work together for common benefits.

There is, of course, room for both these approaches and many more. An important consideration, however, is to maximize the degree of local initiative and control over the process of selecting project components and the way in which they are organized. In this respect, upgrading has an advantage over new shelter projects, since residents are in place and usually keen to articulate their needs and resources. If made aware of the true costs involved, international experience suggests that most people are realistic about what can be provided and make sound decisions on alternative options. The main constraint is to establish an institutional framework in which such collaboration can develop between local residents and the staff in the relevant shelter agencies.

An institutional framework that enables low-income communities to identify their needs, and ensure that these are addressed in local authority resource allocation procedures, would enable upgrading projects to flourish without necessarily placing greater demands upon such resources. In Turkey, and many other countries, such systems have been in place for many years in the form of the mahalles. These enable informal settlements in different parts of a city to obtain the access roads, water supplies, drainage networks, or schools, etc. that they require, based on locally determined, rather than centrally planned, criteria. When local people can receive the goods and services that they demand, the prospects of them paying for, and looking after, them are invariably greater - and therefore cheaper in the long term.

A major element in the success of upgrading projects has been the contribution played by NGOs. These deserve emphasis and support throughout the world, not just in developing countries. Their commitment and accountability to local communities, together with the high degree of professionalism which most NGOs embody, place them in the best position to act as intermediaries between communities and local authorities.

Many existing low-income settlements contain a significant proportion of tenants, and these often constitute the poorest households in an urban area. By definition, many of these will not be able to afford access to new shelter projects, at least in the short term. They will therefore depend upon upgrading projects to obtain any improvements in their living conditions. If these projects generate significantly higher environmental conditions than existed before the project, such groups will be placed in an extremely vulnerable position, since they will be unable to respond to corresponding increases in rent levels imposed by land-owners. This problem may arise even if the costs of such improvements are not attributed to plot owners, because they may see the rental value of their property as capable of supporting higher rents and greater profits. For this reason, upgrading projects should assess the proportion of households that pay rent and their potential for meeting the likely costs of rent increases resulting from different levels of upgrading. This should be reflected in the level to which a settlement is upgraded, or the rate at which improvements are made.

The range of upgrading projects is considerable and this report has only mentioned a few. One which deserves particular emphasis, because it reflects the degree of sophistication that has been achieved, is that of land-sharing. This approach is used particularly in central Manila and other high-density city centres, to enable squatters to obtain security of tenure. The land-owners are, in return permitted to redevelop the site for a combination of commercial and residential units. The profits generated from even a limited number of commercial units are sufficient to finance the construction of new high-density apartments on the remainder of the site for the original residents. The land-owners are still left with more profits than if they had sought full possession of the land through the courts without receiving planning permission for full development.