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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

C. Housing needs

1. Mexico

The average annual population growth in Mexico is 2.1 per cent (1980-1991); the figures for urban areas is higher, 2.9 per cent. A total of 73 per cent of the country's population in 1991 was urban (World Bank, 1993b). The shelter deficit in Mexico as a whole, is estimated to 6 million units (1990). This includes families without shelter and those with inadequate housing conditions. Slum and squatter settlements have been estimated to constitute about half of the housing in urban Mexico (Connolly, 1990). Moreover, between 60 and 70 per cent of shelter construction is now made by the households themselves. In Mexico the modern sector employs less than a quarter of the labour force. This sector does not have the capacity to absorb the growing economically active population. Moreover, since 1982, the economic crisis in Mexico has led to a considerable reduction in industrial activity. In Mexico City, the percentage of the population living in self-built shacks increased from 2 in 1947 to 22 in 1952 and 50 in 1976. More than 10 million people may today live in slums in the city's metropolitan region. Between 30 and 40 per cent of all shelters are rented.

The annual need for new housing in Mexico in the 1990s is estimated to about 585,000, due to population growth (277,400) and deterioration of housing stock (308,000). During 1991, the public housing agencies provided altogether less than 348,000 housing units, i.e., only about 60 per cent of the estimated need. The number of houses built for the poor was 26,378.

To cover the needs of the poor, the government has set a construction goal of nearly 300,000 units a year. Yet, in the 1947-1990 period the public housing agencies made only about 804,000 units for the poor (see table 17). The need for shelter, particularly at the fringes of the big cities, is huge indeed. The poor, who typically make their dwellings by self-help, are confronted by several difficulties such as occupying land illegally; being in a weak bargaining position vis-is building materials traders; having insufficient technical assistance; and finding it hard to obtain credit. The settlements are often found in swamps, and on inhospitable salt-flats, steep hillsides and garbage dumps. The land and street layouts are chaotic and services are often lacking.

In 1982, it was estimated that the slum settlements in the metropolitan area of Mexico City contained between 3 and 3.5 million people out of a total population of about 14 million (Lombera, 1993). No reliable figures are available to update this estimate. The 1990 Census revealed that 575,865 people earned less than 1 minimum wage in the Federal District (a smaller area). It is not known how many of the about 2.5 million inhabitants in the rest of the metropolitan area earn below one minimum wage or live in slums. To obtain a figure comparable with the 1982 assessment, it is necessary to add those who earn more than one minimum wage and live in a slum. The number of squatters has undoubtedly increased, but legalization programmes have reduced the number of slum settlements. It is thus not given that the relative size of the slum population has increased. The metropolitan area's population is currently above 20 million.

About 22 per cent of the population of Mexico City earned less than one minimum wage in 1990 (a total of 63 per cent earned less than two minimum wages, see also table 7). Two minimum wages are thought to be the minimum required to afford a decent shelter. This is surprising, since estimates show that only 20 per cent of the settlements in the city are slums. The national average estimate, that 40 per cent of all dwelling units are situated in slums, may thus be closer to reality. As many as 64 per cent of the population in the metropolitan area is estimated to be residing in slums and squatter settlements (Schteingart, 1990). Regarding renting, it is likely that the national average of 27 per cent of the slum housing is much lower than the figure for big cities. In the city slums, 52 per cent of the people rent their accommodation. Furthermore, 23 per cent of all housing units have one or two rooms (45 per cent have three or less rooms). It may be concluded that the shelter needs of the poor are enormous, although exact figures are not available.

The city of Jalapa had a total of 285,758 inhabitants in 1991, on a total area of 3566 ha. The city has a considerable amount of vacant land for housing. Most of this land is private, and the subject of speculation. In the low-income settlements, land prices are still fairly low. It is estimated that 46 per cent of the population live in inferior, slum-like settlements: 45 per cent of the households in these settlements rent their accommodation. The housing problem is growing in Jalapa, with illegal slums being extended at the city fringes. The authorities have been unable to cope with the problem. It is expected that the changes in housing policy made will take time to reach the poor.

