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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 folderVI. Achieving a multiplier effect through shelter projects
View the document6.1 Impact on institutional capabilities and public-sector roles in the shelter-delivery process
View the document6.2 Impact on urbanization, urban growth, spatial planning and infrastructure provision
View the document6.3 Addressing constraints in land and housing markets
View the document6.4 Impact on building and planning codes, regulations and standards
View the document6.5 Development of the construction industry and construction techniques

6.1 Impact on institutional capabilities and public-sector roles in the shelter-delivery process

The coordination of many different public-sector agencies is required for the preparation, implementation and management of appropriate and affordable shelter projects. This requirement is often difficult to achieve, given that each of these agencies has its own priorities and methods of working. Furthermore, these agencies must be individually and collectively capable of undertaking developmental operations within complex land and housing markets in ways that will not only achieve internal project objectives, but improve the efficiency and equity characteristics of these markets over time as well. Such an ambitious agenda places a heavy burden on the public sector of any country. Traditionally, these agencies have been required to administer discrete packages of housing goods and services according to pre-determined norms and procedures. Changes in the tasks required of them stretch management and technical resources and require levels of coordination with other related agencies that may be lacking and difficult to develop. Many agencies are handicapped by a shortage of well-trained professional staff and depend upon imported systems of administration.

To overcome these constraints, it is sometimes considered advisable to establish new institutions with specific responsibility for undertaking innovative projects, in the hope that this will establish the necessary institutional capability for wider application. In the event, new agencies have created their own problems. Existing agencies may regard them as competitors for scarce resources. Furthermore, the new agencies frequently depend upon staff seconded from existing agencies, whose loyalties are inevitably split. Even if these problems do not arise, any addition to the number of agencies operating in the sector renders the task of coordination more difficult.

Another option frequently adopted is to establish special project units or cells within existing agencies that can operate as a multi-disciplinary team in close collaboration with outside consultants. This approach is particularly common in projects funded by international agencies. In India, for example, many housing and development authorities have their World Bank project cells. The difficulty with this approach is that the projects, and the teams involved with them, remain as separate units and are disbanded when the project is completed. Thus, the concepts and methods they employ do not permeate into the mainstream activities of the parent institutions.

In the Ismailia Demonstration Projects, a compromise solution was adopted. This involved the establishment of a locally based project agency staffed by personnel seconded from local government agencies. To assist the agency in the implementation of the projects and establish local capability to undertake similar projects in the future, technical assistance was provided under international aid programmes. This arrangement worked so well that the project agency was later expanded and reformulated to become the Ismailia Planning and Land Development Agency. A similar process can be seen in the Dandora project in Nairobi.

An even more basic consideration in the development of institutional capability relates to the perceived role of housing-development agencies within the sector. The enormous scale and complexity of the demand for shelter in developing countries cannot be resolved by applying rigid administrative systems. What is required is a dynamic, efficient, coordinated and flexible response from all public sector agencies involved. This suggests that there is a need to move away from traditional concepts of administration, towards a management approach which embodies these qualities and uses available resources to achieve a complementary relationship between public, private and voluntary (NGO/CBO) sectors.

The evidence of this study suggests that it will take some years to achieve such a transformation. The common approach by which proposals are first prepared by town planners, passed to architects, then engineers and then surveyors, often before they are even costed, or related to the needs of the intended beneficiaries, still continues in many countries. In other cases, local authorities do not possess the capacity to prepare development plans or project proposals. They are thus forced to depend upon outside consultants appointed by funding agencies. It is also difficult for many senior professionals accustomed to having their authority accepted without question, to accept the benefits of working as partners with low-income communities, taking advice from social workers and accepting that new developments may look like slums for the first few years.

In Turkey, the Government has recently decided to concentrate on providing developmental rights and services to existing squatter and informal settlements, rather than develop land itself. This reflects a considerable shift in public-sector roles within the sector though it would be an exaggeration to claim that this is due to the impact of projects.

The Sri Lankan experience is perhaps the most radical example of new public-sector roles being developed through the project approach. This centres upon the adoption of a support strategy in which the State ensures the supply of secure and affordable land, infrastructure and facilities in ways that encourage households to organize their own housing. Far from being an abrogation of responsibility, this represents a more challenging role than the traditional one of building conventional subsidized housing units for a select minority. Such a transformation in professional attitudes and levels of technical expertise require a substantial investment in training or staff development. In Sri Lanka, this was undertaken over a long period as an integral part of the implementation of the MHP. The transformation was essential to overcome problems with the previous 100,000 Houses Programme, where administrative inefficiencies and inadequate staffing resulted in only 8500 housing units being produced or upgraded between 1980 and 1984 (UNCHS, 1987: 3).

