Cover Image
close this bookNational Experiences with Shelter Delivery for the Poorest Groups (HABITAT, 1994, 140 p.)
close this folderII. HOUSING THE POOR
View the documentA. The case-study countries
View the documentB. National shelter policies
View the documentC. Housing needs
View the documentD. Shelter delivery
View the documentE. Actors and programmes
View the documentF. Financing shelter

B. National shelter policies

1. Mexico

The right to adequate shelter was included in Mexico's Federal Constitution in 1983. A new law (Ley Federal de Vivienda), containing aspects of an enabling approach in line with the GSS, was also passed that year. The objectives of the new national shelter strategy are clearly expressed in the Programa Nacional de Vivienda 1990-1994 (Carmona, 1993). The basic principles of the document are:

· Efficiency of the public housing programmes, and extension of the coverage to low-income groups;

· Improved popular participation in shelter provision, and intensified collaboration between public, private and community actors.

The first principle follows the traditional philosophy of the public sector as a provider of housing. The second opens the possibility for the government to assume the role of facilitator.

The shelter-related objectives of the National Development Plan, 1989-1994 include support for the shelter process so that every Mexican family obtains access to adequate housing, while it aims to take advantage of the multiplier effects of shelter delivery, in order to stimulate production and increase employment.

The National Housing Policy has the following specific objectives:

· Modernize the institutional arrangements in the housing sector;
· Concentrate government initiatives to the low-income group;
· Improve the financial mechanisms for public housing programmes;
· Support the process of decentralization;
· Make the distribution of inputs to house-building more efficient.

In 1993 there was a change in the Federal Administration of Housing. The new authority emphasizes the following points:

· Establishment of more flexible and diverse modalities of guarantee for housing loans;

· Promotion of deregulation and simpler construction rules;

· Enactment of legal reforms allowing more flexible and less complex processes of housing production.

The recent formulation of the national shelter strategy is in line with the GSS, and traditional policies are gradually reduced or removed. The GSS seems to have had a positive impact on this change in the housing sector in Mexico.

To underline the reorientation of policy, three specific sub-policies should be mentioned. First, there is a growing role for CBOs and NGOs in the shelter process. The key policy concept in this connection is concertacimeaning social negotiation. Many new CBOs and NGOs have been formed recently in Mexico. There is also an apex organization, a federation of grass-roots groups, CBOs and NGOs representing more than a million people, the Coordinaciacional de Movimiento Urbano Popular (CONAMUP). The main tasks of this organization are to lobby the government on land and housing issues, and to provide financial and technical support to affiliated organizations.

Secondly, an important change in land management in Mexico is the recently passed reform in the National Constitution with respect to ejido lands. This category of land included 99-years leases for peasants. The leases are now transformed into a flexible right facilitating a conversion of such land to urban use and development.

Thirdly, a government programme has been established for the development of 100 medium-sized towns. The aim is to lessen the pressure on larger cities. Shelter programmes in these towns will obtain special benefits to mitigate migration flows to the metropolitan area. The costs of providing urban infrastructure and services will thus be reduced. This will be beneficial for the poor, given that they choose to settle in the towns rather than in the largest cities.

2. Indonesia

Indonesia laid the basis for its fifth Five Year Development Plan (1989-1994), known as Repelita-V, during the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless (1987) and the year that saw the adoption of the GSS by the General Assembly of the United Nations (1988). Housing authorities were then able to develop a new policy and include it in the State National Development Goal. The change in policy is a move from the government as a “provider” to that of an “enabler”. The focus is now on what people can afford and on the role of local authorities together with the private formal and informal sectors and CBOs in shelter provision. Improved building materials, standardization and land regulation and the support of the construction industry have stimulated the participation of the informal sector in housing development. More people are encouraged to build their homes through CBOs and cooperatives and with the assistance of NGOs. The Indonesian Government has endorsed the GSS, yet its Urban Renewal Programme may lead to a removal of a large number of kampungs in Jakarta (UNCHS, 1991d).

The growth of private-sector house-building during 1989-1991 has benefited the better-off people only. Moreover, land prices have increased as a result of this improved activity. A new policy of rental accommodation is included in Repelita-V to benefit the poor. A total of 20,000 units of rental housing are planned. Yet, this is a rather small number, relative to the need. The Government's policy is to leave the responsibility of shelter provision to the people. The role of the Government is mainly to create business and building opportunities, and to stimulate community participation to enable the people to build their dwellings themselves. Programmes have been initiated to enhance the professionalism of housing agencies through education and training. Perum-Perumnas was established to pioneer large-scale housing development in the urban areas. Housing-finance agencies have also been formed.

