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Planning for a more inclusive city

Mumbai, 10 July 2014 — What would an alternative future for Mumbai look like? For the first time in India's economic capital — and perhaps in the country — the people themselves have drafted a vision for their city. Standing in opposition to the current trajectory, the People's Vision turns top-down planning on its head. See more.

Community mobilising in the face of a housing crisis

Lilongwe, 9 July 2014—With a growth rate of 4.3 percent per annum, Lilongwe needs an average of 10,000 new dwellings per year to cope with demand, none of which are forthcoming. To improve the situation, local NGO CCODE works with the poor, helping them to develop their own solutions to address the housing crisis. See more.

The awkward terrains of post-apartheid housing

Johannesburg, 8 July 2014—After two decades of democracy, the post-apartheid housing landscape in South Africa still reveals physical and social environments created within the compromised space of the inheritances of apartheid capitalism. This demands either a timely revisit of the pragmatic compromises on neoliberal terms initially made for South African democratization to work, or a higher order of involvement of institutions whose priority is the public good or, in the very least, they prompt reflection—not rhetoric—on the kind of post-apartheid society and spaces that are actually being shaped. See more.

Rental markets — a new housing solution?

Discussion on urbanisation across the Global South is often synthesised with images of slums and the growing problem of informal housing. There is a housing crisis in urban Africa, and research is focusing on understanding where urban dwellers dwell. Estimates suggest around 70 percent of urban Africa live in slums; an increasing, invisible homeless population, and limited land governance – with only 85 land surveyors practicing in Kenya. Within such statistics are a rising number of urban renters. The rental market remains an important source of habitation, however, has been given minimal attention within development policy and practice as the discourse focuses on ownership. Read more.

Innovations in incremental housing finance take hold despite an adverse policy environment

"Housing for All" in India focusing on the poor will remain a key electoral mandate for successive government irrespective of party affiliations. The only expectation with the upcoming national elections in India later this year 2014 is for a change in policy perspective to truly facilitate housing for the poor. There are workable and scalable housing solutions abound and the policy makers need only look at field practices to design policy that is flexible and accommodates these innovations rather than stifling them. Read more.

"Let them own their own homes!" — the Lagos housing challenge

I've written a fair bit about the housing problem in Lagos. A city of anything between 15 and 18 million persons, with a 48.6% poverty rate (2012), and an acute shortage of low-cost housing. There's of course no shortage of luxury housing. Victoria Island and Ikoyi are home to hundreds of empty luxury apartments; priced out of reach of all but the insanely wealthy. IT entrepreneur Jason Njoku has got an interesting post on the economics of housing prices in Lagos. Two years ago I wrote extensively on the Eko Atlantic City project being spearheaded by the state government, adding 9 square kilometers of reclaimed luxury territory ("the Manhattan of West Africa") to Lagos' Victoria Island. Any news of progress in terms of access to (relatively) low-cost housing is therefore much welcome. Which leads me to the focus of today's post. Read more.

The risk of bundling the 65 million that live in 'slums' in India

Slums in the census are defined as "residential areas where dwellings are unfit for human habitation" because they are dilapidated, cramped, poorly ventilated, unclean, or "any combination of these factors which are detrimental to the safety and health". For the latest round, the census designated slums in three different ways - notified, recognized and identified (identified slums do not have legal status as a slum, but must consist of at least 60-70 tenements with at least 300 people). Read more.

Bridging the skill gap: India's urban workforce

Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, speaking during India's 66th independence day, admitted that the government has not done enough on skill building for India's youth and announced the setting up of a national skill development agency (NSDA). Read more.

The gamble of land: Russians in Africa

When talking about foreign investment in Africa, China springs to mind first. Chinese malls, Chinese highways, Chinese bridges. But Chinese housing? Not so much. Because like so many other investors, the Chinese failed to link the target market with the much-needed quality social housing. On a continent where mortgage markets barely exceed 5% of GDP (compare that with 40% of GDP in North America and a whopping 80% in Denmark!), owning a house is merely a dream for most — a pretty far-off dream. Read more.

Partnerships key for equity in Transit Oriented Development

The term Private Public Partnerships (PPP) in India is a dirty one. While partnerships present an opportunity for stakeholder collaboration that generate value by pooling of complementary expertise and resources, the practice in India has meant subcontracting of tasks and strategy by public sector to the private sector with little accountability or responsibilities on outcomes. The only driver of the partnership has been project finance and profits. This has been especially true in housing or slum redevelopment schemes from Dharavi in Mumbai to Katputali colony in Delhi driven by PPPs between city governments and large private developers. Maximizing the value of land while delivering maximum number of low-income housing are contradictory and misleading national policy objectives with fatal social outcomes. Read more.