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Integrated Housing Development Strategy for the Urban Poor A Case Study of Alwar City, India

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Integrated Housing Development Strategy for the Urban Poor A Case Study of Alwar City, India Stuti Lall * Vinay D. Lall Society for Development Studies New Delhi, India January Introduction This
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Integrated Housing Development Strategy for the Urban Poor A Case Study of Alwar City, India Stuti Lall * Vinay D. Lall Society for Development Studies New Delhi, India January Introduction This Paper is the outcome of a series of initiatives by the Society for Development Studies (SDS) for inducting sustainability in livelihood programmes for the poor. The core strategy was developed in the process of integrating housing and income activities in the livelihood programmes of the partner groups in a Project, when external support from development partners would not be available. Sustainability in the improved level of well being and in its growth curve, was one of the critical objectives of SDS initiatives. The process of designing the SDS strategy to sustainable livelihoods commenced in the mid-eighties. Several organizations and agencies have been partners in the development process. These include the National Capital Regional Planning Board, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, who were the first partners, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, State Governments of Rajasthan and Delhi, and the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) and ENVIRON Trust, two UK based NGOs. During the initial period of development experiments, the process was exclusively urban-based and later spread to rural areas, where challenges of livelihood are much more complex due to weak access to knowledge and information, poor connectivity to development process and greater exposure to natural hazards. * Author for correspondence: Dr. Stuti Lall, Professor, Society for Development Studies, India Habitat Center, New Delhi, India. Phone ; Fax: This Paper focuses on the experiments of an action research undertaken by SDS in partnership with the ITDG during 1999 to 2003 in Alwar, a medium sized city ( 300,000 population) in the State of Rajasthan, located in the northern part of India. The size of the project constituency was 300 households. The integrated housing and income generation programmes of Alwar was built on the foundation of earlier SDS policy research studies in the same project city. The lessons learnt from SDS-ITDG partnership refined the approach further and the theme was extended to the neighbouring rural areas in Alwar and some other district. It was also adopted in a municipal ward of the project city, where shelter related activities and income generation process was used in developing a community led solid waste management programme, that is now being considered for emulation in other cities as well. The conceptual strands of the integrated approach were derived from the experiences of single component strategies of both poverty reduction and low income housing experiences in India and elsewhere that invariably had proved of limited value. One of the key objectives of the action research was to induct sustainability in the wellbeing status of the poor at the post-project period and institutionalize the process of attaining it. The term integrated has been used with different connotations. In this Paper, it is used in the context of urban poverty reduction strategy and conveys a strategic planning approach that combines critical interventions for poverty reduction in logical sequences. 2. Research Hypothesis The research hypothesis of this paper is that increase in the incomes of the urban poor generate significant investment in housing. The Action Research Project in Alwar sought to test the efficacy of linking shelter provision with income generating activities, for obtaining tangible benefits of improved incomes and an indicator of the process of sustainability being installed at the level of the household. 2 a. Challenges of Urbanization in India The significant issue in the case of Indian urbanization is the size of its urban constituency. India emerges as one of the largest urban systems in the world, in spite of its low coverage (28.6 per cent) and slow growth rate (2.0 per cent per year between 1991 and 2001). The addition in urban population between 1991 and 2001 would be higher than the total population of many European countries. The greatest challenge for the urban mangers in India is to provide decent employment and accepted quality of shelters to the growing sections of the population, clustered in major urban centers in India. The inadequate responses to these requirements, as in many other countries, have led to views on urbanization of poverty and recognition of the city within city syndrome, manifested in the low quality of life in the slum habitats. In fact, shelter issues of the urban poor have attracted more attention of urban experts than the income issues, partly due to the eye sore visibility of the sub-standard built form that had led some urban researchers to view the future of low urbanization as rurbanisation. To a large extent, the focus on housing and negligence of employment and sustainability concerns may be due to management of urban areas by technical professionals. After all, human settlements are not just an issue of housing. Social and economic issues are as important, if not more crucial than the physical structure known as housing. Public sector interventions in housing for the poor in India and other parts of the world have not been encouraging. The low affordability of the poor has emerged as a negative factor in holding on to their ownership of subsidized shelters. The large-scale transfer of ownership to the non-targeted groups resulted in sliding back of the beneficiaries to the original shelter status and proliferation of low quality habitats in the urban areas are well documented. Recognising the unsustainable strategy of housing solutions for the poor, the UNCHS in 1992 indicated the imperatives of encouraging employment generation along with housing development in its Global Shelter Strategies. Since then, there has been considerable debate and experimentation with the concept of integrated housing. SDS 3 had recognized the need for integration half a decade before this awakening and had pointed out the un-sustainability of income generation within the housing sector. SDS clearly pronounced the integration strategies for housing and income generation in a seminal research on Informal Sector in Alwar city (the Project City) for sustainable poverty reduction.. The argument was that in the developing