To improve the shelter conditions of the poor, the Government created the “very simple house”. This type of dwelling is cheaper than the previously designed “simple house”. It has sufficient infrastructure and is built with low-quality materials and is expected to be finished gradually by the beneficiaries. In Repelita-V the Government minimized the subsidy to credit schemes by limiting it to the most needy people only.

3. India

The objective of India's National Housing Policy of 1992 is to create an “enabling environment” for housing activities. People will be assisted in securing affordable shelter. The Government's role is restricted to that of a facilitator in providing access to developed land, building materials, finance and technology (Kundu, 1993). The eighth Five Year Plan (1992-1997) states that housing is essentially a private activity. The need for government intervention to meet the shelter requirements of vulnerable groups is however recognized. In short, the Government in India changed its policy (on paper) from “bull-dozing the slums” to “environmental improvement of slums.” The pavement dwellers were however left out (Bijlani, 1988).

The aims of the new national shelter policy are:

· Setting up an institutional structure for mobilization of resources at a reasonable cost and for the disbursal of funds to the housing sector;

· Creating housing loans as a financial service based on the principle of affordability, recoverability and profitability;

· Restructuring the public agencies for taking up the development of housing sites, particularly for the poor, instead of building dwellings on a large scale;

· Ensuring accountability and efficiency in the public housing agencies by making them increasingly dependent on institutional funds rather than on budgetary support, thereby reducing subsidies;

· Providing subsidized shelter for the poor through both direct public house construction and indirectly by helping them to establish CBOs;

· Removing regulations and administrative barriers impeding the efficient functioning of land and housing markets;

· Increasing the supply of critical building materials by facilitating their production and distribution;

· Assisting the development and diffusion of appropriate building technologies that can be used by households at different levels of income.

The National Housing Policy has pointed at laws and regulations which inhibit housing construction. Among these are the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act and the Rent Control Act. Uniformity of the legislation among the states would help achieve better administration, and might thus assist in increasing private-sector investments in housing. Furthermore, the Government must see to it that appropriate arrangements and measures are taken in order to achieve effective implementation of new legislation.

The National Housing Policy has a number of goals which are of importance for the poor (if implemented). The central and state governments will:

· Promote a more equal distribution of land in urban areas, and curb speculation in land and housing in consonance with macro-economic policies for efficient and equitable growth;

· Avoid forcible relocation or dishousing of slum dwellers;

· Encourage in situ upgrading, slum renovation and progressive housing development with conferment of occupancy or tenurial rights wherever feasible, and undertake selective relocation with community involvement only for clearance of priority sites in public interest;

· Expand the provision of water supply, sanitation and other basic services in slums and other settlements occupied by the poor;

· Ensure proper maintenance of amenities through community involvement and decentralized institutional arrangements;

· Promote incremental construction and upgrading by poorer households through access to land and services, through technical support, outlets for low-cost technology and materials, opportunities for skill-upgrading and access to housing finance on flexible terms;

· Provide night shelters and sanitary facilities for the footpath dwellers and the homeless;

· Encourage individuals and groups to construct houses for partial and full letting by access to land, institutional finance, enabling regulations and incentives in central, state and municipal taxation of property and incomes.

The emphasis of national delivery systems has shifted towards supply and management of land, rapid expansion of infrastructure, maintenance of housing stock, rental housing provision and special programmes for disadvantaged groups.

The National Commission on Urbanization has advocated a concentration of investments in settlements of various sizes which can generate economic momentum, sustain economic growth, promote balanced urbanization, expand housing activities and facilitate equitable provision of services. It is recognized that public and private investment in infrastructure to expand the supply of serviced land needs to be stepped up through enhanced budget provision as well as institutional finance. Organizational arrangements would be strengthened for mobilization and increasing the flow of funds for infrastructure.

Yet, all the above being said, according to Bhattacharya (1990), experts on housing in India see the policy statement of the National Housing Policy as a “paper tiger”, i.e., that it will have very little effect on the shelter situation of the low-income households. These experts believe that the approach should have been “bottom-up” instead of “top-down”. Moreover, housing should have been declared an industry and granted all the benefits that are given to industries, in order to boost housing construction and employment.

