Tag Archives: slums

India photo-share: Slum upgrading in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

By: Vidhee Garg

On my recent visit to India, I went on a guided tour of Ramesh Dutt Colony, a slum settlement on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, led by Kinnariben of Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT). MHT is a sister organization of Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), with which AHI has partnered since 2008.

MHT was a key partner in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s Slum Networking Project (SNP), which aimed to transform the physical environment of the slums, and has been working with this particular settlement since the late 1990s. The transformation of the environment established several basic infrastructure services – household water connections, toilets and underground sewerage for individual households, and stone paving of internal and approach roads, among other things.

More than a decade in the making, the residents are now eagerly awaiting government permission to rebuild the settlement under the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) scheme, which will give the residents title to land and permanent housing.

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Kinnariben (left) with one of the SEWA members in Ramesh Dutt Colony. Kinnariben is one of many field operation staff (called ‘Saathibens’) who interact regularly with community residents, thereby forming an integral part of SEWA’s last-kilometer delivery system in meeting the banking needs of SEWA members.

Children play gully cricket in the mid-afternoon. Narrow alleys (gully in Hindi) between the houses are good locations for children to play while being supervised by family and community members. 

Children play gully cricket in the mid-afternoon. Narrow alleys (gully in Hindi) between the houses are good locations for children to play while being supervised by family and community members.

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Guest Post: Painting Slums

The following guest post by Noll Tufani, the Haiti Country Director for Build Change, opens our minds to how we can share our experiences working in housing and informal settlement upgrading with both intellect and creativity.

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Cerfs Volants

As a humanitarian professional implicated in slum-upgrading projects, I’ve come to realize that slums are key revelators of the challenges facing modern cities, of the broader development challenges facing entire countries or regions, and of a universal condition that humanity has been facing through the ages.

The economic, social, political, environmental and ethical implications of our times can all be found in the slums.

I realized that slums had rubbed-off on me when I began to feel this urge to draw and paint them. At first representing the slum itself was important to me, but then I started to give-in to an even stronger urge to render the slum as relative as it is to the very slum dwellers and as inconspicuous as it is to the ruling classes. The best way to do this was to merge three concepts:

  • The slums are everywhere: whatever the product one consumes, someone from a slum somewhere has had something to do with that product. And this is also true for the products we discard as trash. Whatever the location in the world, there is a slum of sorts, hidden from the mainstream, but very much intertwined with it. Whether a Brazilian favela or a squatted run-down building in the heart of Paris, ignoring the existence of slums is simply failing to fully understand the world we live in.
  • Slums are not slums in the eyes of their residents: slum-dwellers project their life-aspirations and their moments of joy beyond the contingency of the slum. They are able to create this reality that renders the hardship of the slum relative and as a result, they transform the slums into welcoming and heartwarming places from which they project themselves into their dreams and life-plans.
  • Slums evoke hardship and suffering: although slum-dwellers project their life-aspirations beyond the slum, they are very much aware of the daily hardship of living in the slum. From lack of comfort, to exposition to crime, disease and natural disasters, slum-dwellers wish they were living elsewhere, and non-slum-dwellers wish the slum were not there!
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Bidonvuille en bordure de mer

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Loiseau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Slummin’ it at the 2014 FIFA World Cup

By Judy Park, Analyst

Attending the World Cup is no easy task. From competing with millions of global fans for randomized lottery tickets at 5 AM in the morning to paying for transport, lodging, and entertainment, it takes dedication. And a small fortune.

But as I watch euphoric, emblazoned fans fill the corners of my low-def screen, it’s clear that it’s worth it.

USA USA USA USA USA USA USA !

To give you an idea of the actual cost: an all-inclusive package from a middleman vendor starts at $5000 per head. For anyone not a relative of a FIFA higher-up or the pampered staff of an oil company, it is tough going; most hotels and transport options are booked up a year before the first ball hits the turf.

So how’s an average entry-level twenty-something, and those of similar budget, to partake?

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Inequality in India’s Development Dreams

By: Stephanie Tam, AHI Volunteer, Canada

In unspoken agreement, individuals melted into a crowd and closed ranks at one end of the Sabarmati Riverfront promenade. A reverent murmur rippled across: “The Chief Minister is here”. The sky clouded over with raised hands hailing Narendra Modi, the state of Gujarat’s Chief Minister since 2001 and India’s Prime Minister-elect as of May 16th, 2014. A feverish undercurrent threatened to bubble to the surface with a few shouts ripping through the silence. Modi’s trademark all-white attire became blinding under the sunlight, and the crowd hushed with awe when he began to speak.

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Modi speaking on the Sabarmati Riverfront promenade during the National Festival, August 2012.