An estimated total of 31 per cent of the people living in the slums at the outskirts of Jalapa, earn one minimum wage or less (see also table 7). The land they occupy often poses severe technical limitations to the introduction of basic services. At the same time, existing water sources are polluted by industries and animal farms. The water distributed by road by the authorities or private traders is irregular. The muddy roads during the rainy season often make the water situation precarious. The introduction of sewerage systems for human excreta is possible in only 30 per cent of the slums. The extent of pollution of the groundwater from latrines is not known. Municipal solid-waste removal is seldom undertaken from these areas. Waste disposal is thus often made on vacant plots. A variety of illnesses are prevalent. The shelter needs of the poor are extensive.

Neither the public agencies, the private sector nor the squatters themselves have been able to solve the housing problems of the poor in Jalapa. The scarce public funds channelled to housing projects for the poor have often been used according to political affiliations. The available funding has been looked upon as business for enterprises with government contacts, rather than as projects to help the poor.

2. Indonesia

Indonesia's population grows at an average rate of 1.8 per cent per year while the urban population increase is about 5 per cent. The urban population constituted 31 per cent of the total in 1991 (UNDP, 1993). By the year 2000, it is projected that 85 million people will live in urban areas. The problems of urban growth are reaching an alarming stage. The shelter need is enormous and increasing in urban areas. It is estimated that just below 2 million dwelling units of all types are required annually in the next 20 years to meet the national housing need. A total of 750,000 units is required annually to meet the demand created by the population growth, while a further 100,000 units are required each year in the next 20 years, to alleviate the current housing shortage, estimated at 2 million units. The remainder is required to replace (350,000 units) or upgrade (700,000 units) the deteriorating housing stock.

The poor cannot afford ownership of a conventionally-made dwelling. Flats are not seen by them as an appropriate form of living. Even the government-built “very simple house” is beyond the reach of most of the poor. The poor with employment in the formal sector, e.g., the lowest paid government officials, can afford this kind of housing due to the fact that they can obtain government loans. The poor without access to formal credit are thus forced to look for a home in a kampung. The Government is not supporting the shelter need of the poor directly, only indirectly by improvements of the basic infrastructure such as footpaths, public toilets, garbage collection and water taps in the kampungs. In squatter areas no such improvements are made. Rental houses are the most popular shelter for the poor because of low cost and closeness to the location of work.

Table 11. Housing stock in Jakarta, by type (1990)

Housing type

Number of units














Source: Based on Herlianto, 1993.

Jakarta had a population of 8.2 millions in 1990, 12 per cent of which lived on the 6 per cent of the land characterized as slums. Estimates show that the city has an overall housing shortage of about 10 per cent (Yoewono, 1993). Other estimates indicate that as many as one fourth of all households are without decent shelter (see tables 11 and 12). Only 32 per cent of the dwellings had running water in 1985 (Gilbert and Gugler, 1992).

Table 12. Housing stock in Jakarta, by tenure (1990)

Tenure type

Number of units

















Source: Based on Herlianto, 1993.

Bandung is the third largest city in Indonesia, and capital of the West Java province. The city and its surrounding towns have grown into a metropolitan area with a population of just above 2 million in 1990 (in 1960 it was just below 1 million). About 23 per cent of the housing stock is located in slums (see table 13). The poor squat on riverbanks and along railway lines. The city's pavements and parks are also used for spending the night. So far, no special effort has been made for the poorest by the local authorities, except through a cooperation with Department of Social Affairs rehabilitation centres. This has had a very limited impact only on the shelter issue. The Government produces “simple houses” and “very simple houses” for the “poor.” These types of units are popular, but not affordable for the poor. The other main type of unit produced by the formal sector is flats. Yet, it has been shown that such housing reduces social interaction and limits the opportunities for using the living quarters for a shop or other home-based economic activities. And, as mentioned earlier, even subsidized flats are too expensive for the poor.

