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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 folderIII. Social impact of shelter projects
View the document3.1 Social impact at the local level
View the document3.2 Contribution to residential stability
View the document3.3 Proximity of projects to employment locations
View the document3.4 Job creation at the local level
View the document3.5 Impact of projects on the development of community based and non-governmental organizations
View the document3.6 Acceptability of project components to project beneficiaries

3.1 Social impact at the local level

The social impact of a shelter project depends largely upon its objectives. For projects focusing on the technical problems of developing land and increasing housing supply for a given cost, any social impact is likely to be coincidental. In other words, the degree to which a local “multiplier effect” of social and economic development is achieved will depend upon the effort put into achieving it. Some projects undertaken by public-sector agencies have been exceptionally successful in this respect. The Kalingalinga project in Zambia, for example, generated many small enterprises to assist in strengthening the social and economic base of the community. The residents also decided on the detailed road layout, location of schools, the clinic, market and other facilities. The objective of this work was not so much to reduce costs, but rather to stimulate the notion of everybody working together for the community’s benefit, and in this it was extremely successful.

Similarly, projects in Colombia have been extremely successful in stimulating economic development at the community level for low-income groups. This is partly due to the stimulus the project activities gave to the local building-materials and construction industries. Establishment of small businesses and manual-labour workshops, in addition to rental incomes, have further increased the income generating capabilities of many households (Utria, 1990: 99).

The Ismailia Demonstration Projects in Egypt, also made a considerable impact on local social and economic development options, especially for the existing population. The upgrading works concentrated on elements which residents were unable to resolve for themselves. These included the provision of security of tenure, basic services and access to small amounts of credit at affordable terms. The commitment by the project agency to address local needs was also important. All these elements served to provide a more secure environment for people to invest in house improvements. A major impact of the project was that the provision of full services along existing main roads quickly led to rapid redevelopment of properties to higher standards (and presumably higher prices). Yet, the services along the smaller roads did not change so rapidly, enabling the very-low-income tenants to remain.

The Indonesian shelter projects, which concentrated initially on the physical upgrading of public services, have also generated a considerable impact on the lives of residents. Many residents are actively involved in the maintenance and improvement of their neighbourhoods.

Interestingly, this not only improved people’s confidence in themselves, it also led to other people holding them in higher esteem. The economic situation of households is also enhanced, even if they sell their plot and house, because the profits that they make can help them to obtain other assets or capital (Herlianto, 1990: 78-80).

Despite these and other examples, however, the nature and extent of community participation in public-sector shelter projects is generally determined by the agency, rather than by the project beneficiaries. In the Kuwadzana project in Zimbabwe, this is limited to the construction (using aided self-help practices) of individual houses, rather than to the wider issues of plan formulation, or standards and phasing of project components. The social aspects of shelter projects are often considered the responsibility of staff with lower professional status than the planners, architects and engineers responsible for the more visible project hardware. Accordingly, by the time they have made their decisions, opportunities to achieve a positive relationship with the local communities have been lost.

Shelter projects in Turkey are, in general, concerned exclusively with the provision of housing. Employment opportunities created are generally taken up by other groups and not by project beneficiaries (Tokman, 1990: 35). In the Tarsus project, community participation was not included as a project objective, and was thus not achieved. In the Aktepe project in Ankara participation was limited to households organizing their own houses, and then only for those who received plots only. Social services were, however, provided by both projects, and this contributed to the social development of project areas and adjacent informal settlements. It also appears that once a sense of community had developed in an area, most residents were willing to take an active part in its consolidation and improvement. This attitude is not, however, restricted to official projects and is also common in gecekondu (squatter) settlements. Curiously, in general, cooperatives do not appear in Turkey to sustain such community action once housing has been obtained.