Labeled as India’s most loved and most loathed politician, Modi has polarized politics nationally in the few years that have elapsed since that afternoon on the Sabarmati. His supporters claim that his Gujarat model of development will launch the country into a new economic era, while his opponents accuse him of inciting the communal riots that slaughtered thousands of Muslims in 2001. Modi’s landslide election victory shows that his platform of secularized development prevailed over misgivings about his right-wing Hindu roots. However, it remains unclear what development means for the 14 million households living in identified slums across India[1].

Throughout Modi’s electoral campaign, development has meant improved built infrastructure and industrial expansion. Gujarat’s major urban centers boast well-paved roads, few electrical outages, and a flourishing upper class that enjoys air-conditioned malls and luxury cars[2]. Enacted in 2004, Gujarat’s Special Economic Zone (SEZ) legislation has attracted foreign investors and industrial tycoons by doing away with taxes and offering up cheap land, thereby increasing wealth according to development measures that focus exclusively on market growth, i.e. GDP.

Development in terms of employment and consumption, on the other hand, reveals stagnation. Atul Sood et al. show through a series of studies that there is “poverty amidst prosperity”[3], revealing increased reliance upon contract workers and casual labourers, as well as overall wage growth that lags behind the all-India wage increase. This correlates to Gujarat’s slow growth in monthly per capita expenditures: with little increase in household profits, there is little capacity to spend. In short, industries are making a lot of money, but those profits are not benefiting the average worker.

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Boston Report: designing for, and talking about, urban disasters.

by Anya Brickman Raredon

Last week there was talk about disasters and resilience up and down the MBTA Redline – from Harvard University’s Design for Urban Disaster Conference to UMass Boston’s Conference on Disaster Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Sustainable Reconstruction, and MIT’s Sustainability Summit in between. I, along with some of my colleagues here at AHI had the opportunity to attend and present at both the Harvard and UMass events.

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Announcement for AHI UMass Session

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Posters at the Harvard GSD conference.

Our week of conferencing started at Harvard with three days of panels and discussion focused on how designers and humanitarians could work together in disaster response and better understand each other’s professional skill sets.  With over 140 attendees, there were a lot of perspectives and a lot of information to absorb over the course of three days, but several themes emerged and were highlighted in each day’s plenary sessions.  Some of these which I think bear further consideration include:

– How can humanitarians and architects better understand each other’s professional processes, and get away from seeing the other as being “too slow” (in the case of architects), and “too reactive” (in the case of humanitarians)?

– How come discussions of resilience don’t take power structures into account?  And what are the resulting implications of this?

– Has the well-developed humanitarian compliance system stopped organizations from being able to learn from feedback?

– Is humanitarian response (whether design based, or otherwise) evidence and context driven? How can we work towards this as a goal?

AHI also led one session at each conference focused on raising the question of whether we can continue to think of large-scale post-disaster resettlements as temporary (refugee or internally displaced persons camps) or whether it is time to acknowledge that many of these situations are in fact urban conditions that become permanent and should perhaps be thought of as ‘instant cities’.

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Moderating a 45-minute discussion on “Shelter Camp or Instant City?”  at Harvard University

For the UMass session, AHI also invited Chris Ward (Deputy Director of USAID/Haiti’s Infrastructure Office) to speak on specific cases of camp-to-settlement transformations in post-earthquake Haiti, and David Sanderson (Oxford Brookes University, and one of the organizers of the Harvard conference) to offer his perspective on how this idea fit within current humanitarian practices.

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The panels inspired dynamic discussions, raising issues of: land tenure, politics, definitions of ‘urban’, and the different realities of protracted displacement situations based on their causes. We are looking forward to continuing this conversation at the InterAction Forum on June 12th in Washington, D.C.  We will also be writing more on the topic both here and in AHI Innovations over the coming months.

In the meantime, see David Smith’s presentation here, and share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Ben Krause (J/P Haitian Relief Organization) offering commentary during the UMass session.

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Chris Ward (USAID/Haiti), David Smith (AHI), and David Sanderson (Oxford Brookes University) discussing a question during the 2-hour UMass session.

 

 

 

How do the Olympics affect affordable housing?

By: Judy Park, Analyst

Mega-events such as the Olympics are not just time-honored international sports competitions. They are some of the truly global stages in the world today, with billions of viewers and dollars involved.

Eager for the international prestige and economic multipliers that come with such an event, countries often spend a fortune just to vie for the chance to host. Once they win the bid, a massive construction and redevelopment agenda kicks into high gear: monumental stadiums, transportation networks, airports, athlete housing, luxury hotels, and revamped tourist attractions. While this city-wide facelift generates benefits for the economy and tourism, it also threatens the livelihoods of urban residents already suffering from poverty and marginalization. The rapid pace of development often results in forceful “beautification” programs, soaring housing values, and a lack of due process in relocation efforts.

