R’Mel and Marins-Pecheurs integrated projects in Agadir’s Inezgane commune


Best Local Practice in Agadic, Maroc


Agadir, one of the largest cities in Morocco, has a serious problem of substandard housing, particularly shantytowns (bidonvilles). The city was devastated by an earthquake in 1960. Government efforts to rebuild the city’s infrastructure (important port, canning and tourism industries) were not effective in promoting decent housing for the poor in the face of rapid population increase (nearly twice the national average) and limited resources. By 1992 the metropolitan area counted 77 separate shanty areas with some 12,500 households. Census estimates are that bidonvilles house over 13% of Agadir’s population. And, in Agadir, unlike most Moroccan cities, many bidonville residents have lived in their shacks for decades – often since the earthquake – and are not easily convinced to move. With new low income neighbourhoods on the periphery which are largely unplanned and underserviced (without public utilities, streets or access to city services), Agadir’s housing problem is daunting.

The first element to be described, R’Mel integrated project in Agadir’s Inezgane commune, deals with an established squatter community. The project was designed by ANHI to improve the living conditions of more than 1,000 lower income households. The project helps members of a shanty community to purchase serviced lots to build permanent housing, and provides basic services (water, sewer, electricity, streets), and the right to legal tenure. The project is designed and implemented with active community participation, and based on self-help principles. Some 25,000 jobs were created annually during the three year period of housing construction. Many micro enterprise jobs are sustained beyond project completion, as the neighbourhood develops, and middle income families move into adjoining house/apartment lots sold for cross-subsidy purposes.

The project was designed in 1988, as one of ANHI’s first activities in Agadir. R’Mel is an established bidonville. Some families had moved there (on unbuilt government land) just after the 1960 earthquake. They had used stones from destroyed buildings to construct tiny hovels, building on new units as family size increased. There were no urban services, no public utilities. R’Mel families knew what they wanted: to live better, and to stay there. ANHI’s project design provided for gradual demolition of the shanties, moving people as new housing lots were completed and downpayments received. But about 40% of households had built small houses over the years, and they refused to have their homes touched. This made the project impossible to implement as designed.

Rather than give up and work on an easier project, ANHI agreed to redesign the project with community input. The new plan was more expensive (building infrastructure around houses is more difficult than on raw land). It would take more time. The resulting neighbourhood might be less attractive than city fathers desired (the existing houses were structurally sound, but not aesthetically pleasing). Luckily the local government agreed to be very flexible. To help cover costs, additional lots for larger houses and small apartment buildings were added at the edges of the site, for sale at profit, the proceeds flowing into the project account.

Community members, commune and government representatives, as well as ANHI technicians formed a permanent commission to oversee the project. The commission had input into project design, and played a key role in gaining community adhesion to the project. Group meetings, publicity campaigns and individual counselling sessions were organized to gain residents’ interest and support. Households were given assistance in demolition and moving (even to carting building stones to the new lots), were allowed to begin construction of the new home at their own pace, were provided with blueprints (usable by the skilled mason each family hired to oversee construction). A technical office operated on site, with private architect, project engineer and other staff to provide technical advice and counselling, as well as to collect instalment payments for the lots (and for utility hook-ups for those not moving). Each household paid for its lot and utilities, and built its own house. Over 1,000 R’Mel households (27% with woman head of household) gained legal land title through the project.

The community worked together in the project. Neighbours, with assistance from ANHI and local government, helped in moving. Those who built homes first learned construction skills that allowed them to work on neighbours’ houses (and, eventually, outside the community). It took 14 months to demolish all the old units; about 45 families moved each month. Once on the new lot, some families completed construction quickly, others built only the ground floor of a two-story design. Many sought co-owners to help pay for the unit (selling “air rights” – in effecting creating a duplex unit – is an accepted way to finance a home in Morocco). The poorest were allowed to rebuild the shack (now behind a wall, and with utility connections).

