|Assessment of Experience with the Project Approach to Shelter Delivery for the Poor (HABITAT, 1991, 52 p.)|
|VI. Achieving a multiplier effect through shelter projects|
National aspirations and powerful professional vested interests have acted as major constraints on attempts to revise building and planning codes, regulations and standards in developing countries, even when the need for change is accepted in principle. One understandable reason for this is that it is difficult for politicians to equate the benefits of progress with the need to reduce standards that may have been imposed previously by colonial administrations. Similarly, professional planners and architects are trained in the belief that their function is to improve the living conditions of the poorest members of society. It is difficult for these professionals to see how this can possibly be achieved by reducing standards, even if only a small minority actually benefits from projects designed in accordance to existing norms, regulations and standards.
Nonetheless, the levels of expenditure on shelter-related investments by central, provincial and municipal governments, tend to remain at low levels in real terms and, in many cases, to decline. Yet the demand for shelter continues to expand inexorably. The inability to bridge this gap through the imposition of conventional standards restricts the proportion of beneficiaries to an ever-declining proportion of those in need. Furthermore, it distorts both public expectations and market behaviour in ways which only compound the problems.
In Zimbabwe, for example, standards of planning and building actually rose in the euphoria following independence. Following pressure from international funding agencies such as USAID, however, relaxations and reductions were made in planning standards to make projects more affordable. Projects in Colombia are not considered to have made any significant contribution in this respect. Attempts to remedy this shortcoming have so far been frustrated (Utria, 1990: 103-104). Projects in
Turkey are not monitored or controlled with a view to incorporating lessons learned into general practice. No relaxations or revisions have therefore been made to planning regulations or standards. Similar problems have proved difficult to resolve in Kenya, where a study of building regulations and codes was commissioned as part of the World Bank loan for the Dandora project in 1972. Up to the late 1980s, the Government of Kenya was still considering the proposed changes, but no decision had been made.
In some Asian countries standards of initial on-plot development and infrastructure have been reduced following experience gained from earlier projects (van der Linden, 1986: 114). Minimum plot sizes in Indian urban shelter projects have been progressively reduced (current minimum 25 m2) to achieve affordability and efficient land use. In other countries, land-use efficiency has also improved in recent projects from less than 50 per cent of the total site area, to 70-80 per cent (Keare and Parris, 1982: 100). The range of options available to households at any given level of income has also tended to increase (Payne, 1984:9).
The Khuda ki Basti project in Pakistan is among the most radical approaches in terms of initial standards of infrastructure provision and the types of building design and construction that are officially permitted. Only a communal water supply and unsurfaced roads were provided initially. Furthermore, residents were free to build or organize their houses in any way, and to any standard, they decided. This willingness to accept that initial development will be of an extremely modest nature has been a major factor in enabling very-low-income households to participate in the project. Rather than being forced to spend an impossible initial amount on housing they were allowed to invest in improvements when and as they could afford them. Far from producing a planned slum so commonly predicted by professionals in such cases, it appears that the rate of consolidation has been as high as in other informally planned developments. Examples of this type can perhaps encourage project planners elsewhere to relax initial standards and put more trust in households of all incomes to improve their housing conditions as much as their circumstances permit.
In Sri Lanka, the project approach has produced many revisions to planning and building codes and regulations. Shelter projects have, for example, been designated as special project areas in which building and planning regulations have been waived to make them more affordable to low-income groups. This enabled minimum plot sizes to be reduced from the normal minimum of 150 m to 50-75 m2, or even less in parts of Colombo (UNCHS, 1987: 48). Yet, even this is unaffordable to many households. Another innovation was the provision of affordable shallow sewers, which were introduced in sites-and-services projects and funded directly by the Government. These relaxations and innovations have been restricted, however, to low-income projects and do not appear to apply across the board to all developments. Finally, areas that do not conform to full building regulations are not considered part of the formal housing system. This makes services and loans difficult to obtain (UNCHS, 1987: 48) and restricts the impact of such innovations on urban shelter provision in general.