Tag Archives: urbanization

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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A Typical Home: the Town House – Sai Gon, Vietnam

By: Duong Huynh, Project Manager

Housing is complex. Its stakeholders and creatures are as varied as the skin colors of the human race – developers and financiers, consumers and policy makers. Its value chains are highly intertwined – demand side and supply side, taking us from land obtainment to consumer off-take and move-in. At the core of this complex system lies the key product it helps to produce more of, and in high quality: the home.

So via this post, I hope to inspire my colleagues and myself in understanding the typologies of homes all over the world in closer detail. For this first venture, I chose Sai Gon, Vietnam; otherwise known as Ho Chi Minh City.

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Sai Gon’s location on the southern tail of Vietnam’s “S” shape

A map of Sai Gon’s districts

A map of Sai Gon’s districts

Typical traffic in Sai Gon during busy hours

Typical traffic in Sai Gon during busy hours

With any emerging markets, growth and architectural landmarks sit alongside dated low-density residential uses.

The glamorous and trendy Sai Gon at night

The glamorous and trendy Sai Gon at night

Low and mid-density uses lie below and alongside the city’s landmark tower

Low and mid-density uses lie below and alongside the city’s landmark tower

Within any nation and economy, many diverse sets of housing typologies exist. Vietnam is no exception.

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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.

 

 

 

The race against winter in the slums of Ulaanbaatar

By: Noel Sampson, AHI Nicaragua Regional Analyst

“There are so many new rich people and there is no place for them to spend their money” said Rob, a French- American investor I met on the flight from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar (UB). He told me he was building a new club and Irish pub – “the biggest in UB” he promised. I gave a dry smile.  The thought of yet another Irish pub is hard for me to get excited about because they all look the same to me. 

 

Hours later I discovered the city is already full of Irish pubs, crammed in amongst the office towers under a skyline cluttered with cranes. Up in the surrounding hills, beyond the cranes and city lights, the slums are populated by gers (traditional Mongolian tents) exhaling thick coal smoke. The khashaas (individual fenced plots) highlight the organic pattern of the informal urban fabric.

 

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Overview of Ulaanbaatar and its slums far in the back

 

More than 50% of Ulaanbaatar’s population lives in ger-areas and around 47% of ger residents live in poverty. Ger-areas have limited infrastructure and services such as heating, water and sanitation. Residents use coal-fired stoves to survive extremely harsh winters with temperatures below -40°C. Domestic coal fires are the main cause for air pollution in Ulaanbaatar where individual households cannot afford to connect to the city’s power grid. Improving access to services would help to upgrade these areas and improve the quality of life.

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Ger-areas in the district of Selbe

 

A major cause of the growth of slums in Ulaanbaatar is immigration to the city related to dzud – a concurrent natural disaster characterized by summer drought followed by particularly harsh winter with extremely low temperatures and heavy snow. The 2010 dzud affected an estimated 769,106 people (28% of total population) and has resulted in 8.4 million livestock deaths. Many were forced to move to the capital. Other causative factors for the increase of slums include high poverty levels in rural areas, the inexperience of local institutions in dealing with urban issues, natural population growth and the Free Mobility Law. This law, approved by the Supreme Court in 2003, grants every Mongolian the right to freely own a plot of land in the capital.

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View of one family Khashaa

 

The challenge in Ulaanbaatar is therefore a matter of land management and affordability of services and adequate housing. The extreme temperatures  and the spread  of slums make services difficult and expensive to implement. To address these issues, the most viable strategy is to densify ger-areas. Residents can not afford individual connections to services and grouping residents together could reduce the cost for such services.

 

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Lack of access to infrastructure and services are remarkable in Ger-areas

 

The question lies in how to implement such efforts, in particular how slum dwellers will participate in the development strategies of the city.  Another important challenge is how to create a financial flux that integrates private sector, residents and government. It is important to remark there is not small effort towards slum upgrading of ger-areas, any small improvement can create a flow-on effect on service provision to the surrounding slums that continue growing. Thus, opportunities for both residents and private sector, and the city’s development future lie in the provision of adequate housing and the improvement of ger-areas.