Another limitation that had to be addressed in Sri Lanka was that the relaxations in conventional public-sector administrative requirements were restricted to low-income projects and do not appear to have applied to other developments. The same constraint appears to apply to participation (UNCHS, 1987: 86). On the basis of the Sri Lankan experience, it is possible to develop a decision-making matrix for four key levels of shelter action; the household, the community, the local authority and the national government. Each of these can be related to a range of decisions, or choices, which need to be made and the appropriate types of support which an effective shelter strategy can provide to facilitate the provision of appropriate and affordable shelter at the scale required. Such a decision-making matrix is presented in table 5.

A common problem in moving away from projects providing completed housing units towards those undertaken as part of support policies, is that there is an increasing need for technical assistance from project staff. This imposes considerable indirect, and unaccounted, costs on a project as staff members attempt to respond to the unique circumstances and needs of individual households. In Papua New Guinea, for example, technical-assistance staff found themselves being required to act as unpaid contractors to project beneficiaries. This was partly because the beneficiaries were unable to make much progress in their spare time and also because they lacked the technical proficiency to conform to official building regulations. Technical assistance therefore needs to be properly costed if such programmes are to be replicated and adequate numbers of appropriately trained staff are to be made available as required.

In Zimbabwe, projects have evolved considerably during the short period since independence in 1980. The introduction of aided self-help projects reflected a move towards project beneficiaries ultimately paying the full cost of their housing (or at least for the building). This developed into a strategy in which government investment is intended to be matched by both the private sector and project beneficiaries in equal amounts. While adopting this strategy, the role of the public sector has been increasingly redefined towards the enabling approach advocated in the GSS. This is seen as comprising aided self-help, full cost recovery and a partnership between public and private sectors (Mutizwa-Mangiza, 1990: 62). In practice, this involves expanded sites-and-services projects. It thus allocates a major role to the public sector in the provision of serviced land, despite general experience in other countries that this has not ensured replicability. If public systems of provision are unable to satisfy demands for land, services, finance and housing for all on a sustainable basis, other options will need to be considered.

Table 5. Decision-making matrix for the four programme levels of the MHP

Decision-making level




- designing the house

- design options

- choice of technology

- technology options

- choice of materials

- community building guidelines

- building the house

- small housing loan

- mobilizing resources

- information and training


- organizing CDCs

- organizing workshops

- planning and programming the Action Plan

- regularization of tenure

- collective decision-making in the

- blocking out guidelines

- content of the building guidelines

- preparation of design and Bills of Qualities

- design and construction of amenities

- provision of funds

- information and training

Local authority

- identification and prioritizing of settlements programming of work

- implementation guidelines

- allocation of funds

- provision of funds

- selection of householders

- technical support

- information and training


- linking housing to local governments

- define and interpret support-based policies

- strengthening the local government

- articulate programme through various forms of support: financial, technical and training

- ensure countrywide programmes and implementation

- national guidelines and procedures

- how not to dominate local institutions

Source: Jayaratne (1990: 92)

In many other countries, a major problem with innovative shelter projects occurs when they are handed over to the local authorities for routine maintenance. The greater the separation between planning or implementation agencies and the local authorities, the more likely these problems are to arise. This suggests that local authorities should be closely involved in the early stages of project identification, planning and implementation. Furthermore, they should be involved in the planning phase regarding financial and maintenance issues.

In some countries, new public-sector roles emphasize the need to establish more productive relationships with the private sector. In Indonesia, for example, the management of the public-sector housing corporation is becoming more professional as it has to compete, and collaborate, with private developers (Herlianto, 1990: 95).

In other countries, the emphasis is placed on the contribution of NGOs and on how to develop better relationships between them and government agencies. The experience gained in self-help in Zambia resulted in a government commitment to encourage home-ownership through self-help efforts based upon sites-and-services and settlement upgrading. To this end, local councils are expected to adopt an enabling role and NGOs have been institutionalized at the national level. Jere (1991b), however, considers that Zambian projects have tended to concentrate on the symptoms rather than the underlying causes of urban poverty. One limitation in overcoming this situation is the weakness of local and city government, which has greater responsibilities than its resources enable it to fulfil.