Table 13. Housing stock in Bandung, Indonesia (1990)

Housing type

Number of units














Source: Based on Herlianto, 1993.

3. India

The average annual growth of population in India is 2.1 per cent (1980-1991). The figure for urban areas is 3.7 per cent. A total of 27 per cent of India's population lived in urban areas in 1991 (World Bank, 1993b). The National Building Organisation estimated in 1981 that 30 million of urban dwellers lived in slums. This was nearly 19 per cent of the urban population in that year (Kundu, 1993). It is estimated that the urban shortage of shelter is between 6 and 13 million units (Ribeiro, 1993). The Seventh National Plan projected the urban housing shortage to be 5.9 million units. The Birla Institute, however, estimated the shortage to be 22.1 million units as early as in 1981. If, instead of using this norm-based calculation, a demand-based approach was adopted, the housing shortage would be low. This is due to the low priority people can place on using their scarce resources for shelter improvement purposes.

The major problem of housing in urban India is not the absence of any kind of structure, but its poor quality and the non-availability of basic services. More than one third of the urban households, for instance, have no access to a latrine, and 18 per cent have access to a service latrine only. Furthermore, 45 per cent have only one room, while less than 1 per cent of all urban households are categorized in Indian statistics as houseless (Kundu, 1993). Households with some kind of temporary structures have been excluded from the houseless category. This includes many pavement dwellers. There has, however, been an increase in the number of substandard urban dwellings. Kundu (1993) finds that 30 per cent of the urban poor live in dilapidated shack-like structures and mud dwellings (see table 14). The total production of houses through State budgetary support over the last 30 years in India is a tiny proportion of the country's total shelter construction, and a small fraction of the real requirement of shelter for the poor (Sundaram, 1986). Yet, public-sector building of formal housing is not the best way of spending the scarce government funds available for shelter delivery. The approach should concentrate on identifying strategies to involve the poor in a sustainable manner. A shift in attitude among urban planners is necessary. Furthermore, economic statistics regarding housing include only investments in formal housing built within the approved shelter process. This implies that the economic value of low-income households' own construction and shelter improvements are unrecognized. This lowers the overall contribution of the housing sector to the economy in official data relative to what is the case in actual fact. In this context it should be remembered that government provision in India accounts for a tiny fraction of the total housing activity only - less than 5 per cent (Pugh, 1990).

The housing problem in India is not one of housing in the conventional sense, but of shelter and of avoiding extreme congestion. Although shelter is not the poor people's first priority, it should be an indispensable component of any development strategy. In India's big cities amenities are everywhere grossly inadequate. The housing shortage is so severe that a solution lies far into the future. In the biggest cities, 65 per cent of all households live in one room or less. Private house-building of “affordable shelter” is the only realistic way forward (Rajeswari and others, 1987). The Government should thus not attempt to do what people have already demonstrated that they can and will do themselves (Dhar, 1988).

Table 14. Slum population of various cities in India, 1981 census


Total population

Slum population







Greater Bombay
































Source: Bhattacharya, 1990.

The share of slum population in the total urban population has been shown to be positively correlated with the size of towns and cities in India (Kaul, 1991). The situation is probably similar for several other developing countries. In India the proportion of the population living in slums in towns below 100,000 inhabitants is about 10 per cent. The figures for towns between 100,000 and 1 million inhabitants and the cities of 1 million and more are 20 and almost 33 per cent respectively. The poor undoubtedly perceive their chances of survival to be better in the mega-cities.