Projects planned and implemented by NGOs seem to have less difficulty in stimulating community participation. In an Indonesian project at Semarang, for example, the NGO encouraged the active participation of the community in the development of their settlements (Herlianto, 1990: 54). This included preparing the site, building the houses and even maintaining the area. Similarly, the Orangi Pilot Project in Karachi, was developed around local demands for local drainage and sewerage services that the local authority had not provided. The NGO responsible for this Project worked with the community to help them create local community organizations which then installed sewers in each lane, using funds and labour provided by the community (Hasan, 1986: 6).

3.2 Contribution to residential stability

Although not usually stated, the objective of most new settlement projects is to provide residential stability for low-income groups who may have previously been suffering from insecure and inadequate accommodation. The fact that it is unstated may well be because it is assumed. The irony of this objective is that many households regard access to a shelter project to be the equivalent of winning a lottery ticket in that they receive a plot, or house unit, which is worth considerably more on the open market than they are required to pay for it. By selling out to higher income groups, they are able to realize the market value and achieve a substantial capital asset. The extent to which this practice occurs varies enormously. In the Klender project in Jakarta (Herlianto, 1990: 29) and a private-sector project in Bandung (Herlianto, 1990: 43), it appears that there has been considerable out-movement of original project beneficiaries. They have been replaced by higher-income households, though no study has been made of the extent or reasons for this process (Herlianto, 1990:29). Likewise in Delhi, and many other Indian cities, the transfer of property rights by power of attorney is so widespread that a large proportion of plots in the first phase of the massive Rohini project was acquired by estate agents.

In Zimbabwe as well, there are evidence of illegal transfers of plots to middle-income households. Yet, the extent of this is not known. In general, however, projects are held to contribute to residential stability (Mutizwa-Mangiza, 1990:59). In the Kalingalinga project in Zambia, about 20 per cent of households sold out to newcomers. The Aktepe project in Ankara, however, seems to score well in this respect. Likewise, it is estimated that only 5 per cent of original beneficiaries in the Tarsus project have moved out, though it is still, of course, early days. Projects in Turkey appear therefore, to contribute to residential stability. This is basically due to formal restrictions, however. In cases where people do move out, it seems that they are replaced by households with a similar socio-economic profile.

For some very-low-income households, residential stability is not considered a priority and mobility is more important. This may be because they do not have regular employment, and that their incomes are too low to pay for a house of their own. It may be necessary for them to move from one location to another following economic opportunities. Most such households in Indonesia, for example, live in kampungs and shanties. The improvement of such settlements raises problems for these households, since any improvement costs recovered from plot or house owners tends to be reflected in higher rents charged to tenants. This increase may force them out and residential mobility is thus increased even more. To date, no effective solution has been found to this problem (Herlianto, 1990: 81).

3.3 Proximity of projects to employment locations

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.

3.4 Job creation at the local level

Shelter projects can be a powerful means of facilitating economic mobility for low-income households. This can be most effectively achieved if residents are allowed to use their plots for commercial or industrial activity, or the provision of additional accommodation for rental use. According to Keare and Parris (1982: ix), a typical housing project of 7000 units financed by the World Bank generated 3700 person/years of employment and $US4.2 million (1978/79) in wage income. The leasing of rooms is also accepted as an effective means of increasing incomes and making plots affordable to the target populations. This process of economic development can even benefit households who do not, or cannot, invest in secondary activity, since the market value of even modest dwellings will usually rise as a result of investments made by neighbours. As a project area consolidates, and densities increase, the benefits of initial investments will yield results for some and encourage investment by others. Yet, the ability of shelter projects to generate economic benefits has not always been appreciated or realized. As a result, many projects remain as housing estates without houses, and furthermore, residents are discouraged from making investments in rental accommodation or non-residential activity that can provide an escape from poverty.

Opportunities for job creation are not improved in many shelter projects by restrictions on land use that prevent residents from using their plot as a source of primary or even secondary income. In Indonesia, NUHDC does not permit residents to use their plots for anything other than residence, even though most unauthorized settlements (in Indonesia and elsewhere) are bursting with economic activity. The low initial densities planned for in new low-income projects also inhibit the level of local demand necessary to support extensive economic activity.