Brazil, the envied host of this summer’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, is a ready example of this phenomenon. The country has already channeled $4 billion into preparing its cities for the limelight. However, in the process, the government has already displaced 19,000 families from Rio de Janeiro’s well-known favelas, attracting calls of “social cleansing” in the process. Although city officials claim that they have faithfully adhered to established expropriation guidelines, residents say otherwise. In addition, it is often the case that even when better physical housing might be offered, residents do not want to move away from the social and economic networks they have built over their lifetime.

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Interestingly, Brazil’s oft-decried favelas are also being touted as cheap accommodation for World Cup attendees and an opportunity to experience the “real Rio de Janeiro” through “one of the city’s most fascinating and vibrant communities.”

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Theresa Williams, director of Catalytic Communities, notes the dissonance between these two images of the favelas:

“[In the runup to the World Cup] international media are presenting Rio’s favelas either as violent no-go areas or cheap places for tourists to stay. They can’t be both, so which is it?” says Williamson. Rio’s favelas could not only offer a model amid the growing need for affordable housing worldwide but enhance a city already famed for its natural beauty with 600 unique communities with distinct cultures, she says. (Link)

(By the way, we at AHI agree that the urban slum is where the solution to global affordable housing crises begins.)

The negative impact of mega-events on local communities is not new. A study by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) highlights the consequences of Olympic events on housing in six cities over the past two decades:

  • 1988, Seoul: 720,000 people evicted from 48,000 buildings, where 90% of those evicted did not receive replacement housing and most were forced out using violent methods.
  • 1992, Barcelona: Houses prices rose by 250%, making housing unaffordable to many residents and forcing them to leave the city.
  • 1996, Atlanta: Country’s oldest public housing complex, Techwood Homes, redeveloped as the first mixed income HOPE VI community, but net loss of 800 public housing units and minimal relocation assistance during redevelopment. 9000 arrest citations given to homeless people in 1995-1996 as part of city-wide “clean-up.”
  • 2000, Sydney: Real estate speculation led to eviction of residents. Gentrification accelerated and number of homeless tripled over five years.
  • 2004, Athens: Games were used as pretext for displacing Roma communities. 2,700 Roma were forcibly evicted.
  • 2008, Beijing: 1.5 million people displaced over a period of 8 years.

In order to mitigate the costs of any future mega-events, COHRE lays out some “best practices” for bidding and preparing for the Olympics, including: regulating the involvement of the private sector, local community participation in decision-making, public commitments to housing preservation, protection protocols for minorities and the homeless, housing rights legislation, housing-positive regeneration strategies, strong community activism, and the post-Olympics use of venues for social housing.  A good example of the last point occurred in 2012, when it was announced that nearly half of London’s Olympic village would be transformed into affordable rental units to ease the city’s housing shortage.

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What do you think about the impact of mega-events on housing? What should be done to address this issue? Please let us know in the comments below!

Image Sources 

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/worldcup2014/article-2611094/More-World-Cup-concerns-Brazil-Rio-favela-riots-break-just-50-days-tournament-kick-offs.html
  2. http://metro.co.uk/2012/04/23/how-the-build-up-to-the-world-cup-and-olympics-is-affecting-rios-favelas-406668/
  3. http://www.thenation.com/blog/179077/brazils-world-cup-gentrification-through-barrel-gun
  4. http://favelaexperience.com/#rio-de-janeiro-apartment-rentals
  5. http://inhabitat.com/londons-2012-olympic-village-to-be-transformed-into-affordable-housing-units/

What we’re reading: “Vision of the future or criminal eyesore: what should Rio do with its favelas?”

The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins wrote a very interesting piece this week on Rio de Janeiro’s favelas.

“…They have become intellectual works-in-progress to universities such as Pennsylvania, Columbia and the LSE. Pennsylvania even built its own campus “pop-up favela” for study purposes. A leading NGO champion, Theresa Williamson of Catalytic Communities, sees the favelas as the “ideal affordable housing stock”. Their buildings are mostly brick-built and sound, maximising every inch of space and fashioned to occupants’ needs. They are low-energy to a fault.

The challenge is somehow to upgrade them to meet even the minimal standards expected for modern urban living, without lurching into old-fashioned, state-sponsored clearance and renewal. It is the challenge of the “smart cities” movement. Rio’s authorities have long acknowledged the policy: Favela Bairro in the 1990s saw them as “civic assets” rather than “aberrations”.”

Read the whole article here.