In sum, despite considerable investment and efforts over successive Plan periods in India, the housing problem continues to be daunting in terms of the large number of homeless households, the rapid growth of slums and unauthorized colonies, spiralling prices and rents for land and houses, rampant speculation, deficient availability of water, sanitation and basic services to the bulk of the population, and the increasing struggle of the poor and vulnerable people to secure affordable and adequate shelter. The rapid urban population growth has led to worsening congestion and overcrowding in small houses, steady growth of slums and squatter settlements and severe pressure on public services. This is aggravated by institutional deficiencies of housing agencies and local authorities, and insufficient attention to the shelter needs of the poor.

Bombay is the financial capital of India. Modern business buildings dominate the central city landscape. At the same time, every patch of undeveloped land is filled with makeshift shelters. In 1991, Bombay was the largest urban area in India with a population of 12.6 millions. Before independence the population growth rate was manageable in terms of basic services. High-rise dwellings (of 4-6 floors, called chawls) were constructed. These buildings have since deteriorated into slums (see box 18). After independence, the growth of economic activities and population accelerated. A recent decline in the growth rate is probably due to state-level strategies to redirect growth to other cities. The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority estimated in 1992 that about 25 per cent of the households in Bombay are poor (Ribeiro 1993), and that 37 per cent of the population live in slums. Many of the older buildings in Bombay are now obsolete. Overcrowding and over-use have made them become shaky structures with bad flooring, peeled-off walls and wobbling staircases. Leaky toilets and water-taps are a common sight. The environment has become very unhygienic. Many buildings are beyond repair, and several of them collapse each year during the wet monsoon. The Rent Act of 1947 is partly to blame for this state of affairs. Since tenants cannot be evicted, and rent increases cannot be made according to inflation rates, owners reduce maintenance costs and investors turn away from low-cost house-building.

Box 18. Creation of a slum

“But looking at some instances it would appear that the people are also to blame. Take the example of Kherwadi, a veritable slum in West Bombay suburbs. Quite some efforts were made to settle a group of tanner families there and give them a good plot per family, a fine town planning scheme, and so on. But instead of taking advantage of these and the facilities for improving their tanning trade with modern facilities offered by the Tanning Institute located in this place, they turned into landlords, built small dingy sheds, rented them out at very high rents and themselves lived and still live in the most deplorable conditions. In a place where a hundred households were to be settled there are now about a thousand households of which about a hundred are landlord households and nine hundred are tenant households. Having initially accepted the terms and conditions of a sub-human life there, the tenants now clamour for better facilities.

... in fairness to the government, that in trying to use its powers and develop its policies it has to take into account the low income of the people, the huge gap between income and shelter costs, high land costs, land speculation, lack of individual and national finance and savings, absence of a well organized building industry, backwardness in architecture and the use of local materials, public pressures, political influences, influences in the selection of personnel and consequent inefficient administration, corruption, etc.”

Source: Desai and Pillai, 1990.

In 1991, Bombay had a housing need of more than 2.5 million dwelling units. More than three quarters of the population live in one-room dwellings. Pugh (1990) estimates that 45,000 families join the squatter settlements every year. The dwellings in the slums are more frequently contracted out than self-built. The creation of this kind of houses - constructed of waste materials - is a large industry, the value of which is not included in GDP figures. The houses are affordable, but insanitary and a conspicuous sign of poverty. Moreover, the number of pavement dwellers is increasing. Some of these people are second- and even third-generation pavement dwellers. There are over 200,000 households living in the streets and 430,000 household in rundown walk-ups or in squatter settlements. Today the public sector cannot cope with the problem of indecent and unhealthy shelter conditions. Collaboration between the Government, private entrepreneurs, NGOs, CBOs and the poor is thus necessary.

Box 19. Bombay: a people's manifesto for housing

“ A.

1. Stop all evictions;
2. Regularize and legalize all slums;
3. Strictly implement the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulations) Act;
4. Nationalise ownership of all land.


1. Implement 'Sites and Services' scheme for housing economically weaker sections;
2. Nationalise production, marketing and distribution of building materials;
3. Subsidise costs of building materials used for housing economically weaker sections.