The approach adopted by Kent-Koop (The Union of Ban-Kent Housing Cooperatives) in Turkey is worth mentioning in this connection. This non-profit organization was founded in 1979 by 13 housing cooperatives with the intention of providing housing for low- and medium-income groups. A number of groups, such as trade unions, traders’ and artisans’ organizations and various professional chambers contributed to the formation of Kent-Koop, under the leadership of Ankara Municipality. The construction activities of Kent-Koop started at the Bati-Kent location, 16 kilometres from Ankara city centre, on land provided by the Ankara Municipality. The initial target was to construct 4500 housing units annually. This target has later been exceeded. In addition to its construction activities, Kent-Koop also established several non-profit organizations working in the fields of mapping and surveying, design, engineering and production of building materials. These organizations are currently functioning successfully. By 1989, Kent-Koop had assisted 33 different municipalities in organizing joint ventures with local housing cooperatives, addressing the needs of about 200,000 households (Kent-Koop, 1989).

A last, but by no means least, issue to be raised in this section is that staff mobility and high levels of secondment often make it difficult for experience gained on projects to be assimilated for the benefit of future projects. The institutional culture of the public sector is thus often averse to the notion of innovation and the risk taking that is needed for successful shelter projects (see also section 2.3.1). Much more attention is needed if this major constraint is to be resolved.

6.2 Impact on urbanization, urban growth, spatial planning and infrastructure provision

In theory, housing projects, particularly the large-scale projects, are supposed to have significant impacts on spatial planning and on directing urban growth. Yet, the evidence from several countries indicates that projects in general are less effective in this respect. There are several reasons for this, among which the scale of the projects has particular importance. The rather small scale of a typical housing project is usually not sufficient to initiate growth in the desired directions. A second factor is that projects are usually implemented in a financially feasible area, rather than in a location that meets the needs of the target groups. Consequently, most housing projects have remained as isolated cases for long periods of time, before eventually being integrated with the urban expansion. A third important factor is the delay in provision of services and infrastructure. These components are often the last to be provided, and this fact often limits the possible multiplier role of housing projects. Yet, there are some good examples where housing projects have had substantial effects on urban growth.

The fact that shelter projects can have significant impacts on urbanization and rates of urban growth is clearly demonstrated by the case of Colombia. It is true that shelter projects made only isolated contributions to total housing supply, with little or no relationship to the urban development process, urban structuring, or infrastructure planning (Utria, 1990:106). Yet, the publicity that attends the launching of shelter projects creates expectations in the rural, as well as the urban population, which further stimulates urbanization.

In Turkey, projects have been too small to achieve any impact upon processes of urbanization or urban growth (Tokman, 1990: 39). Projects may even have negative impacts on efforts to direct urban growth. Long implementation periods of some housing projects in Turkey have sometimes hindered the development of nearby areas. The large-scale Sincan Sites-and-Services Project in the western development corridor of the Ankara Metropolitan Area is a good example in this respect. When large areas of public land were allocated for this scheme, speculators purchased large tracts of land nearby, on the expectation that land values would increase rapidly when the Municipality provided infrastructure and services. The project, however, took a very long time to get moving, no infrastructure or services were provided for many years. It thus became a dead-lock, not only for prospective beneficiaries of the project but also for land speculators and others who could have benefited from the possibilities of the reasonable land prices at these locations. After about 20 years, however, the western development corridor became the significant expansion of the Ankara Metropolitan Region as was originally planned.

With this negative experience in mind, the examples where housing projects have had positive impacts on directing urban growth are more abundant. The Baishnavghata-Patuli project in India demonstrates that projects can exert a very powerful indirect influence on the direction, rate and costs of urban development. Yet, this strategic impact is rarely even appreciated, let alone harnessed, by project or policy planners. As a result, the benefits of project investments accrue mostly to private-sector developers, who have a more keenly developed sense of how land and housing markets operate and how to manipulate them to their advantage. The site for the Klender project in Indonesia, however, was selected to stimulate further growth to the east of Jakarta, according to strategic planning objectives. By developing large areas of land in relatively less expensive locations, it was also easier to achieve affordability objectives, though this made it more difficult to reach the target population of low-income groups.

