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Above: Dharavi redevelopment collage, source: internet

For this point I want to reference you to an article written by Yue Zhang, current fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and Assistance Professor of Political Science in the University of Illinois at Chicago.

I saw a short presentation Miss Zhang gave at the Woodrow Wilson Center on her research and findings, after doing a comparative analysis in informal housing and urban governance in China, India, and Brazil, and thought thus, thought I would share some of her writings, particularly bringing for the  political science perspective to the matter.

To begin, I wanted to reference you the case study of Mumbai, looking at current “slum redevelopment” model. Click here to check out the article: Building a Slum-Free Mumbai

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Slum redevelopment buildings, source: internet

In concluding her article, Yue Zhang highlights some initial challenges and policy recommendations with the Mumbai model, which I would like to reiterate here and expand on further down. As for the challenges/problems (I am paraphrasing or copy-pasting and thus will use quotes):

  • “Although  slum dwellers have the freedom to choose which developer to work with, it often leads to fights between developers, as they all have the desire to redevelop profitable areas.
  • The current model does not provide specific standards on the quality of rehabilitation buildings.
  • Because of the cut-off date for eligibility of rehabilitation, the ineligible population is left with no option but to stay in unauthorized manner in slums.
  • The current model provides free housing to slum dwellers, and the compensation to the latter arrises from the cost of rehabilitation on the market price units. The model does not encourage the construction of housing at various price levels and ultimately leads to the increase of housing prices on the formal market.”

In terms of policy recommendation, Zhang encourages:

  • “SRA should act as a planner, facilitator, and anchor, not merely as an approving authority.
  • The government should more systematically create housing stock for low- and middle-income groups.
  • Under the current regressive rent control law, 0.318 million (16%) of the total 1.935 million houses in Mumbai are unoccupied. The government must create an enabling environment to revitalize the Mumbai rental market, both private and public. “
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Mumbai, slums + redevelopment,; source: internet

It is interesting to read these recommendations as they are looking at improving the current system rather than challenging it from its roots… Following are some of my initial reactions/ questions:

> How does this type of solution actually improve lives of dwellers and not simply recreate vertical slums? Is it not solely covering and potentially displacing the ‘problem’?

> How integrated are these programs? Beyond the physical, what about the socio-cultural, economical  and access to employment opportunities, as well as the political (local governance, local representation, etc.)?

> How responsive is the model of housing to the current practices and needs of the residents? I keep going back at some of the examples I have seen in Latin America where families in dense informal settlements where families have relocated to a 5th floor with their pig and chickens as these are their livelihoods… Also, looking at the majority of informal housing and their incremental nature, I am back to my initial question here- is this model of rehousing really tackling the issue at its core and responsive to the needs of the population?

> What about tenure aspects? Are residents given full ownership/Title for the properties? Are other models and types considered? What about rental? I say this both in terms of the design and tenure aspects…

> How is the government currently addressing current gentrification aspects? Are there existing policies around the latter? Granted Yue did point this out as a challenge.

> Though the residents select the developer, are they involved in part of the design process? If units are solely given out for free, what are some of the alternatives to allow some appropriation and investment- symbolic or otherwise-of the user and step away form creating a dependency cycle?

> What about maintenance and operations of these buildings and units? If we are talking about flushing toilets for example, can residents afford the amount of water needed?

> What about relocation or alternatives for families – not only those left out of the program, but are there alternatives to relocated beyond the in-situ redevelopment? As mentioned in Yue’s article, we cannot generalize a very heterogeneous population living in the slums, which includes some ‘middle class’ families….

> What are some of the complimentary policy/programs in areas that may not be that valuable to developers, where there are still large slums and vulnerable populations living?

> How do the results of these  density bonuses and other additive incentives to developments actually align to a general master plan/development plan for the city so to not create a very fragmented urban fabric and unhuman scales, etc.  Is there such a vision/plan for the city aside from ‘getting rid of the slums’, or is there a washing hands of any responsibility for the end result because the “cancer” is now gone (at least in the exterior)…

> How do costs in development compare to traditional rehabilitation costs improving infrastructure, public space and basic services and attempting to support families through technical assistance, incentives and other programs/funding for the rehabilitation of their own housing? We can see this is a means for including the private sector and for the government to not have to directly deal with slum upgrading/rehabilitation but interesting to compare…

I will stop there but would love for your to comment or continue these questions, if you know of additional information, can answer some of these or have additional reactions.

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