1. All basic services must be provided and subsequently maintained by the state. These services include provision of water, electricity, toilets, sewage, drainage and garbage clearance;

2. Amenities like schools, hospitals, ration shops, creches and play grounds should be provided and maintained by the state for economically weaker sections.


1. People must have access to all information kept with the government, must have the right to participate in all forums and have the right to decide all issues that affect them;

2. Priority to women and the aged in housing;

3. Census must cover all and ration cards must be given to all;

4. Rejection of cut-off dates for recognition of slums.

... But the story of struggle is endless. In December 1986, hutments below Napean Sea fly-over were demolished to make way for the Priyadarshini Park. After Nivara Hakk's intervention, and after the struggle that ensued, the displaced people were taken to Chembur with the promise of an alternative plot. But they were dumped on the pavement there. Their struggle is still on. Sangharsh Nagar, a small slum colony at Mankhurd, had half-a-dozen demolitions in the last six months. They have forcibly occupied a strip of swamp land and are determined to fight it out to secure the right to live and exist. The struggle goes on.”

Source: Das and Gonsalves, 1987.

Interestingly, there has been a drop in migration to Bombay during the last years. Urban population growth is now mostly caused by natural population growth. Furthermore, there were in 1985 about 50,000 acres of vacant land. Das and Gonsalves (1987) thus conclude that since even the government of Maharashtra admits that Bombay can accommodate up to 20 million people without congested housing schemes, the real problem is not too many people or too high migration or too little land, but the unequal distribution of land. A people's manifesto (see box 19) has been worked out to suggest reforms in city planning, conducive of poor people's interests.

The houseless include people who are unemployed, street children, widows, destitute, old and handicapped people but also self-employed street vendors. It is estimated that there are at least 10,000 street children. The houseless can be found in most parts of the city (see box 20). They concentrate close to public toilets and water taps. The shelters they make of rags and plastic waste are often demolished by the authorities to clear the streets. Community life on the pavement is normally organized. People of the same caste and religion stay together. They hardly interact with neighbours living in regular houses. They move around very little but stay close to their source of livelihood. A part of the houseless is made up of itinerant worker-families following available construction employment. Not all pavement dwellers are poor but belong to the lower-income group with very low or no ability to save. There are many NGOs working with and for the houseless in Bombay. The activities of the Don Bosco shelter project (box 21) and the Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (see box 22) exemplify this.

Box 20. Pavement dwelling in Bombay

“ 'Would you even spit here?' Triveni asks in disgust. She lives in a covered cot on one of the pavements in Kamathipura, the red-light district in central Bombay. She gestures to the narrow space between her abode and the next cot, which is occupied by a man. Both covered beds jut out at right angles to the street.

'I have to do everything here,' Triveni continues angrily. 'I cook here and at the crack of dawn I bathe here in full view of everybody. And when the rains come, the water collects and rises right up to our cots. What are we supposed to do?'

Triveni is one of the people who are known in India as 'pavement dwellers.' They are truly 'the wretched of the city,' existing a notch lower down the social scale than even the despised slum dwellers. The people of the pavements evoke intense feelings among Bombay's better-off citizens - revulsion, hostility, sometimes pity.'

Drought is often a reason for migration to Bombay. The state of Maharashtra is drought-prone. People are then pushed off their small land holding and cannot find work on other farms. Their only alternative to starvation is to move to towns and cities, put up a tent of rags on a pavement and look for ways to earn something to eat.

The Supreme Court in India ruled in 1985 that people had no fundamental right to set up a shelter in the roadside. They could however only be evicted on certain conditions such as being given notice and regarding certain cases without being given alternative site to live on.

In 1986, 300 pavement dwelling families were forcibly moved to Dindoshi, a northern suburb of Bombay. The municipality provided them with 15m2 plots. Later another 1,500 families were moved there. Many women complained - 'All they want to do is to get rid of us. But if they do, who will sweep and swab their floors and wash their dirty dishes and clothes for such a pittance?'“

Source: D'Monte, 1989.