The project improved the settlement in a sustainable manner. R’Mel neighbourhood was preserved as a community. No one had to leave. For the first time the community acted as an organized group in dealing with government, and its voice was heard. Residents improved their living standards through their own efforts. The neighbourhoods committee continues to work, responding to citizen demands, dealing with any social conflicts which may arise with the transformation of the neighbourhood, and engaging community participation.

The project is self-financing. The market sale of housing, apartment and commercial lots on the edges of the neighbourhood generated profits which allowed reduced prices to lower income clients. The estimated cost of the project to ANHI is $14 million. About 80% of the cost is covered by the cross-subsidy operation. Client advances, from both middle and lower income buyers, allowed infrastructure works (all contracted to the private sector) to be completed. The pace of the project followed the pace of payments.

The project created employment. Many residents learned construction skills, and gained employment which continues as surrounding middle class housing is built. New services developed (such as food preparation), often woman-operated from homes. The cross-subsidy lots, for middle income houses and apartment buildings, will provide for an integrated neighbourhood, as well as forestalling the development of new shanty areas. The new neighbourhood of R’Mel will have 4,000 housing units when completely built. The local government is building schools, shops and markets have opened, and there are a mosque and police station nearby, all creating a neighbourhood which is indistinguishable from others. This is a major achievement.

The second project, Marins-Pecheurs, deals with a somewhat different challenge in dealing with urban squatter settlements. The project responds to the problem of how to relodge squatters in a densely built urban setting, with minimal social disruption. The project provides for the construction of small rowhouses for sale to squatters near their current site, associated with creation of middle income apartments for cross-subsidy purposes.

The Marins-Pecheurs project was started in 1988, with the plan to rehouse 175 squatter households in multifamily apartment houses. The urban neighbourhood was deemed too densely settled to allow each family to build its own unit. Apartment living is typical among middle income urban families in Morocco. However, the squatter families (37% with woman head of household and used to individual homes – albeit shacks) refused to move to shared buildings. The city government had the option of forcing them to move (either away altogether or into apartments) or looking for a compromise solution.

With the help of the newly established ANHI regional office, it chose the latter option. After intensive community consultations, ANHI redesigned the project to allow individual core housing units (rowhouses) to be constructed for the squatters, and apartments/lots developed for cross-subsidy purposes. The community, ANHI and local government compromised on the following format: 175 semi-finished rowhouses (50m2 with possibility of additional story) for squatter families, 40 apartment units and lots for 450 apartments for sale for cross-subsidy. The project cost is estimated at $4.3 million. Some 80% of its financing is assured by unit sales (55% from cross-subsidy and 25% from former squatters). The Government of Morocco contributed 20% of the funding, in view of the poverty of the squatter community and extra cost of rehousing residents within a built-up urban neighbourhood.

The project was redesigned, and is being implemented, with close community cooperation. Weekly meetings are held on the site, with city elected officers, government officials, ANHI staff and community representatives to monitor project progress and solve particular problems. Technical and sales offices operate on the site, allowing daily interaction with clients. Squatter families are helped to demolish their shacks and to move their possessions. For those wishing to expand or upgrade their new home, blueprints and technical advice are provided. During construction phase, many residents were able to gain paid employment in or related to construction work. It is anticipated that many residents will continue to work as the neighbourhood develops. Some clients have already improved their core home, investing US$6,000 on average – nearly 50% of the cost of the original unit.

The new neighbourhood not only helps squatters become integrated into the city, but benefits surrounding residents as well, through the construction of roads, sewer and water mains, and public lighting systems. The whole area benefits from improved environmental conditions, and enhanced sanitation services.

The third element, in Tikiouine commune (a new satellite community in metropolitan Agadir), combines three approaches to improving low income shelter conditions. Tikiouine has grown from 8,400 residents to nearly 27,000 in twelve years. If Agadir’s growth continues its trend, Tikiouine – lying between downtown and the airport, and near an industrial zone – will have 171,000 inhabitants by the year 2010. The satellite city already suffers from the problems of its mother city: squatter settlements, unserviced informal neighbourhoods, and insufficient basic infrastructure to support its growing population.

