- Empowering the Urban Poor through Community-based Slum Upgrading: The case of Bangkok, Thailand    click here to open paper content136 kb
by    Archer, Diane | diane.archer@cantab.net   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
This paper examines how a participatory slum upgrading program facilitates the integration of the marginalised urban poor as legal city residents, with a say in community development. Through a participatory process, mutually beneficial outcomes can be achieved for both the poor and the state.
The Baan Mankong “secure housing” project in Thailand not only provides urban low-income communities with secure homes, but equally importantly, integrates the urban poor into the city. This government program introduced in 2003 represents a departure from the previous responses of evicting squatters. The aim is to upgrade slum communities using community participation and low-interest government loans, a process catalysed by the government-funded Community Organisations Development Institute. CODI gives power to the communities over the process, encouraging community-based project management, and cooperation between state agencies and the poor for sustainable community development. Communities are now taking ownership of the project. Through slum networks, residents have pushed the upgrading program forward, encouraging knowledge sharing through “learning centres”, while ensuring pro-poor housing remains on the policy agenda in a politically volatile context. The upgrading process continues beyond housing, by promoting linkages within and across communities to find their own solutions to state and market failure, such as through social welfare schemes and environmental projects. Increasingly, the community residents are gaining credence in the eyes of official bodies, as urban residents who can contribute solutions to housing problems through a participatory planning process.
This paper explores four Bangkok case-study communities and the role of CODI and a slum network. It demonstrates how communities can bypass institutional and economic constraints to meet their social and housing needs, creating opportunities for co-production between society and the state. Cities may benefit by having low-density, low-income housing projects on prime city land, for the opportunities this offers for the social integration of the urban poor into the city. Baan Mankong is not just about an output - housing - but also social change, through the empowerment and institutionalisation of the urban poor as capable agents. This has important implications for sustainable development in a rapidly urbanising world.
Housing, informal settlements, community participation, co-production, slums
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