Box 21. The Don Bosco shelter project

The Don Bosco shelter project provides free accommodation for 40 boys aged 10 to 21 years. The boys work in the waste-recycling trade. They have to pay Rs. 2.50 a day for food ($US 0.10). The project enables them to sleep, cook and to play.

Calcutta, which for decades was the largest urban area in India, now has fewer people than Bombay. The population is 11 million. The squatter settlements are largely found at the outskirts of the city on marginal land. Upgrading through popular participation has had limited success. The pavement dwellers in the city have likewise received little assistance but much compassion. It is through the bustee improvements the city has made valuable experiences. A bustee is a rental low-rise slum.

Box 22. Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA)

The Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA) is an NGO that works with the youth and women on the streets. It attempts to mobilize the houseless to organize themselves and to fight for improved living conditions. YUVA has successfully trained youths as urban animators. The five-month training consists of various issues related to development activities, problems of the environment and organization. They are also trained in drama and puppet shows.

Kundu (1993) estimates that 45 per cent of the households in Calcutta are poor, whereas Pugh (1990) states that 35 per cent of the population is below the official Indian poverty line. About 68 per cent of the households live in one-room accommodation. The shelter need is above 2 million units. In addition, the existing housing stock is deteriorating. Public and private house construction are both insufficient. In this light, the improvement and extension of the bustees are important. The bustees cover only about 7 per cent of the land area of the city, but house almost a third of the population. The bustee settlements are not only places of residence, but, as slums elsewhere, they constitute centres of informal economic activities. The slums in Calcutta have a three-tier tenancy structure. The owner of the land leases plots to people who make a dwelling. The dwelling is then rented by a poor family. This complex system of property rights has impeded historical attempts to reform the bustees. Some bustee settlements have stable populations with supportive social networks, although drunkenness, crime and prostitution may be rampant. Other bustees contain recently arrived migrants. These settlements tend to consist of hutments of split bamboos, with mud floor and roofs of makeshift materials. They occupy low-lying sites prone to monsoon flooding. Bucket latrines shared by up to 20 families are typical in such unimproved bustees. Those who cannot afford even this kind of shelter are forced to reside on pavements. In fact, pavement dwelling has become a way of life for many people in Calcutta.

In 1991, Delhi had a population of more than 8 million, compared with 1.4 million in 1951. The rate of growth is high, in spite of efforts to curb urban migration by limiting employment opportunities in the formal sector. It is estimated that by 2001 there will be 14 million people in the city with 6 million more in townships within the wider metropolitan area. Most of the land in and around the city is under public ownership and control. The Delhi Development Authority has a near monopoly on land allocation and housing development. There is a shortage of land in the city. At the fringes land is sold illegally, and poor people squat in several spontaneous settlements without basic services. In the inner-city, pavement dwelling is widespread. There is a need for close to 2 million shelter units. Of these, 130,000 are needed by pavement dwellers and 600,000 by other squatters in the more central parts of the city. There are few options for renting but in the slums at the outskirts of the city. It is estimated that the poor constitute 25 per cent and the lower-income group 35 per cent of the population. About 49 per cent of the population live in one-room accommodation (Pugh, 1990), and at least 70 per cent of the households cannot afford the concrete houses built by the private sector.

Due to the large urban migration (more than 200,000 annually), the rents in the slums are increasing rapidly even for single-room tenements. Even this simple accommodation is now un-affordable to many migrants. The number of houseless people is thus growing. Night-shelters are made for these people. This accommodation provides toilets, blankets and jute mattresses at a subsidized rate of Rs. 2 per night. The shelters are open from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. At present only 3462 people can be accommodated in such shelters in the city as a whole. There are, however, plans to extend this type of shelter for individuals to more places and also to cater for women. In the 1992-1997 period, 10 additional buildings will be erected, paid for by the Central Government.

