The strategies of self-help builders in Colombia
Katherine V. Gough
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
It is now widely accepted that the vast majority of inhabitants of cities in developing countries have to be involved in the construction of their houses if they are to become home-owners. During the construction process, most households will make payments for land, construction materials and skilled labour. This chapter analyses the different ways in which households finance these payments and focuses on attempts by self-help builders, by community-based initiatives and by various governmental and non-governmental organizations, to reduce the cost of constructing a home. The chapter argues that housing strategies vary according to a household’s resources and networks, and that the housing process itself offers implicit opportunities for maintaining financial control. 1 The final section indicates how most community and institutional-level strategies encounter difficulties as they are inflexible to changes in household resources and the construction process.
The chapter is based on fieldwork conducted in the intermediate-sized Colombian city of Pereira. 2 Research consisted of a questionnaire survey with 243 randomly selected households in five low-income settlements, in-depth interviews with twenty households, and participant observation. 3 The five low-income settlements in which research was carried out were of varying legality and age (Table 8.1). The two most recent settlements include a public sites-and-services project known as ‘2,500 lotes’, where households were in the early stages of construction, and Villa Santana which is a pirate (illegal) settlement and where the houses were not more than five years old at the time of initial survey work. The three older settlements were between eight and ten years old: El Plumón originated as an invasion along a disused railway line; Leningrado was founded by a self-help housing association and Las Mercedes was a sites-and-services project.