|Assessment of Experience with the Project Approach to Shelter Delivery for the Poor (HABITAT, 1991, 52 p.)|
|III. Social impact of shelter projects|
One of the most common problems with planning shelter projects for low-income communities is the availability of affordable land. Unless the authorities already control land in close proximity to employment locations, it often has to be acquired at market prices. Affordability constraints limit the prices that can be paid, and this in turn consigns projects to sites some distance from employment locations and possibly even from public transport networks. This is a particularly critical problem for very-low-income households, since they are often dependent on street trading and need to carry their goods and equipment with them. They are also less able to afford the recurring costs and time involved in long journeys to places of employment. The Rangsit project, located about 30 kilometres outside Bangkok, exemplifies this issue. Many residents of this site were in arrears on their repayments. About 200 of the 1420 plots remained unoccupied some years after the project was completed, while other plots have been resold by their original allottees to households more able to accept the long journey to the city.
Many other cases of similar problems could be cited. Two examples from New Delhi, however, indicate ways in which these difficulties can be reduced, at least for some households. One example is the legislation that enables the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to acquire agricultural land for urban development at existing use value. This reduces levels of compensation to the extent that even low-income groups can afford to pay the full cost of their serviced plots and dwellings. Additional income charged from higher-income housing and commercial developments yields substantial surpluses to the DDA. The main losers in such a process are the large numbers of small land-owners and farmers on the edge of the city, who are denied the opportunity to realize the potential value of their land.
The other example relates to the slum-clearance programme undertaken by the DDA during the Emergency in 1975 and 1976, when about 500,000 people from inner-city tenements and squatter settlements were forcibly moved to a number of relocation colonies about 10 kilometres from the city. Each household was provided with a plot of 25 m and basic services (consisting of community standpipes), and were left to organize their own housing. The draconian measures that created these colonies were also applied to prevent settlers from vacating their plots and returning en masse to their original locations, and considerable hardship was imposed on the residents. When the Government collapsed soon after, some eventually drifted back to the city. For those who were able to remain, however, there was an unexpected benefit; within 5-8 years the city expanded to engulf them and employment, transport and services became easily available. In addition, the very fact of large numbers of people living at high densities created a considerable demand for local services and employment that acted as a cushion, especially for those with building skills.
The lesson of this experience is that although very-low-income groups cannot be expected to bear the costs of living far from centres of employment, lower-income households that are able to cope for the necessary period until the city expands to meet them, may find that the value of their houses, and access to employment opportunities locally and in the city centre, improve dramatically.
A related consideration is that it may be easier to achieve success in this respect in smaller urban areas, where the distances involved are relatively less, or in projects undertaken in conjunction with the decentralization of existing commercial or industrial activity from more central locations. Among the case studies, the Aktepe and Tarsus projects in Turkey were both well located in urban areas that were relatively small at the time they were implemented. This may well be difficult to achieve in future. In Zimbabwe, projects are usually located some distance from main employment centres, following common practice during the colonial period. This has imposed long journeys on project residents and the average waiting time for buses is now more than half an hour. Increasing costs of fuel and problems in obtaining imported spares are likely to exacerbate this problem in the future (Mutizwa-Mangiza, 1990: 59). In Colombia, shelter projects are also commonly located some distance from major employment locations and it is common for workers to spend 2-4 hours daily travelling to and from work (Utria, 1990: 100).
The Semarang project in Indonesia was very successful in enabling a group of very-low-income households to obtain housing. Yet, as with all projects in which land costs are a major consideration in achieving affordability, it also imposed considerable problems in terms of the time and cost of travel to places of employment (Herlianto, 1990: 55). In other Indonesian shelter projects, access to employment locations presents major problems. The only areas where sufficient land is available at affordable rates and in sufficient quantities are located at considerable distances from the city. The irony is that only the relatively better-off households, who can afford private transport, were able to move to such locations (Herlianto, 1990: 83).
One advantage of upgrading projects, compared with new settlements, is that they are often located on land close to employment centres. Such land would be prohibitive to acquire at current costs. In Bangkok and Manila, the added value of the land is used to encourage land-owners to allocate part of a site for the permanent use of unauthorized settlers in return for planning permission to develop the remainder of the site to its full commercial potential. Such land-sharing projects have been very successful in enabling very-poor households to remain in central locations near their places of work at rents that they can afford, and at the same time improve their living conditions. Such projects usually entail multi-storey developments at high density, however, and this may not be considered acceptable in every developing country.2
2/ See Angel and Boonyabancha (1985) for examples of land-sharing projects in Bangkok.