This suggests that density and land-use restrictions need to be relaxed. Projects should be planned to allow for the level of densities and economic activities that are found in established unauthorized settlements. This would not only ensure efficient (and therefore more affordable) land development, it would increase opportunities for local employment generation as well. Recent projects in Indonesia have, in fact, incorporated house-shop units. These have been well received and have helped projects to become more self-sufficient (Herlianto, 1990: 85). Another beneficial outcome has been the tendency for private sector residential and commercial development to follow public-sector projects. This has provided additional employment opportunities for low-income households.

There has been a substantial development of economic activity for low-income groups at the Kalingalinga project in Zambia because of the sustained efforts of local NGOs and community groups (Oestereich, 1980, and Jere, 199 la). This development has not, however, been a component of shelter projects in Colombia (Utria, 1990: 101), or Turkey (Tokman, 1990: 35), where benefits frequently go to higher-income or non-resident groups. In Zimbabwe, the Kuwadzana project is considered to have been particularly successful in generating local employment. Nearly all households employed at least one builder, and about 2200 informal-sector builders had registered with the project within a few months of the project starting. This indicates a dynamic capability of the informal building sector given the appropriate opportunity.

The extent to which local residents can obtain employment in a project itself depends upon the nature of the project and the contractual arrangements for its implementation. In large new housing developments, where a large contractor is appointed to undertake the work and there are few, if any, people living in or near the site, the scope will generally be limited. In upgrading projects, or those undertaken by NGOs, however, employment opportunities may be regarded as an integral element of the entire project, as in the Hyderabad Slum Upgrading Projects in India. In this case, comprehensive vocational training programmes were provided to impart skills that they could use on the project and in adjacent settlements.

3.5 Impact of projects on the development of community based and non-governmental organizations

Many types of community organizations exist in developing countries. These may be broadly classified into two groups; community-based organizations (CBOs) and NGOs. CBOs are generally composed of residents who organize themselves to achieve specified local objectives and they are directly accountable to their constituents (such as housing cooperatives and residents’ associations). When objectives have been satisfied the CBO may disband. The NGOs generally consist of professionals based outside low-income settlements. They operate on a non-profit basis, with local groups. In many cases, NGOs act as catalysts, or intermediaries, to facilitate a productive relationship between local government agencies and low-income communities or CBOs.

The number of CBOs in developing countries is enormous, though many concentrate on social welfare projects, such as health, education, or vocational training, rather than shelter. Yet, many CBOs diversify into shelter-related activities as the importance of environmental conditions in improving health and opportunities for education are accepted, or when previous priorities have been addressed.

The number of NGOs active in the shelter sector in developing countries is still relatively small. Yet, their importance and numbers are increasing steadily as both communities and governments realize that they are able to achieve locally responsive results more efficiently than have been possible through other, more conventional, approaches. The achievements of NGOs and CBOs are often considerable, and range from organizing initial settlements to pressurizing local authorities to regularize land tenure, provide services and public facilities, and also organize the construction and maintenance of housing. Some examples of these achievements have been documented by Habitat International Coalition (Turner, 1988).

The extent to which projects have supported or strengthened these community efforts has been mixed. In Sri Lanka, for example, NGOs make a minimal contribution in the shelter sector, though they were apparently founded to build houses for those who could not afford to take a (subsidized) loan in the urban housing sub-programme. Presumably the cost of these units was written off, but in one case cited (Nawakelanipura), the number only amounted to two units. CBOs, however, have been active in rural areas for some time and provide a means of saving money and meeting other community priorities. In the urban sub-programme of the MHP, CDCs were an integral element in facilitating local participation. These social groups were generally smaller than the physical boundaries of their neighbourhoods, which made it easier for people to work together. The Housing and Community Development Committees of the urban local authorities were established to set guidelines for project implementation and consisted of both elected and appointed members from local government and community organizations. The Nawakelanipura project exemplifies the importance of CBOs in Sri Lanka. Shortly after moving into the site the residents formed their own CDC. This put pressure on many government organizations to complete the provision of basic amenities and facilities (Jayaratne, 1990: 64). The CDC even undertook a contract to construct the community centre and subsequently became responsible for all work at project level. Participation by local communities through the CDCs appears to have had a major impact in generating initiative at local level in both rural and urban areas (Jayaratne, 1990:101). This extended far beyond the level of self-help house building and involved participation in decision making about project design.3

3/ It is not known how public-sector officials and professional planners reacted to this new relationship with low-income communities or the CDCs.

