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Joan Clos, the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, stated in the opening of the World Urban Forum (WUF) that “the antidote to slums is planned urbanization.” This is a challenge, as figures and history tend to show. Regardless of planning, slums keep growing as people find creative ways to secure shelters and income-generating activities. To further discuss this topic, various events at the WUF focused on incremental processes, both at the housing and city level.
At the same time, in Venice, Italy, Torre David/Gran Horizonte, by Justin McGuirk and Urban-Think Tank, won the Golden Lion for the best project of the Common Ground Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Torre David is a 45-storey office in Caracas that was abandoned in an almost-completed state in 1993. The building stayed vacant until 2007, when a group of families started occupying the building. The residents formed a cooperative to collect dues and manage space. Now, 625 families live in 28 of the 45 tower’s stories. The residents managed to obtain electricity legally, rig up toilets to a rudimentary plumbing system, and develop a delivery system for supplies.
Those two events are related to whether housing/neighborhood incremental processes can be a policy option. The basic question is: when planning cannot precede human creative ways to secure housing, how else can they be reconciled?
Discussions in Naples highlighted the following:
- Stop thinking about people as simply beneficiaries; they are full actors, and both authorities and donors need to spend more time on working with them.
- Technical assistance is key. Collaboration between citizens, architects, and developers/contractors is crucial to ensure quality.
- People do not look simply for housing, but for a bundle of opportunities. Neighborhood Upgrading Programs still use less than 10% of the funding for income-generating activities. The question remains: What should come first: infrastructure or income-generating activities? And since everything (including better infrastructure, income-generating activities, and services) should happen, how about scaling up incremental neighborhood upgrading processes?
 Two events included the participation of the IDB: “”Innovations and Financing in Neighborhood Upgrading and Incremental Housing”, co-organized by the IDB and Habitat for Humanity International, and “The Search for High Density Incremental Affordable Housing,” organized by SIGUS-MIT. Two books by the IDB were presented at the WUF: Room for Development, Housing Markets in Latin America and the Caribbean and Slum Upgrading: Lessons Learned in Brazil
Paolo Gambino says
Ophelie, this is a very interesting question and I believe that the answer is: Education! (At least in Italy) we learn too little at school (high school) about our cities and urban planning matters. Some basic concepts shopuld be introduced and be part of our knowledge since the teen-age. I don’t think that the residents of Torre David were all architects, but they were smart and aware of what they really needed to start a tranformation process. Paolo