Social Production of Habitat: a Sustainable Alternative for the Development of Human Settlements?

Research Reasons

Even though the demographic trend in Latin American cities ranges from moderate growth to actual decrease, the formation of new households together with the demand for housing is steadily increasing. As formal urban markets do not sufficiently respond to these needs, an increased quantitative and qualitative housing deficit can be observed.

Today the informal housing and land market provides shelter opportunities for up to 60% of the population in many cities across the continent. Local and national governments try to cope with this situation through improved legislation in regard to land tenure and slum upgrading. Nevertheless most of these efforts – with some few and notable exceptions – do not respond to the annual growth in demand for decent shelter – and much less to the accumulated deficit.

In this context the guided support of the processes of Social Production of Habitat appears as a new essential approach to urban poverty within the framework of public policies on local /federal / national level. This new policy approach is holding the promise of broader perspectives to engage inhabitants into modalities of urban governance and improve the overall perception of democracy and public institutions.

Research Hypothesis

Is it possible to scale up Social Production of Habitat to public policy as a means for cost-efficient sustainable development of human settlements?

This research acknowledges the enormous contributions made by solidarity based actions to the improvement of peoples livelihood’s in form of physical, social, economical and cultural accomplishments in informal settlements all over Latin America.

Through a critical analysis of lessons learned and difficulties faced by these mostly small/medium size cases, the research aims to identify potentials and limitations in reproducing SPH in large scale policy and strategy at city or national level.

Fields of Relevance and Key Elements

Looking at SPH´s potentials and capacities four main fields of relevance to human development within the use of the SPH-approach can be pointed out, and fundamental key elements of providing social and physical Habitat can be allocated within these four fields of relevance:

  • The provision of shelter and physical Habitat is described by the key elements of “Satisfaction of individual and collective needs” regarding the implementation of all forms of individual and collective services.

  • The key elements of “Local Capacity Development and Political Empowerment” and “Democratic Political Participation” are grouped within the field of responsible citizenship and refer on the one hand to all actions taken for community strengthening or government enablement and on the other to all forms of community participation and management.

  • The field of productive environment is characterized by the two key elements “Local Skills Development and Economic Empowerment” and “Economic Solidarity, Affordability, and Feasibility”, one looking at the facilitation of flow and diffusion of information and knowledge and the other at the strengthening of the productive environment by the sustainable use of accessible resources.

  • “Environmental Responsibility and Awareness” and “Financial and Operational Sustainability” constitute two significant key elements in the field of sustainable urban development pointing at ecological capacity building and the sustainable management and operation of SPH initiatives.

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Source: ROLAC UN Nations