From Eviction to Housing

By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI Secretariat 

Forced eviction is one of the most disempowering experiences that slum dwellers experience at the hands of their government. But when slum communities organize around their own resources and capacities they can turn such an extreme situation on its head. In Dar-es-salaam, a community evicted from the city’s valuable sea port land in the ward of Kurasini, is doing just that.

In 2007, the Tanzanian government decided to evict 30,000 people living close to the port, in order to begin a lucrative expansion of the port infrastructure. Tanzanian law requires that the government provide compensation to those affected by any relocation. But in the case of those living near the port, three quarters of the residents were tenants, and were therefore not eligible for the compensation being offered by the donors paying for the port expansion.

With the support of the Center for Community Initiatives (CCI) Tanzania, the community undertook an enumeration so that everyone could be counted, structure owners and tenants alike. This allowed for the community to advocate to government that tenants be provided with some kind of compensation. If not financial, then it could be the provision of alternative land.

According to Tim Ndezi, director of CCI Tanzania, the Millenium Development Goals referring to the need to improve the lives of urban slum dwellers were a particularly useful rhetorical tool in dealing with the government.

With space opened at the formal political level, the community began to take matters into its own hands. “We mobilized communities organized through savings to buy land,” says Ndezi. The community bought 30 acres at a price of approximately US$800 per acre.

Shack Dwellers International (SDI) helped facilitate an exchange for community members and John Chiligati, the minister of land, housing, and human settlements, to affiliate federations in India and Thailand. The trip built momentum for a people-centered process at the site where the community had purchased land, called Chamazi. After the exchange, Chiligati offered this ministry’s technical support for land surveying, layout planning, and housing design.

At that point, “we were interested to begin construction, but where was the funding,” Ndezi recalls. The community and CCI Tanzania initially approached UN-Habitat’s Slum Upgrading Facility (SUF), but the proposed funding model was not appropriate for the Federation.

The community created a Muungano housing cooperative and accessed US$100,000 from SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI) to act as a guarantee to leverage further funds. Now the community has 28 houses at different levels of completion, with a planned 100 houses for this stage of the project. By late July or early August those relocated from Kurasini will begin living in their new houses in Chamazi.

Community members themselves are doing the construction, and the project management team has an equal number of men and women. Though some people have continued to build informal dwellings on the land, the community has used its own surveying and enumeration activities to manage the situation. The Municipality has learned from the surveying and planning techniques, and the Ministry has also helped with providing technical equipment for such activities.

The experience has changed the way government thinks about relocation and development in Tanzania, says Ndezi: “The minister was excited and said that the Federation is teaching government for the next time we think about relocation.”


DIY lessons for South African Slum Dwellers

By Louise Cobbett, SDI Secretariat 

In Huruma, one of the many slums in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi, six savings schemes work with the Akiba Mashinani Trust. These residents are part of an ambitious community led housing project. A group from South Africa’s Informal Settlement Network went to visit the project in early July to learn from their experiences.

The Huruma residents’ first step was to look at the land they were sitting on and form an advocacy team in order to negotiate with the landowner. The process took three years before they could an agreement with the landowners. The agreement was applicable for all 6 settlements, and they have signed a MOU with the Nairobi City Council.

The residents of the Kambi Moto neighborhood in Huruma retained leadership of the project even during a highly technical phase of building design when they ‘dreamed up their houses’. The houses were built based on the plans that emerged: semi-detached multi-storey structures, with the possibility for incremental additions upwards.

At first, the community appeared to be particularly unprepared to begin construction. For a long time, residents focused on the theoretical challenges that could come from the housing project. The found that once they started to build, a lot of the questions were answered and it proved to be the catalytic process for the federation. Membership to the savings schemes also increased with the tangible signs of progress within the settlement. The planned number of houses within Kambi Moto is 270.

Quite often when development happens without the community’s direct input, the houses do not make sense for the community in terms of its ability to pay and willingness to use the structures. The residents of Huruma were able to avoid those problems by building incrementally. Each structure, which can reach up to four floors, costs about $2,000.

The community is required to provide the manual labour, which drastically cuts the cost of the structures. They begin with starter houses, which is a ground floor structure consisting of a living area and a kitchen. The second level is a bedroom and a shower/Indian-style toilet. Because of limited space, they have made the effective use of what does exist by using the roof as a place to hang washing or keep chickens. After the family has saved enough, it begins construction on the third and fourth levels. Ultimately, it means that if the family, for whatever reason, does not complete the later levels; the house does not feel incomplete.

One of the most significant lessons to come from the exchange concerned architecture’s role in the process. By having the communities discuss their dream houses, it created a space in which the community were a part of a relatively technical process, and architects could work with the community to articulate the community’s desires fro the development.

The aim of these designs is to build as part of the city, rather than to look at it in isolation. The buildings become a manifestation of the slum dweller’s contribution to the city, solidifying their presence. And these tested community initiatives can serve as the basis for reorganizing cities, as the aim is not to simply construct houses, but to build the community and networks.