ANHI’s Tikiouine project targets these problems. Three new housing areas are under development, which will produce about 11,000 lots, of which 32% for sale to squatters and 40% for sale to lower and middle income households, with the remaining lots for cross-subsidy purposes. Some 3,200 homes in two informal neighbourhoods will gain access to basic utilities (potable water, sewers). Individual semi-finished core housing units (on the Marins-Pecheurs model) are being built for 300 selected poor clients.

As a new commune, Tikiouine does not have to deal with the limiting factors of R’Mel (where people have lived for decades, and would not move at all) or Marins-Pecheurs (rehousing squatters within a densely built neighbourhood). However, the lessons learned from those two projects were applied by ANHI. The programs are being implemented with collaboration of neighbourhood associations, the municipality and local authorities. Principles of self-help and client financial participation are basic. In the informal neighbourhoods, for example, the community is responsible for tertiary water and sewer lines, and for individual hookups, with fees collected prior to connection. The project financing is balanced, with cross-subsidy profits shared across components. Employment is created. Environmental improvements for the site and surrounding neighbourhoods are an important bonus of the work. The result in all the programs is the transformation of blighted areas into sustainable, socially integrated urban neighbourhoods: a best practice.


The three projects are sustainable, creating neighbourhoods from former slums which will become indistinguishable from other urban areas, and promoting integration of lower income residents into the economic, social and political life of the city.

The R’Mel integrated project is a model which can be replicated in other cities with squatter settlements on open land. The result of the R’Mel project is a sustainable urban neighbourhood, which is socially integrated and economically viable. The particular strengths of this approach include:

  • Active participation of the client group – squatters – in project design, implementation and monitoring.
  • Recognition by civil authorities that these citizens merit access to services.
  • Flexible approach by the executing agency, even to helping displaced squatters move their building stones to new lots.
  • Collaboration of central and local government agencies, private sector and citizens in assuring project success. All groups made adjustments in expectations and schedule to make the project work.
  • Creative dialogue between residents and government. A permanent committee mediates disputes and helps organize community participation.
  • Balanced financing: the project sales proceeds cover investment costs.
  • Integration: the intention is to create socially diverse neighbourhoods.

The result is a new neighbourhood in which over 1,000 lower income households have gained legal title, have access to basic utilities (potable water, sewer, electricity), and live in a setting which is environmentally safe. They are becoming part of a larger neighbourhood which is socially integrated, and has access to public services. Through the project many of the former squatters have gained new skills and micro enterprise employment. They have, for the first time, become a community with a voice in local decision-making.

The Marins-Pecheurs project provides a model for rehousing squatters in a densely built urban neighbourhood where physical, social and political considerations preclude the sites and services approach used in R’Mel. The Marins-Pecheurs technique of building small core units which can be expanded, while preparing other apartment units and lots for sale on the open market, allows for rehousing of squatters within the neighbourhood and creation of new housing for sale to other families. This model can be replicated by private sector developers. As in R’Mel, the approach involves close collaboration with residents, assuring that the final project is accepted by them.

The Tikiouine project uses lessons learned from R’Mel and Marins-Pecheurs in a fast-growing suburban community with serious problems of squatter and unserviced neighbourhoods, but with ample land for new development. ANHI is working to develop new housing sites, with mixed lot sizes for social integration of former squatters and middle income families. Informal neighbourhoods are improving their conditions through self-help. All activities are carried out with community participation in design and implementation. All projects are financially balanced, applying profits from cross-subsidy lots to reduce prices to poor families.


R’Mel: serviced housing lots for 650 shanty households, utilities connections for 400 additional low income households, eventual creation of neighborhood with 4,000 housing units.

Increased employment (est. 25,000 jobs/year in construction phase alone).

Marins-Pecheurs: rehousing of 175 squatters in urban neighborhood,

40 apartment units for sale, lots for 450 apartment units for sale.

Tikiouine: 11,000 housing lots, of which 32% for former squatters,

utilities connections for 3,200 lower income families,

300 core housing units for selected poor families.