 

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Despite construction industry is booming, building season is just five months in a year due to the harsh winter

 

Perhaps, the creation of an entity to act as fair broker between private, residents and government can contribute to fill this gap. Under the support of a new created public-private entity residents could create community builders associations, or similar schemes of housing co-ops as an alternative for affordable housing construction. Residents can start a guided and progressive land pooling process, making land available for public facilities at the time they can have optimums living conditions. This process can allow to lease part of the land to the private sector and obtain in return the finance for the construction of housing buildings and improved urban spaces.

 

Moreover, the creation of such entity can address potential future concerns such as how to work out compensation systems, how to prevent land speculation and rise in land prices after the first residents gain access to services and, more importantly, how to guarantee that residents who take part in eventual slum upgrading strategies will get fair benefits for pooling or trading their land. Additionally, this entity can stimulate private sector investments in areas that have higher profitable potential such as the land along the primary roads.

 

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Formation of slums in the peri-urban areas of the city

 

As the opportunities rise in Ulaanbaatar, the private sector is ready to push forward with urban development, the national economy is booming due to rich mining resources, and the Mayor, Bat-Uul, has outlined a vision of creating urban corridors on the model of Los Angeles’ Wilshire Boulevard in the middle of the slums. Empowered residents stand to gain through improved housing and lives will be saved from the harsh Mongolian winter while contributing to the city’s economy. Perhaps Rob, my co-passenger from the flight in, would stand to benefit also by making a wiser choice and investing in the community.

The Mongolian urban challenge: A matter of growth, land management and the race against winter in the slums of Ulaanbaatar

By: Noel Sampson, Nicaragua Regional Analyst

 

“There are so many new rich people and there is no place for them to spend their money” said Rob, a French- American investor I met on the flight from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar (UB). He told me he was building a new club and Irish pub – “the biggest in UB” he promised. I gave a dry smile.  The thought of yet another Irish pub is hard for me to get excited about because they all look the same to me. 

 

Hours later I discovered the city is already full of Irish pubs, crammed in amongst the office towers under a skyline cluttered with cranes. Up in the surrounding hills, beyond the cranes and city lights, the slums are populated by gers (traditional Mongolian tents) exhaling thick coal smoke. The khashaas (individual fenced plots) highlight the organic pattern of the informal urban fabric.

 

P-1

Overview of Ulaanbaatar and its slums far in the back

 

More than 50% of Ulaanbaatar’s population lives in ger-areas and around 47% of ger residents live in poverty. Ger-areas have limited infrastructure and services such as heating, water and sanitation. Residents use coal-fired stoves to survive extremely harsh winters with temperatures below -40°C. Domestic coal fires are the main cause for air pollution in Ulaanbaatar where individual households cannot afford to connect to the city’s power grid. Improving access to services would help to upgrade these areas. Creating service hubs and promoting increased population density whilst simultaneously making services more affordable will improve the quality of life.

P-2

Ger-areas in district-subcenter of Byankhoshu

 

In order to address these issues the Municipality of Ulaanbaatar (MUB) has requested the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to plan and finance a service and infrastructure provision strategy. This strategy is intended to increase population density and provide public utilities for the two ger district sub-centers of Byankhoshuu and Selbe.  It is hoped that a flow-on effect will be seen on service provision to the surrounding slums that continue to grow.

 

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Lack of access to infrastructure and services are remarkable in Ger-areas in Selbe sub-district

 

A major cause of the growth of slums in Ulaanbaatar is immigration to the city related to dzud – a concurrent natural disaster characterized by summer drought followed by particularly harsh winter with extremely low temperatures and heavy snow. The 2010 dzud affected an estimated 769,106 people (28% of total population) and has resulted in 8.4 million livestock deaths. Many were forced to move to the capital. Other factors include high poverty levels in rural areas, the inexperience of local institutions in dealing with urban issues, natural population growth and the Free Mobility Law. This law, approved by the Supreme Court in 2003, grants every Mongolian the right to freely own a plot of land in the capital.