In the seventh Five Year Plan (1985-1990) it was stated that the responsibility for shelter delivery would gradually shift from the public to the private sector. It restricted the social housing activities to the Minimum Needs Programme for artisans and landless labourers only. The total Plan allocation for housing was barely 1.3 per cent of the budget. The eighth Plan approved 1.47 per cent. Targeting of the funds was sought by using the Minimum Needs Programme and a special programme for the scheduled castes and tribal populations. Critics of the present government policy, however, emphasize that it is wrong to privatize public agencies and to leave the poor and lower-income group at the mercy of the market forces (Bhattacharya, 1990).

A major concern of the authorities at central, state and local levels has for a long time been the growing urban slums, and the inadequate power available to public agencies to take over land and ameliorate the situation. The Slum Areas Act was passed in 1956 to rectify this situation. Several states have passed similar acts. These acts have been used for clearing public places such as pavements and congested business areas. The displaced populations were resettled in areas with minimum basic amenities, mostly at the outskirts of the cities. The emphasis of public policy shifted from slum clearance to slum upgrading in the early 1970s. Local authorities made in situ developments, and collected betterment charges from the beneficiaries. Yet, this policy could not be applied on a large scale for rehabilitation of slums, due to administrative difficulties and the long time required in acquiring land through the legal process. The capacity of public authorities to take possession of land by paying immediate compensation and then to launch shelter projects is rather limited, due to the inadequate financial and administrative support from the central and state governments. In Bombay for instance, only 23 slum pockets out of 800 were provided with improved facilities during this period. Moreover, the plots reserved for the poor often went to better-off households. Another reason for the limited success of this policy was that only the public sector could carry them out. The new shelter policy is based on such earlier failures. The record of implementing the recommendations of the GSS is not very impressive, but progress is being made in India.

4. Nigeria

In Nigeria, the provision of housing has generally been seen by policy-makers as something to be tolerated rather than desired. Housing was thus given low priority in development planning. Specific output targets have for instance always been set for agriculture, manufacturing, roads etc., but housing has been treated as a “social overhead” (Achunine, 1993). A review of the past housing policies and programmes of both the public and private sectors reveals that effective solutions to the shelter problems are yet to be found. It has been assumed in Nigeria that general economic growth would eventually solve these problems. The public sector has provided only about 10 per cent of the housing stock in the country. A new National Housing Policy was launched in 1991. The ideas included in this policy imply a redirection of past practices. Shelter was for instance transferred from the consumer to the regional development sector.

The ultimate goal of Nigeria's New National Housing Policy is to ensure that all Nigerians own or have access to decent housing, at affordable cost, by the year 2000. To achieve this laudable goal, the Government has decided to pursue the following policy objectives:

· Encourage and promote active participation in housing delivery by all tiers of government;

· Strengthen institutions within the system to render their operations more responsive to demand;

· Emphasize housing investments which satisfy basic needs;

· Encourage greater participation by the private sector in housing delivery.

The above objectives, among others, constitute the cardinal points for the implementation of the housing policy. To accomplish these objectives, the following strategies have been adopted:

· Establishment of an appropriate institutional framework to facilitate effective planning in housing supply;

· Restructuring all existing public institutions involved in housing delivery at the federal and state government levels with a view to making them more effective and responsive to the needs of citizens of the country;

· Revive existing laws and regulations such as the Land Use Decree, planning laws etc., to facilitate housing provision;

· Improve the finances and strengthen the executive capacity of local government to enable it to contribute more effectively in housing delivery;

· Mobilize private-sector participation in the provision of housing;

· Upgrade and rehabilitate low-quality or sub-standard houses in urban areas as a step towards improving the quality of the environment;

· Restructure the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria to serve as an apex housing-finance institution;

· Mobilize savings through the establishment of a National Housing Fund;

· Ensure continuous flow of adequate funds from various sources into the apex institution for on-lending to other mortgage institutions;

· Encourage research into and promote the use of locally produced building materials as a means of reducing housing costs;

· Adoption of functional design standards to reduce costs and enhance socio-cultural acceptability, safety and security and privacy;

· Increase the number and improve the quality of the workforce and personnel needed in the housing sector;

· Utilize the location of housing estates and other residential neighbourhoods as an instrument for balanced population distribution in order to minimize associated problems of transport and services.

The Federal Government will initiate, define and coordinate the policy options and instruments for achieving the objectives in the housing sector, while the actual implementation will be undertaken by appropriate agencies at federal, state and local government levels. The Federal Government will formulate policy, coordinate, construct and monitor housing programmes and projects.