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Self-help housing |b an examination of the effectiveness of this policy in selected developing countries Rizvi, Amjad Ali Bahadur


In order to eliminate the housing backlog in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, an annual output of 2k million dwelling units or ten units per thousand population, are required to be built in the fifteen year period 1960-1975. This is a gigantic task for the developing economies; even the relatively developed economies do not build at an average rate higher than five dwelling units per thousand population for want of adequate resources. What is more alarming is the fact that even if the developing nations succeed in performing the monumental task of doubling their national income in a generation or so, their absolute per capita income would still be one-eighth of that of the developed world. At the present rate of development, the gap between the need and the resources for housing would not be significantly narrowed. In short, even the distant future appears dismal. What then is the right path for the developing nations to tread? This study attempts to provide an answer: adoption of the self-help housing method. Three main steps characterize the methodological approaches used to justify the effectiveness of the self-help housing method. Firstly, the need for a labour-intensive approach in housing is established by making deductions as to the inadequacy of the current capital-intensive approach. Secondly, self-help housing programs at national levels are evaluated in terms of their successes and failures and finally, eight self-help housing projects are examined in detail in\ terms of the costs incurred and benefits gained. The overall success of the programs and benefits received from the projects thus become the measures of effectiveness of the self-help housing method. The self-help housing method has recently gained recognition among the developing nations. Notwithstanding the method having not been entertained in the national housing programs, it has been effectively utilized as a tool of implementing the community development programs. Most of the government-guided piecemeal self-help housing programs have not only been fairly beneficial but have also been practicable. The eight projects analysed, one each for India, Pakistan, the United Arab Republic, Jamaica, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, and Guatemala, have scored marked success. More than three-quarters of the labour input contained in the guided self-help projects have been drawn from the families at no monetary commitment. The monetary value of labour and material contributed by families involved in the self-help housing projects averages one-quarter of the project cost. This value represents a direct benefit, or what has been called in an Egyptian context, the "ekistic efficiency" of a self-help housing project. When account is taken of the indirect social and economic benefits resulting from environmental improvement, the benefit from the use of the self-help housing method is equivalent to about half of the project cost. The self-help housing management input, valued at 10 per cent of the project cost, is crucial to the success of the project. The object of the guided self-help method through efficient management is to maximize spontaneous self-help in the long run by guided action in the short run. When this objective is pursued to the point where spontaneous self-help activity is set in and guided action or self-help management withdrawn, the benefits to the project approach the value of three-quarters of the project cost. The self-help housing approach is not a magic solution to the low-income housing problem. Given the requisite management techniques, it can form an effective method of meeting the deficiency of housing units in the developing countries. Hence, in order to bridge the gap between the deficiency of housing and the inadequacy of resources among the nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America, a concerted national self-help housing program is considered to be essential. Implicit in this conclusion is a further note of optimism. If activated, the self-help housing process can alleviate the shortage of skilled labour, provide employment, mobilise building industry, and generate cooperative spirit. As such the self-help housing can be an effective tool for the achievement of socio-economic objectives.

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