P-4

Formation of slums in the peri-urban areas of the city

 

However, there is reason to be optimistic about the potential success of the program. The political will exists, Ger-residents have expressed interest and there are business opportunities for the private sector at a time when the country is experiencing strong economic growth.

The challenges lie in how to implement the program, in particular how slum dwellers will participate in the development strategies. A balance needs to be sought between any benefits and costs of such a program.

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Despite construction industry is booming, building season is just five months in a year due to the harsh winter

 

One option is for residents to pay directly for their connections. This way they need only sacrifice a section of land for road and infrastructure developments of their individual sub-district. However, the monetary cost of such a method would be high, and it would be unlikely to be financially viable for residents. Each heating technical room costs between 15 to 25 Million MNT ($17K USD). A variant of this option is for neighborhood residents to group together to build townhouses and share the costs of connections, but this adds the challenge of financing the construction of the buildings.

 

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View of one family Khashaa in Selbe

 

An alternative is a land trading process, whereby residents trade a portion of their land to the private sector in exchange for financing of connection costs. The private sector will therefore redevelop the land – building residential or mix-use buildings to be sold on the open market.  However, implementation would be a complicated, long process, and might prove unattractive to the private sector and residents. Success would depend on how much land needs to be sacrificed for low to middle density residential construction.

A third option is community land pooling, where neighborhoods from 10 to 20 Khashaas give up the land owned in its entirety to be redeveloped into multi-use compounds including residential, commercial and social service facilities. The private sector would compensate landowners with a “purchasing credit” that can be used to buy an apartment in the new redeveloped area. This alternative is risky because it puts residents at a disadvantage by making them dependent on the private sector. The main advantage lies in the provision of more land for complete service hubs.

 

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Many Ger-areas have consolidated to more permanent houses but still lack of access to services

 

In any of the alternatives there are several questions that need to be addressed, such as how to work out the compensation system, and how to prevent land speculation and a rise in land prices after infrastructure provision. Gentrification of these areas could further marginalise the city’s poorest residents.

To address all these concerns a Sub-Center Redevelopment Agency (SRA) will be established to implement the investment program  in a fair, stable and efficient manner for both citizens and private sector interests. The SRA will have a key role in the implementation of the program along with MUB and ADB’s partners such as UN-HABITAT, which is currently working on community mapping and consultation to address citizens’ preferences.

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Community consultation in Byankhoshu sub-district

 

In Ulaanbaatar the private sector is ready to push forward with urban development, the national economy is booming due to rich mining resources, and the Mayor, Bat-Uul, has outlined a vision of creating urban corridors on the model of Los Angeles’ Wilshire Boulevard in the middle of the slums. Citizens need to be empowered to participate in the city’s upgrading and redevelopment strategy. Residents stand to gain through improved housing and quality of life, and lives will be saved from the harsh Mongolian winter. Perhaps Rob, my co-passenger from the flight in, would stand to benefit also by making a wiser choice and investing in the community.

Mortgage emulators: pro-poor housing finance innovations (Part 2)

by Matt Nohn, AHI Senior Advisor

 

[Continued from last week’s Part 1.]

 

To answer these questions—and to solve the 5-dimensional puzzle—MHT has put in place the following mechanisms:

 

1.      To screen the loanee’s probability of repayment

 

As this has been done innumerous times I will not describe it here in detail. Notably, MHT also requires two approved guarantors/co-signers.

 

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Loan application form listing identification details, income, wealth status, etc

 

2.      To screen the security of the collateral (part 1),
proofing tenure of the land (and home), as in case of a mortgage.

 

MHT basically checks the history of land, comparing official record in the land registry with informal papers documenting the (never officially recorded) transfer of land. In the best case, the informal transfer document is acknowledged through a lawyer (even if not recorded in the land registry) while the land registry shows the name of the informal seller. In that case, it is proven that the land was not invaded and it will be virtually impossible for the formal owner (who’s name is registered in the land cadaster) to repossess the property.