Despite various attempts by the Government over the years, the urban sanitation situation in Delhi has recorded little improvement. An estimated 67 per cent of the population is without a sewerage connection, while 47 per cent is without a latrine. Those most affected by lack of facilities are squatters and pavement dwellers. The manual scavenging of “night-soil” is recognized as a social evil. In 1985 there were 500,000 bucket toilets in the city. Resource constraints, however, rule out the extension of the sewage system to the entire population. A low-cost sanitation programme has therefore been initiated.

4. Nigeria

The most typical dwelling type in Nigeria is the “rooming” type. By this is meant renting (or owning) a room in a house (not a flat). About 65 per cent of all households live in this type of dwelling. A further 15 per cent live in flats while only 17 per cent of the households live in “separate dwellings” (Achunine, 1993). In the urban areas only one third of the households own their accommodation (see table 15). Given an urban population growth rate of 5 per cent, the annual urban requirement for housing units in the 1990s is nearly 400,000 units. In addition, there is an enormous need for upgrading and replacement of existing housing stock. Achunine (1993) estimates that in Nigeria as a whole there is an annual need of 1.4 million hosing units.

Table 15. Housing tenure, Nigeria, 1985 (percentage)















Source: Achunine, 1993.

Table 16. Estimated income groups, Nigeria (1992)

Income group

Share of households

Monthly income












2,500 +

$US 1 = Naira 30

Source: Based on Achunine, 1993.

The 30 per cent of the population with the lowest incomes do not have sufficient funds to exercise an effective demand in the formal housing market. This group of people is probably in basic-needs poverty (see table 16). The 20 per cent lowest on the income scale earn below N50 per month. This group will be poor in a narrow basic-needs sense. The impact of economic conditions in the 1980s have moreover forced many of Nigeria's more well-off families down into lower income categories. The purchasing power of a typical middle-income family was reduced by a factor of 8 during the 1980s (Achunine, 1993).

The most common form of tenure is short-term lease. Leases of less than five years account for 56 per cent in two low-income settlements in Lagos studied by Aina (1990). This form of tenure is unusual in customary Yoruba land tenure practice. It represents a specific response of the urban poor to the cost of and availability of land. Extensive subletting of land exists with the owners of the land living elsewhere without any direct contact with the tenants. Improvements of infrastructure and shelter are thus impeded. The occupiers of the land do not see it as worthwhile to build concrete, solid and, thus, expensive structures on the rented land. And the owners of the land are not interested in investing in the land but are waiting for the value of the land to increase. They hold the land for speculative reasons. In short, there is an enormous need in this and other urban areas of Nigeria for land which can be distributed and to which low-income groups can obtain a title.

In no city in Nigeria is the housing failure more manifest than in Lagos. There the traditional forms of dwellings are not acceptable. The legal acquisition of land is far beyond the means of most people, not only the low-income groups. Opportunities of employment are very limited, and the population is growing at an alarming rate. Prospective renters have to queue for more than a year on waiting lists before they can be considered for a rental unit. And rents are extremely high, the average worker has to spend as much as 40 per cent of his/her income on rent. To aspire to own a house is a dream realized only by the top 5 per cent of the income groups. Often a down-payment has to be provided two years in advance for a flat.

It is estimated that in the 1976-1985 period nearly 850,000 new housing units were required in the Lagos metropolitan area. Only 82,000 units were actually built. An estimated 100,000 new people arrive in Lagos each year. This may be compared with building plans for 1991 of 4800 housing units. It is no surprise then that three fourths of all families live in one room only, as one survey estimates (Achunine, 1993).

Over the last decades the solution attempted regarding the housing problem in Lagos has mainly been in the form of rent controls, often through military edicts. This has failed to achieve the desired purpose. Rent controls collapse in the face of an extreme housing shortage, and supply and demand are then left to decide the prices.