Another example of the extent to which even individual projects can influence the direction and form of urban development and planning can be seen in the case of the Rohini project in New Delhi. This was intended to provide housing for up to 300,000 people of all income groups, with a full range of commercial and industrial activities and public facilities. Projects of this scale can support local project agencies, or teams, working in multi-disciplinary groups to develop major contributions to housing supply and the planned development of urban areas. This contribution can be further increased if shelter projects include the provision of commercial and industrial areas that can contribute towards the development of multi-nucleated urban areas and diversification in the location of employment centres.

Besides influencing patterns of urbanization and urban growth, projects are influenced by them. A common constraint, for example, is the difficulty of obtaining land in suitable locations at prices that project agencies can afford to acquire and develop for low-income households. In many cases, the only land that meets these criteria are in areas that are unstable, liable to flooding, or otherwise difficult and expensive to develop. On this basis, land that is inexpensive to acquire may be almost prohibitive to develop and build upon. A large part of these additional costs is borne directly by the low-income residents.

Another common constraint to shelter projects located on the periphery of a rapidly expanding city is that residents are isolated from public services and places of employment. In rapidly expanding cities, however, they are likely to find themselves integrated into the administrative and physical structure of the city more rapidly than those in a city that grows slowly. Their ability to endure such locations may therefore be enhanced considerably, especially if planning policies encourage the decentralization of industrial and commercial activities that can provide low-income groups with employment opportunities.

At a technical planning level, the Kwekwe-Gutu project in Zimbabwe incorporated several innovations in spatial planning that enabled the project to meet local needs and reduce unit costs. These included “cul-de-sacs”, “p” loops, “back-to-back stands” and communal tower lights (Mutizwa-Mangiza, 1990: 42). Similarly, the Ismailia Demonstration Projects were designed to achieve the maximum proportion of available land within the private, or revenue-generating domain, in order to reduce unit costs. This was done in a way intended to reflect the traditional layout patterns found in settlements planned by local residents and the patterns of space use to which they were accustomed (Davidson and Payne, 1983). Such concerns have been amply surveyed and analysed by observers such as Rapaport4 and need to be borne in mind by planners and architects whose living styles and values are at variance with those of their eventual clients, the poor.

4/ See for instance Rapaport 1977, 1979 or 1980.

6.3 Addressing constraints in land and housing markets

Although projects may have made little impact to date on the nature or behaviour of urban land and housing markets, increasing awareness of the need to consider this factor is influencing the latest generation of projects. During the last decades urban land prices have increased at a rapid rate in Sri Lanka. The MHP has thus not prevented an increase in the number and proportion of slums and shanties. In the city of Colombo, these now account for 53 per cent of the total housing stock (Jayaratne, 1990: 17). The main objective of the NHDA under Sri Lanka’s MHP has been to remove (not just address or reduce) the physical, economic and legal constraints obstructing access by poor people to housing (Jayaratne, 1990: 85). This ambition reflects a recognition that informal settlements are an integral part of the housing process. Nonetheless, the relaxation in regulations has remained as the exception and not led to a revision of such regulations in general terms. The removal of constraints thus appears to have been achieved mainly at the project level rather than by addressing the constraints in land-market behaviour themselves. Furthermore, the provision of legal title to residents in shanty settlements can hardly act as a deterrent for other low-income groups that consider developing new shanties. It thus begs the question of what happens when the limited reserves of public lands are exhausted. The costs of acquiring private lands are increasingly high, and procedures for land acquisition can take up to three years. As Jayaratne concludes, Sri Lanka lacks an overall policy regarding land tenure or land management aimed at the low-income groups (1990: 95).

The aided self-help approach adopted in Zimbabwe has apparently been replicated both in Harare and various small towns. This was partly because the approach was found appropriate, and partly because funds from the USAID package increased in value due to the devaluation of the local currency, enabling the existing funds to stretch further. This does not necessarily indicate a strong degree of replicability. The key constraints in Zimbabwe are the supply of serviced land, financial resources and building materials. The former is partly due to a chronic shortage of land surveyors, but also to the fact that many land-owners are unwilling to release land for development. This unwillingness stems from expectations of better future options. The fact that they are not required to pay tax on undeveloped land only further supports their unwillingness to release land for development. As a result, land prices have risen by at least 100 per cent during the last two years (Mutizwa-Mangiza, 1990: 50). The project approach has therefore failed to address this constraint successfully.