 

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The sales contract (Kabja Rasid) proofing the informal transaction

 

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7-12-Form documenting the formal possession of land (by the formal owner, not the loanee!)

 

Sometimes MHT needs to go back in time to check if the ancestors of the present formal owner have sold the land to an ancestor of today’s informal owner. If the informal owner is paying property tax (another important indicator for who is responsible for the land) and if landownership is not disputed, MHT considers the land to be at least in adverse possession of the informal owner. In that case, MHT and the credit cooperatives would give green light, as it is virtually impossible that the informal owner would get evicted from the land. (Adverse possession is recognized by India’s civil code.)

 

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Property tax bill

 

On the other hand, if the land were under dispute MHT and the cooperatives would not permit the loan. The decision is marginal if the land was not disputed but formal landownership had changed through multiple channels over time or the informal owner could provide little evidence for peacefully obtaining the land.

 

3.      To screen the security of the collateral (part 2),
eliminating potential conflict with the urban planning regime

 

In order to check whether or not the collateral is potentially in conflict with future development, MHT checks the provisions of urban development plans and town planning schemes. Key information obtained is whether the collateral is affected by future infrastructure development (particularly roads and road widening) and which land use is established. Especially if the determined use is “residential” or “residential with a social purpose” it is virtually impossible that the collateral is negatively affected.

 

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Provisions of the Town Planning Scheme

 

However, the fact that many town planning schemes are not yet finally sanctioned is complicating the approach because their content could still change. MHT considers the likelihood of such an event by checking how far the town planning scheme process has advanced. As soon as the scheme has a final draft status, it is considered very safe. Changes negatively affecting people living in the area are hardly possible.

 

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Status of the Town Planning Scheme (TPS): the more the process has progressed, the higher the

security of provided information

 

4.      To establish contractual proceedings that, in case of default, allow the lender to take possession of the collateral—even without mortgage.

 

Finally, this is the crucial part in order to “emulate” the mortgage. MHT and the credit cooperatives let the loanee sign an advanced power of possession. The document is signed with presence of and certified by a notary. The effect of the advanced power of attorney is simple: basically it states that the lender is allowed to sign any transfer on behalf of the loanee. Thus, in case of default, the lender is able to transfer the property to herself. (Of course, this document is signed before loan closure and before construction starts.)

 

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Advanced Power of Attorney

 

5.      To screen the security of the collateral (part 3),
proofing the physical qualities of the collateral

 

To check the structural safety of the house (and to also proof that the money is invested into the collateral) MHT sends an engineer on site to document the construction progress in at least 4 steps. Each step is documented and only after successful completion the respective installment of the loan is disbursed.

 

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Technical checks are documented with photos and brief reports by the responsible engineer. Here the report at the plinth level and photos at the slab level

 

Finally, after all checks have been passed successfully MHT and the credit cooperatives place a hypothecation board at the new home.

 

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Just as lenders in the formal market do, MHT and the credit cooperatives use a hypothecation tablet in order to demonstrate their achievements and to advertise their product.

 

Then the loanee and her family can move into their new home.

 

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Shakuntalaben and her family in front of their new home financed by Surat Mahila Cooperative Mandali’s innovative loan

 

 

MHT’s achievements are significant. We estimate that the market niche (if “niche” is still appropriate) that could be served with such mortgage emulators may be of over 1 trillion Indian rupees (or approximately USD 200 billion). However, to serve that market lenders need to understand the intricacies of the land management and urban planning regimes. MHT originated as a technical, rather than a financial organization and, therefore, displays of this knowledge.

 

The intent of our study is to share this knowledge and enable others to copy MHT’s approach. You can read the full story here. If you need anything else please do not hesitate to contact us at AHI and/or MHT.

 

Matt Nohn, AHI Senior Advisor

February 11, 2013