A consideration in determining the effectiveness of CDCs or other locally based organizations is the basis of support from local leaders. If this derives from the local community, it will probably form the basis for effective participation and partnership. If, however, it derives largely from outside support, it could be resented locally and undermine the potential for local support and involvement (UNCHS, 1987:35). Creating local trust and confidence by example is the best way of strengthening local organizations. In Sri Lanka, for example, the NHDA thus invited Redd Barna, an NGO experienced in working with local communities, to help establish CDCs. This exposed local dissatisfaction with existing leaders and resulted in the election of new leaders with a local mandate (UNCHS, 1987: 35). A general conclusion from this experience was that NGOs are more effective in generating local community organizations than government agencies.

Another conclusion from Sri Lanka is that the CDCs proved capable of undertaking the initial planning of upgrading projects, the formulation of building guidelines, the assessment of building loan affordability and the adoption of regularization and plot allocation procedures. They also undertook to supervise the implementation of upgrading works that the NHDA or local government agencies were unable to achieve and resolved disputes regarding plot regularization among residents (UNCHS, 1987: 39 and 41).

Community involvement constituted a major component in the Sri Lankan projects. Besides the case of the Nagagahapura project, the project team responsible for the Wanathamulla project completed the initial blocking out within a month and the site survey in a further three months. They then set boundary pegs in place in collaboration with residents, so that any disputes could be resolved on the spot (UNCHS, 1987: 43). This “action planning” approach was developed from one project to another and was particularly successful in regularizing and upgrading existing settlements.

It appears that the concept of aided self-help has been generally accepted by project beneficiaries in Zimbabwe and the speed and quality of locally built housing has been impressive (Mutizwa-Mangiza, 1990: 60). In the Klender project in Jakarta, residents are also able to participate in the development of the environment once they start living in their new houses and “can also be responsible for the maintenance” (Herlianto, 1990: 29). It appears that residents have been very active in pursuing this option. In the Bolivar City project in Bogota, residents participated by assuming responsibility for the construction of their houses and managing some of the community facilities. The same applied in the Kennedy City project in Bogota, though there was also provision for community participation through the formation of community action boards, which dealt with welfare programmes within each “super-block” (Utria, 1990: 88).

Community participation is an important factor in the early stages of Colombian projects, when residents are constructing their houses, but this ceases once the houses are complete. One reason for this is that the community zone boards are dominated by the political parties and residents have limited scope to pursue their own interests (Utria, 1990: 101).

Innovative projects frequently seek to maximize community participation though, in practice, it is usually restricted to activities determined by the project agency, rather than ‘the local community. Thus, many projects advocate the virtues of “aided self-help” in house building whilst elements such as site layouts, density levels and land use are decided by the project agency. As a United Nations study concluded: “... participation is initiated and controlled by the authorities ... and the task of community development workers ... is to organize community participation when and where it is considered important by the project staff to facilitate the execution of the project.... If they do more than that, and stimulate people to participate as much as possible in all phases of the project, they risk being criticized by the other project staff for slowing down the project, instead of getting plans and proposals quickly endorsed by the beneficiaries” (UNCHS, 1984: 5-6). As van der Linden notes (1986: 123-124) the participation component is often executed half-heartedly and in part only. This also explains why residents are often reluctant to participate on this basis.

