Community slum mapping — a housing solution?

Gemma Todd, Dar es Salaam Community Manager
Dar es Salaam, 16 July 2014

Across developing cities, we are presented with a picture of a housing shortage. In Tanzania, there is a 3 million-unit housing deficit, with an annual demand of 200,000 houses a year. What does this mean for Dar es Salaam, as statistics suggest a rising urban population?

A variety of strategies have been used across Dar es Salaam over time. Since the 1960s evictions have remained frequent. They articulate an attempt to gentrify urban space and build new houses. The 2006-7 Chamazi evictions are an example whereby 30,000 people were at risk of displacement, with a minority receiving compensation. In the 1970s policy shifted focus to 'site and service' methods, upgrading houses in-situ, a la- John Turner. Turner's thinking argued that effective housing requires a bottom-up approach; the poor need freedom to build. Tanzania's National Strategic Urban Planning Framework (1999) focused on upgrading un-serviced dwellings, with the Hanna Nassif Upgrading Project a product of such shifts. Today, the concern is on creating an enabling finance system through partnerships. Housing provision in Dar es Salaam is increasingly working with private funders to build new homes in designated areas, but also creating policies that provide the poor access to finance to buy into property markets. Fifty thousand houses are to be built by Watumishi Housing Company, made available to public servants at low-interest mortgage rates.

However, with new solutions we need to make distinctions between 'homes' and 'houses'. Are previous approaches creating homes for living; are new designs of quality? Questions are required as to whether the housing 'problem' and policy in Dar es Salaam is one of a lack of supply or recognition.

This piece focuses on these distinctions in Dar es Salaam, and an alternative solution introduced to resolve housing shortages — community slum mapping. Sixty-six percent of Tanzania's urban population lives in slums — characterised by a lack of services and security. Slum mapping raises an innovative solution — informal houses need to be recognised as homes. A strict differentiation is often made between formal-informal settlements, with a lack of the first identified. Therefore are slums a solution, and is including slums in Dar es Salaam formal housing a solution to the poor's exclusion? Within this, what is the role of slum mapping toward resolving the housing deficit and inclusive planning?

Mapping: Shifting towards homes and a picture of need

In Dar es Salaam the Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI) and Tanzania Federation of the Urban Poor use mapping. These organisations have carried out enumerations across the city, and created a city slum profile. The enumerations act as a foundation for inclusive housing policy and provision for the poor. Firstly, the enumeration maps informal settlements, putting informal homes on the map and policy discussions. Secondly, providing insight on the poor's needs — where demand is high, where more houses are required, and where homes are preferred. As a result of enumeration, new housing projects are being implemented, security of tenure provided, and services upgraded in the city. Thirdly, enumeration is a resource for the poor to lobby for their rights and create an inclusive housing system. Enumeration enables a dialogue between service providers and users. Additionally, the profiles built can change perceptions. The term 'slum' derives negative connotations, with the discourse justifying forceful intervention and stigmatisation (see Gilbert, 2007).

Mapping can enable houses to be recognised as homes. Homes cannot be provided without enabling the poor a right to dwell. We cannot look at resolving housing without recognising the bigger picture.

Photo credit: Wayan Vota

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