One problem that requires consideration is that attempts to increase the scale of land and housing supply significantly create pressure on all parts of the supply system, from land surveying and registration, to services provision, the building materials industry, labour markets, and on government administrations. Inevitably, the ability of each of these supply agencies to respond effectively to increased demand quickly and efficiently will vary and the weakest link in the chain will tend to delay progress in the others. In Sri Lanka, the sudden increase in demand for building materials generated by the MHP led to a rapid short term price increase, until supply rose to adjust. This suggests that some form of overall monitoring and evaluation capability should be established at an early stage in the development of innovative large scale programmes. Furthermore, it would be advantageous that this has the necessary authority to influence the subsequent activities of all the major actors involved.

6.4 Impact on building and planning codes, regulations and standards

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.

6.5 Development of the construction industry and construction techniques

It is difficult to obtain evidence concerning the extent to which projects have helped to develop new construction techniques, or address the capacity of the local and national building-materials-supply industry to meet the required level and nature of demand. Yet, some experiences can be cited. In Indonesia, for example, the introduction of low-technology materials and construction systems have enabled the benefits of such economic development to move further down the socio-economic ladder to benefit low-income households (Herlianto, 1990:93). This is reinforced by relaxations in the enforcement of building codes, though the codes themselves have not been officially revised (Herlianto, 1990: 91). In the Kalingalinga project in Zambia, local block-making enterprises were established and successful experiments held, using earth as a building material. These proved to be almost too successful, in that open spaces were raided for earth.

In the other case-study projects and countries, there appears to have been no progress in using shelter projects to introduce innovations in building technology or materials. In Sri Lanka and Turkey, projects are not in general regarded as opportunities to experiment with new construction systems or techniques and projects have had no discernible effect on the building industry. The same applies to Zimbabwe, where the experience with the project approach has not succeeded in stimulating the construction industry to meet increased demand, or encouraged experimentation in construction techniques. Yet, it should be noted that some housing projects, particularly those initiated through public-private partnerships to address the needs of upper-middle and middle-income groups, have tried out new technologies and construction systems. The main result has been the development of more energy-efficient and less costly building materials. Furthermore, such projects have facilitated the development of new organizational arrangements where public-sector agencies have entered into partnerships with housing cooperatives and private construction companies. The approach introduced by Kent-Koop in Turkey is a good example of this type of development.

Projects in Zimbabwe have contributed indirectly to the development of the informal building-materials industry (Mutizwa-Mangiza, 1990:61). This was not, however, an intended outcome of the shelter projects. It happened rather despite the projects, since the formal-sector building-materials industry was unable to meet the demand. Project implementation and industrial production planning was the responsibility of different ministries with little or no co-ordination taking place. This experience also begs the question of whether industrial production can be efficiently managed by public-sector agencies. It is invariably an aspect best left to the private sector, despite apparent ideological reservations concerning this locally.

Yet, the greatest case of lost opportunity is probably that of Colombia. More than any other developing country, Colombia attempted to use housing as a means of expanding the construction industry and through it, the national economy. The failure to capitalize on its early efforts has resulted in the country slipping well behind most other developing countries in this respect.

None of the above discussion is to deny that there are important examples of innovation in building materials and construction systems being developed in other countries. It simply indicates that projects, so far, have not been used to test prototypes. Many countries also boast building research institutes that generate numerous examples of appropriate technologies, such as sand-cement blocks, pozzolana, and bamboo or sisal reinforced beams. The shortage would not appear to lie in the number of technical options, but in their dissemination and effective marketing to the builders and developers who need to be convinced of their merits. Another constraint may be that existing building regulations discourage, or even prevent, the adoption of new materials or construction systems, even on an experimental basis. It is unlikely that this problem can be overcome until building regulations are either based upon performance specifications, rather than prescribed, conventional solutions, or relaxed, so that builders can adopt incremental development processes. One option for resolving this problem may be to specify performance standards for new buildings that leave the builder free to figure out how conformity can be achieved using available and affordable materials and construction techniques. Another option could be to distinguish between initial and ultimate standards of development that could enable poor households to follow the traditional process of incremental development. There is a need to develop procedures that provide incentives to good practice rather than to punish non-conformity.