Wednesday, April 26, 2006

housing projects for squatters

The administration in India's capital, says it will build 10,000 apartments in the next two years to replace the city's burgeoning shantytowns, Express India reports. Of course, this will not come close to keeping up with the city's projected population growth.


Anonymous said...

Nothing was learned from the many project housing built during the last century in Europe and US. These massive housing projects (known as grands ensembles in France) have so often degraded into sinister concrete ghettos, what I call penitentiary urbanism. A few months ago, youths of the grands ensembles in French suburbs rioted, burning some of their own school buildings. It is clearly more socially economically sustainable to HELP informal neighborhood develop consolidate and in their own terms. People respect what they have spent time doing. Self-made houses might be shady but they should be really respected as the hard work and property of the people. Informal settlers, pushed at the margins of their city, develop not only an urban milieu but also a community and collective history.
I'd like to hear more about how residents of informal settlements in Delhi feel about it.

rn said...

I completely agree, chezz. Self-built communities may initially be crude places, but they have the potential for social solidarity and pride. Housing projects too often are simply places that institutionalize social exclusion.

Sadly, the press in most countries seldom consults squatters on these issues. Which is another form of social exclusion.

When I was in Mumbai, reporters who only write about shanty areas as dens of iniquity and crime, discovered me, the outsider, living in the slum. Suddenly, they were all over the story. I told them: the real story here is my neighbors, not me. Eventually, I'll go home. They live here. They matter. Write about them.

But, after my 15 minutes of fame, the press returned to its usual tactic of ignoring the people who live in these communities.

As for what the residents of Delhi's shantytowns think: if politicians pose the question in binary form--do you want a new housing project or do you want to continue to live under threat of demolition--people will understandably take the housing project. A better way is to talk with people in these communities and to work together to plan for the future.