Slum upgrading sometimes works!

Upgrading slums to become decent neighborhoods is a task that is generally considered impossible.  However, an EcoSouth expert visited an area in Nairobi where apparently there has been success. It is clear that the system cannot be easily copied, but at least it shows possible paths. It is said that Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is the city with most slums in the world, 55% of the population of 2,200,000 lives in these areas.

 

Upgrading slums to become decent neighborhoods is a task that is generally considered impossible.  However, when an EcoSouth expert visited an area in Nairobi where apparently there has been success. It is clear that the system cannot be easily copies, but at least it shows possible paths.

Image

It is said that Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is the city with most slums in the world, 55% of the population of 2,200,000 lives in these areas. The situation in the slums is especially conflictive, because a large portion of the land is private property and the inhabitants pay monthly rent to live there. Many pay for the plot, but others pay for their shelter, structures from huts of cardboard and tin to precarious three- and four-storey buildings. As there are various vested interests connected with the slums it is virtually impossible to think of solutions.

ImageWhenever an initiative develops, an opposition forms, whether from the tenants, the owners of small plots, or the large land owners. Violence forms an integral part of this opposition, whether self-defense on the part of the inhabitants or bands financed by the land owners. It should be understood that within these areas there exists an extensive social network and many people do not want to leave, but usually it is because they cannot afford other options. Of course there are also those elements that prefer the slums, as where there is no police control, the level of criminality and drug addiction is high.

The National Housing Corporation (NHC) has been entrusted with a mandate to resolve the housing deficit and to build houses, and 14 years ago it attempted a creative action in one of these areas. For the “experiment” they chose an area with a relatively simple property structure: the majority of the plots and huts are the property of the families that live there.

They built four-storey blocks of flats, with 8 or 16 apartments each. Each apartments has an entrance hall from which  one enters three bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and separate toilet. The families can rent one of the rooms of the apartment and with the rent pay their mortgage. There are even families that rent a second room in order to improve their income. In this manner the new apartment becomes an auto-financed investment, and no one suffers from financial burdens.

Thanks to this innovative concept, the majority of the families agree to hand over their plots and precarious structure and move to an apartment. The great surprise is that even after 14 years, the buildings appear in good condition and the area is clean, and the cultural level has increased substantially. Presently the NHC is building more flats in a second stage. There are the 14-year-old buildings, together with huts and works in construction within the same area, giving witness that it is possible to convert slums into decent living spaces.

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You are here: Home Past editions Edition # 8, November 2004 Slum upgrading sometimes works!

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