world, housing activities by themselves could not sustain income generation on a continuous basis. Income generation activity for any specific group of poor has to be independent of housing sector. In the absence of this approach to integration, SDS held the view that there was every possibility that slum improvement or cities without slum programme of recent years, would land up improving the urban built form but may not be of much help to the actual poor. The second challenge of urbanization, thus emanates from the low affordability status of the people and the issue is how to transform the urban areas into dynamic growth centers with large scale employment and income earning opportunities that would be reflected in the urban built form as well. The enabling role of the government in the nineties was expected to reduce the critical roadblocks to housing of the people s initiatives. The concern of this Paper veers around this issue. The Paper analyses the results of the action research Project on Integrated Urban Housing Development (IUHD) that tested the hypothesis that improved affordability of the poor through income augmentation would lead to improved asset creation, especially housing, as it serves both as a consumption and investment asset and can be used in a complementary fashion. b. Approaches to Urban Poverty: Sustainable Livelihood The development strategy of IUHD Project was Sustainable Livelihood (SL) which ITDG has been promoting for some years, both as a poverty reduction strategy and as a framework for analyzing the outcomes of this approach. It is a people-based approach for poverty reduction of the urban poor and in the context of Alwar city, the traditional artisans of the city were inducted as partners of the Project. The significance 4 of this approach is that it strives to improve the capability spectrum of the poor within the given socio-economic and institutional framework and personal assets of the people and not seek to introduce a new system. The facilitation process was primarily an approach of self-sustained development within the given framework. In this sense, sustainable livelihood is basically a strategy for management of existing resources within the given socio-political and institutional frameworks and without creating additional demand on development resources. The result of this strategy, when applied at the household level, is unlikely to have development possibility beyond a limited scale, even though it may lead to freedom from the poverty trap. With its application at the community level, the development trajectory should shift to much higher level as the SL strategy works in a larger context, with a larger pool of resources, both human capital and others. Community participation (CP) is the key development instrument for this strategy and can lead to long-term sustainable livelihood. The significance of CP lies in its collective voice strength to extend the impact beyond the community level and making its presence visible at the policy framing level, where replacement of the existing asset-based approach by a needbased approach is more acceptable. ITDG adopted the SL approach for the development of the IUHPs in India and Kenya. The evaluation of these projects however reveals that the adoption of this approach in the design and implementation of these two projects has been limited, as it was difficult to the interventions to the limited resources available at the community level. In Alwar, the SL program was based on a comprehensive needs assessment by the community on facilities they lacked and not only what they had. As a consequence, the programme strategy on filling in key gaps was based not only on existing resources (as in standard SL programs) but was geared up to meet higher development potential of the communities (unfilled gaps). At the same time, the time frame and expected outputs from the project were kept as previously scheduled. This ensured that the door was kept open for sustainable livelihood at a higher level of well-being in the future. 5 Community participation was the cornerstone of the sustainable livelihood strategy. It was used as a development instrument and as a change agent that would inculcate the spirit of joint ownership among the participants for sustainable survival. This approach however should not be considered as the first choice. In fact community participation for the provision of services may be considered as the last alternative for people with limited assets and voice. City governments often do not have the capacity, know-how and fiscal resources to provide adequate services to newcomers while addressing the existing backlog in under-serviced areas. Public provision is therefore not always efficient and affordable, and sometimes does not consider the needs of individual communities. Private service provision is an option in some instances. For example, water supply by tanker truck or garbage collection is efficiently provided by private contractors in some communities. However, the opportunities for cost recovery are often limited, especially in poorer communities. Consequently, private contractors have limited incentives to provide basic services. In situations where government is unable and markets are unwilling to provide basic services, community based efforts may be able to fill the gap. SDS cultivated the spirit of community participation among project participants with the specific objectives of raising their voice and making their presence visible in the planning and policy framework. c. Alwar The Testing Ground & Rationale for its Selection The testing ground of the joint project of SDS-ITDG was Alwar, a city of 300,000 and located 160 km. south of Delhi in the State of Rajasthan. Figure 1 shows the location of Alwar city within the district. The choice of this urban center was influenced by a number of logistic and research considerations. Apart from the evident convenience of proximity of Alwar to Delhi, the other important factor favouring the choice was location of Alwar in the decongestion strategy for Delhi adopted by National Capital Region Planning Board of the Government of India. The city was also easily accessible from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, two adjoining states to Rajasthan and connected with three State highways. Alwar was planned as a counter magnet for potential migrants to Delhi 6 and the challenge was to transform the city into a dynamic urban growth center, which is a critical problem of secondary city/urban centers. The tenure status of the urban poor was an important consideration in the selection of Alwar city. Like many other smaller cities in India, the poor in urban Alwar lived mostly in. houses that were built on legal land some fifty years ago or even earlier by their