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slums | context | slums' map | causes | more & more slums | living conditions | women | policies | best practices | tricky facts


source: http://www.unhabitat.org/


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Many policy approaches to slums and to housing for the urban poor in general have been tested during recent decades…
  • they range from formal public housing programmes, through passively ignoring or actively harassing men and women in slums, to interventions aimed at protecting the rights of slum dwellers and helping them to improve their incomes and living environments;

  • according to the 2003 UN-Habitat’s report on slums, cities are still practising many of the approaches to slums that were in use decades ago. Approaches employed even more than a hundred years ago can still be seen today, such as the use of summary eviction and slum clearance - a 19th century practice in European cities and elsewhere that can still be witnessed today somewhere in the developing world; (1)

  • such actions are on the increase, and are often illegally carried out by authorities, or in contravention of human rights. Protection against forced evictions is a prerequisite for the integration of irregular settlements into the city. Eviction of residents of informal settlements is the most dramatic manifestation of the fight for land and the position of the poor;

  • simple negligence - ignoring the existence of slums - was a common approach in most developing countries until the early 1970s. More often than not, slums or informal urban settlements were not even placed on land-use maps, but rather shown as blank spots denoting undeveloped land;

  • eviction was a common response to the development of slums in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly where centralised decision-making prevailed, and where civil society movements were not recognized and there was a little or no legal protection against forced evictions. This approach, of course, did not solve the problems of slums, but rather shifted them to the periphery of the cities, to the rural-urban fringes, where access to land was easier and land-use planning controls non-existent;

  • today, 75% of the world’s countries have constitutions or national laws that promote the full and progressive realisation of the right to adequate housing, and 61% of countries have constitutions or national laws that protect against forced evictions;

  • for households in irregular settlements, the granting of secure tenure is one of the most important catalysts in stabilising communities, improving shelter conditions, encouraging investment in home based activities which play a major role in poverty reduction, reducing social exclusion, and improving access to urban services;

  • public housing represents the first attempts to solve the housing problem in developing countries. This – with a few exceptions, e.g. South Africa and Singapore (see: best practices) - rapidly stalled as it became clear it would not provide a hundredth of what was needed;

  • one popular alternative to slum improvement (housing programmes) is ‘slum upgrading’. It consists of regularization of the rights to land and housing and improving the existing infrastructure, such as the availability of water, sanitation, storm drainage and electricity. Typical upgrading projects provide footpaths and latrines, street lighting, drainage and roads, and often water supply and limited sewerage. Usually upgrading offers loan options for home improvements;

  • upgrading has significant advantages. It is not only an affordable alternative to clearance and relocation (which costs up to 10 times more than upgrading), but it also minimises the disturbance to the social and economic life of the community. The results of upgrading are immediate, highly visible, and make a significant difference in the quality of life of the urban poor. However, cheap solutions can have poor outcomes. Governments often did not follow through with services, communities did not maintain the facilities, etc. Overall, environmental conditions in many upgraded settlements remained substandard;

  • from the late 1980s, with the launch of the UN-HABITAT’s Global Strategy for Shelter, self-help programmes reached a new level of sophistication. It became clear that the resources of the private sector and the people themselves needed to be mobilised. However, this promising strategy was never really implemented. It became something of an interim step on the way to the comprehensive poverty reduction programmes of the late 1990s. The problem with self-help is that it is relatively slow to implement and depends on the cooperation, goodwill and resources of residents, as well as their governments and other stakeholders;

  • however, community groups can often provide housing and services more cost-effectively than governments or private developers by pooling their resources and supplying their own labor. For example, in the Philippines it costs the government 250,000 pesos (about US$4,500) to build a 22 square meter dwelling in a relocation colony. The Philippines Homeless People's Federation, in contrast, can build a dwelling twice this size for 60,000 pesos (about US$1,080);

  • Participatory Slum Improvement is today the accepted best practice for housing interventions in developing countries – but so far, such initiatives have mostly been adopted on a limited scale or comprise demonstration projects. The best examples are holistic approaches to neighbourhood improvement, taking into account health, education, housing, livelihood and gender. Government largely adopts a facilitative role in setting things moving, while maintaining financial accountability and adherence to quality norms;

  • in the late 1990s, the World Bank launched two notable urban poverty projects in collaboration with the United Nations Center for Human Settlements (UNCHS) and other UN bodies, governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and local authorities. The two projects are Cities Without Slums and The Cities Alliance;

  • Cities Without Slums aims by 2020 to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers throughout the less developed world. The project upgrades living conditions in slum neighbourhoods through such means as supporting small-scale enterprises and targeting health care and educational opportunities to the poor;

  • The Cities Alliance project focuses on policy changes that would improve living conditions of the urban poor. The program, for example, assists local authorities in outlining viable financing and investment plans, supports city-based consensus-building among diverse constituencies, and enables cities to share lessons learned in formulating and implementing development strategies.

(1) UN-HABITAT, The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlement, Earthscan, London 2003.
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