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close this bookAssessment of Experience with the Project Approach to Shelter Delivery for the Poor (HABITAT, 1991, 52 p.)
close this folderV. Shelter projects and national policies
View the document5.1 Impact of projects on policy, and consistency of project and policy objectives
View the document5.2 Consistency with the objectives of the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000

5.1 Impact of projects on policy, and consistency of project and policy objectives

A precondition for assessing the impact of projects on shelter policies is that such policies exist. In many countries, government interventions in the sector reflect a wide range of separate objectives and measures adopted by different ministries and development authorities that are accountable to different constituencies and operate under different criteria. This is partly a reflection of the diffused nature of the shelter sector, with its relevance to economic, social and environmental policies and its relative lack of importance as a specific activity in the eyes of many governments. The outcome of such a situation, however, is that it is difficult to assess the impact of discrete interventions such as projects.

Where national shelter policies exist, the impact of projects appears, on balance, to be modest. In both Turkey and Sri Lanka, a range of strategies has been adopted in the shelter sector. In Turkey, it appears that projects have failed to generate any change in national shelter policy. However, the acceptance that they have failed to address the demand for housing has led to the acceptance of non-project approaches that provide security of tenure and services in informally developed settlements. In Sri Lanka, the upgrading of informal settlements was undertaken as a complementary activity to the supply of new plots through the MHP (Jayaratne, 1990: 37). This was due to a recognition that informal settlements were making a positive contribution to total housing supply, especially for the low- income groups. The innovations achieved through the MHP have made a major impact on the shelter options open to low-income households. Yet, it would not be correct to conclude that this was due to the impact of projects upon policy, since in practice the policy was formulated first and projects were then initiated to implement the policy objectives.

In Indonesia, experience with the project approach shows that it has exerted a considerable influence on national housing policies since independence in 1945. Large projects, such as that at Klender in east Jakarta, have enabled a range of income groups to be served on a relatively self-financing basis, through extensive use of cross-subsidies (Herlianto, 1990:32). Whilst this does not amount to an impact on policy as such, it is significant that a private-sector project in Bandung was awarded a Best Achievement Award by the Government. The project was later emulated by other private developers. By the same token, the NGO projects in Semarang were officially endorsed in 1989, when the State Minister of Housing established a task force to encourage and enhance the role of NGOs and community participation in housing development (Herlianto, 1990: 56).

Among all the cases where government has used the shelter sector as a central element of policy, the case of Colombia deserves mention. The 1983-1986 National Development Plan identified housing as a driving sector of the economy, with the intention of both providing housing at the scale required and stimulating economic activity and employment (Utria, 1990: 17). This resulted in a major expansion of housing supply that initially benefited all social groups, including the poor. Later in the decade, however, the populist element weakened as projects concentrated on housing for middle-income groups. The shelter sector policies of the new Government of Colombia place the emphasis on establishing a national housing system based on subsidized social housing for low-income groups (Utria, 1990: 34). The scale of such subsidies, however, will place considerable strains on the Colombian economy. Only the future can tell whether this policy can be sustained.

Evidence from other countries tends to confirm the modest impact of projects on policy. This can best be appreciated in the case of sites-and-services projects, which have been undertaken throughout the developing world. Despite their widespread application, Hardoy and Satterthwaite (1981: 254) found that in only two out of 17 countries surveyed had such projects become the central part of urban housing policies. This may be for several reasons, though three appear common. First, such an outcome is not intended in the first place; secondly, it may be that governments lack the confidence or technical resources to initiate new approaches; or thirdly, that strong vested interests oppose any change to existing programmes. Whatever the reason, or reasons, it is generally true that the impact of projects on policies has been limited. As Hardoy and Satterthwaite have also noted (1981: 254), projects of any type divert attention away from the real priority, reforming the urban land market so that it does not automatically exclude lower-income groups from legal housing.

Settlement-upgrading or -improvement projects do not appear to be as vulnerable to the above criticisms. The impressive Kampung Improvement Programme in Indonesia is by no means the only example of government agencies undertaking supportive, realistic and replicable improvements to the living conditions of a significant proportion of low-income households in large cities. They have also been more successful in reaching the very poor than new development projects.

The lack of independent evaluations of projects, in terms of their internal objectives as well as their wider policy impact, makes it difficult to identify future roles with confidence. More effort is needed to evaluate the experience gained so far, and greater willingness is equally required to accept and act upon such evaluations. At present, there are too few incentives for public-sector personnel to learn from previous experience and to rectify the limitations of completed projects in preparing new ones. Correcting this will require instilling a new institutional culture in many housing and planning agencies. This can only be achieved in full through the education of the next generation of professional staff and the reorientation of existing personnel.

In the final analysis, the impact of projects on policy also depends upon external factors that are beyond the control of project planners. The Ismailia Demonstration Projects in Egypt for example, achieved a far greater impact upon housing policy than the project team had even contemplated. Ironically, this was not because all the project objectives had been achieved. In fact, changes to the project made during the process of implementation made it more difficult for low-income households to participate. Yet, the standard of construction achieved by residents of what was intended as a self-financing project for low-income groups, was so high that senior officials and politicians, including the President, were sufficiently impressed to announce that future government housing policy would concentrate on the provision of infrastructure and finance, rather than conventional housing supply (Davidson, 1984: 146).

5.2 Consistency with the objectives of the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000

Before the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless (1987) came to an end, the General Assembly of the United Nations concluded that the Year should be followed by a longer term, implementation-oriented effort that could capitalize on the interest and momentum generated by the IYSH. The General Assembly thus decided to launch the GSS, with the objective of facilitating shelter for all by the year 2000. The GSS is intended to ensure adequate shelter conditions for all groups irrespective of income, gender, age, and physical capacity, in all types of settlements, ranging from rural hamlets to towns and metropolitan conurbations. The fundamental principle of the Strategy is the need for governments to adopt an “enabling” approach, in which people are given the opportunity and means to meet their own housing requirements according to their priorities and capacities.

In Sri Lanka, the MHP was the embodiment of an integrated approach in which both policy and project objectives were fully consistent with the enabling approach advocated by the GSS. Recent developments in housing policy in Zimbabwe are also considered to have been brought into line with this approach. In India and Pakistan, new national (or draft national) housing policies lay great stress on the need to adopt an enabling, facilitating, or support approach as advocated in the GSS.

These are all positive signs of progress, achieved in a remarkably short time. As such, they deserve to be welcomed and supported by all those engaged in the shelter sector. Yet, it is one thing to approve a policy statement but quite another to translate it into a range of practical measures that can be implemented quickly and efficiently at the scale intended. Even Sri Lanka has found it difficult to sustain the approach adopted in the MHP. Clearly there are many approaches and experiences that deserve consideration in order that projects can contribute to the establishment of more efficient and equitable land and housing markets. The challenge is now being accepted by politicians to formulate appropriate policies. It will then be the task of professionals working in the sector to formulate the most appropriate range of practical measures to ensure that such policies are fully implemented.