forefathers. In this sense, the houses were legally titled. It is a different issue that these houses now have multiple owners or are affected in the process of decay, conversion and sub-division of structures. This feature of the city also avoided the inevitable bottleneck of illegal status of squatter housing, faced in the process of shelter upgrading. The completion period of the Project was also too short (three and half years) and the constituency too small to introduce changes in the tenure status and improve the housing conditions. The SPARC in Mumbai, with its large constituency and organized efforts of Mahila Milan took over a decade to lobby for housing rights of street dwellers and overcome this problem, before the process of upgrading of the shelter of the poor had started. Figure 1: Location of Alwar city Most important among the factors, was the familiarity of SDS researchers with the Alwar economy. SDS as a part of its policy research, and also on behalf of the National Capital Region (NCR) Planning Board, had undertaken a series of micro level studies in 7 the early nineties. These studies assessed the growth process of Alwar (as it is a part of the NCR) and found that it was not likely to be sustainable for large-scale industries. Absence of a natural resource base, proximity to the capital cities and connectivity were identified as the determining factors. 1 While absence of natural resources did not stimulate large industrial development, proximity to capital cities meant that industries could locate in large cities and serve secondary markets more efficiently from there. The studies also identified growth avenues in informal sector activities that take advantage of the traditional skill base of the local people, which has developed over generations. SDS identified a few economic activities, mostly handicrafts and few light engineering goods for development. The development strategy was worked out after an in-depth assessment of the existing pattern of operations of households engaged in these activities, their development prospects and constraints, based on self-assessed evaluation of their requirement in the growth process. The basic concern was to promote value added components in existing economic activities, thereby raising productivity, incomes, and the prospects of improvements in the shelter. SDS assessment brought out this approach to be the most appropriate route to alleviate poverty on a sustainable basis rather than provision of subsidized inputs and grants. Taking this strategy to its logical conclusion, SDS policy research outputs on informal sector, poverty alleviation and housing for the poor came to the conclusion that an integrated housing and economic development approach would be the most effective and sustainable route to empowerment of the poor.. d. New Dimensions of Urban Poverty The characteristics and dynamics of urban poverty in a secondary city like Alwar are different from those of mega and metro cities in the country. The majority of the local population is employed in traditional economic activities, handed down through generations and carried out as a way of life rather than economic activities involving 1 As Alwar is quite close to Delhi, it becomes easier for firms to locate in Delhi and serve Alwar s markets without physically locating production facilities in the secondary city. Improvements in transport further reduce Alwar s industrial performance as previously uncompetitive firms now with added competition cannot keep up with more productive firms in the largest cities. 8 entrepreneurship. To an extent, this attitude is due to their housing situation, where most households have their own dwelling unit and did not make them vulnerable to tenure insecurity, as is usually the case with migrants in mega/metro cities. In smaller cities, poverty is primarily due to inadequate employment opportunities from the over supply of labour in the context of the local economy. This has led to stiff competition for capturing limited market demand resulting in further lowering incomes. More critical from the standpoint of the local economy is the large scale sliding of many micro entrepreneurs to manual labour status and the prominent presence of middlemen who dramatically reduce the profit margin of local entrepreneurs. In fact, SDS estimates suggest that profits to entrepreneurs decrease by 50% when a middleman is involved in marketing activities. The plight of women in this situation is worse than in larger cities. The economic reality of poverty forces women to look for income generating opportunities. However, they do not have the requisite skills. The strong social stigma in smaller cities often does not allow women to join the open labor market. The outcome is that a large section of women became home-based labor and easy prey of middlemen s economic tyranny. 3. Alwar Integrated Urban Housing Project a. Origin of Project Concept, Components and Strategies The idea of the IUHP action research project was developed at a UNCHS/UNDP Seminar on Poverty Reduction in Florence in 1997 where we made a presentation on multi-faceted strategies for addressing the challenges of urban poverty. 2 The SDS model of integrated shelter and income programmes for sustainable poverty alleviation initiatives was brought out with case studies of slum settlements in Delhi. The case studies clearly brought out the inherent weakness of a stand-alone housing programme viz a viz the success of linking shelter development with an income generation programme. An exclusive income generation programme suffers from the lack of a stable habitat, resulting in lack of motivation to save and leads to expenditures on current consumption. Figure 2 depicts the analytical scenario of an exclusive housing and 2 Lall, Vinay D & Stuti Lall, 1997, Shelter and Employment in Informal Cities Indian Experiences, Paper presented at International Forum on Urban Poverty Practical Approaches to Urban Poverty Reduction, Florence, UNDP/UNCHS 9 exclusive income generation programme, along with the components and the process of an integrated approach towards sustainable development. This model attracted the attention of the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG), and the IUHP strategies were framed and implemented in Alwar in Rajasthan and Nakuru in Kenya. The programme was financed by the Department for International Development (DFID), Government of the United Kingdom under its KAR component. Figure 2: Integrated Approach to Sustainable Development SDS Integrated Approach Strategy -Coordination, Convergence & Leveraging (CCL Model) -Community Ownership & Partnership -Changing mindset breaking the subsidy syndrome Delivery Mechanism - Self-help groups Development of i
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