Applied Geography: Principles and Practice: An Introduction to Useful Research in Physical, Environmental and Human Geography

By Michael Pacione | Go to book overview

37

Low-income shelter in the third world city

Rob Potter


INTRODUCTION

A perennial applied development problem is that everybody needs shelter although, viewed globally, not everyone is able to secure what may be regarded as housing of an adequate standard. It is believed that 20 per cent of the world’s total population does not have access to decent shelter. Further, it is estimated that in the predominantly poor and middle-income countries that make up what is referred to as the ‘third world’ or ‘South’, perhaps as many as one-half live in homes that may be deemed substandard.

In a similar vein, McAuslan (1985) contends that in the majority of major cities to be found in the third world, more than 1 million people live in illegally or informally developed settlements, with little or no piped water, sanitation or services. The occupants are frequently unable to afford even the smallest or cheapest professionally constructed, legal house that possesses basic amenities. The majority of houses have been self-built in so far as their residents have taken responsibility for organising the design and construction of their own homes.

In the early 1960s, Abrams (1964) bemoaned the fact that despite progress in the fields of manufacturing, education and the sciences, the provision of simple shelter affording privacy and protection against the elements was still beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. At the beginning of the 1990s, it was estimated that 9.47 million people (60 per cent of the population) in Mexico City lived in self-help housing. At about the same time, 1.67 million (61 per cent) of the inhabitants of Caracas, Venezuela were to be found residing in self-help homes.

Such issues are reflected in the simple typology of low-income shelter in third world cities, which is reproduced here as Figure 37.1. First, there are the homeless and the street sleepers. Many urban residents are far too poor to be able to afford any sort of home, whether rented or owned, and are forced to sleep in the streets. In Calcutta in the early 1960s, for example, it was estimated that more than 600,000 dwellers slept on the streets, while in Bombay, one in every sixty-six were homeless and a further 77,000 lived under stairways, on landings and the like (Abrams 1964).

Second, a large group are to be found renting accommodation in slums and tenements. It is

Figure 37.1 A typology of low-income housing in third world cities.

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