A major innovation of the Khuda ki Basti project in Hyderabad, Pakistan, was that it gave high priority to community participation. Several methods were adopted, though each seemed to offend one or more interest groups and people who were effective in getting things done, did not always employ their skills in the interests of the community (van der Linden, 1989: 23-26). In the end, the HDA ceased attempts to organize direct participation and opted to work with the organizations which residents formed themselves. However, this only serves to emphasize the potential role of CBOs as intermediaries between communities and local government agencies.

3.6 Acceptability of project components to project beneficiaries

One of the difficulties of assessing the acceptability of project components in the shelter sector is that the perceptions of beneficiaries will be influenced by the nature and cost of non-project alternatives. The tendency for projects to include direct and/or indirect subsidies means that beneficiaries receive more than they pay for, and probably more than they would obtain in non-project options. Comparisons are therefore difficult to make, as respondents will not be comparing options on equal terms. Project evaluations that are restricted to levels of satisfaction with individual project components should, therefore, be treated with extreme caution, since they are unlikely to provide a reliable basis for relating project performance to other options available within land and housing markets.

Another consideration is that many project agencies do not regularly assess projects once they have been completed and even indicators of acceptability, such as excessive numbers of applications, may not be reliable if projects are offering a commodity that is generally in short supply. In the Bolivar City project in Bogota, for example, no survey has been conducted to assess resident satisfaction. The major impression, however, is that the settlement has become a popular area in which to live (Utria, 1990: 55). Also, applications for plots and houses in the project were over-subscribed by several times, though the substantial subsidies being offered obviously made the project attractive to higher income groups.

A more reliable indicator of acceptability may be obtained by assessing social aspects. The Kennedy City project in Bogota apparently enjoys the highest level of resident satisfaction, not so much because of the housing provided, but because of the community facilities and employment-generation schemes it included (Utria, 1990: 9). It is also popular in that it stimulated a socially heterogeneous neighbourhood, since public housing for low-income groups was complemented by private sector housing for higher-middle- and middle-income groups, removing any association of the project as socially undesirable. It also pioneered the concept of aided self-help in Colombia, an approach that has since been replicated throughout the country.

An even better indicator of success can be obtained by assessing the extent to which a project is considered to have satisfied the previously stated priorities of low-income groups near a new development project or, in the case of an upgrading project, the particular community concerned. In Ankara, Turkey, this demand-driven approach operated through the administration of the mahalles, or urban wards. Under this arrangement, each community made demands through their mahalle muhtar, or head-man, to the municipality for the specific project components they required. For inner-city communities, this would invariably be for more open public space, or facilities, such as schools or clinics, needed for their increasing population. In newly established settlements on the urban periphery, however, the demand would commonly be for access roads and basic services. By distributing the municipal budget according to these locally expressed priorities, the prospects of ensuring that each community regularly received the most acceptable combination of project components was considerably increased, without the necessity of undertaking expensive research (Payne, 1982a).

Yet, the perceptions of residents are not always infallible. In the Klender project in Jakarta, unequal access to water supplies was identified as a major problem by residents. The most pressing problem, however, was transport. This was resolved by providing a bus service operating in a reserved bus lane (Herlianto, 1990: 29).

Other assessments list a variety of responses to projects. In the Margahayu Raya private sector development in Bandung, the site was too far from employment centres for the original residents. Subsequently, there were severe maintenance problems, since the local authority did not accept responsibility for the area (Herlianto, 1990:44). In the Kalingalinga project in Zambia, most residents were happy with the project components, though the inability to provide all tenants with their own plots for new houses because of inadequate space, prevented them from benefitting to the same extent.

Residents in the Kuwadzana project in Harare were particularly pleased with the option to choose house designs that enabled them to take in lodgers to supplement household incomes. At the Aktepe project in Ankara, residents complained of poor maintenance and inappropriate house designs. Yet, in general, residents of projects in Turkey regard shelter components as acceptable in terms of layout, size, location and cost. Beneficiaries in the Bolivar City project in Colombia, however, were dissatisfied with the bureaucratic rigidity and inefficiency of the local administration.