Housing Policy Matters: A Global Analysis

Housing Policy Matters: A Global Analysis

Housing Policy Matters: A Global Analysis

Housing Policy Matters: A Global Analysis


This book unifies housing policy by integrating industrialized and developing-country interventions in the housing sector into a comprehensive global framework. One hundred indicators are used to compare housing policies and conditions in 53 countries. Statistical analysis confirms that--after accounting for economic development--enabling housing policies result in improved housing conditions.


One evening in 1962, on a long walk past Israeli army barracks, my friend David Schutz asked me what I wanted to do with my life. "Architecture," I said, "I want to build houses." "Why waste your time building houses for the rich?" he asked. "I want to build houses for the poor," I replied.

In 1969, I spent a month in Pampa de Comas -- the largest barriada in Lima, Peru at the time -- and designed a beautiful and unaffordable house for the poor as part of a prestigious international competition.

In 1973, I met Stanley Benjamin in Bangkok and he told me that if I was really interested in housing the poor I should forget architecture. House costs have a way of escalating, he said, whenever architects are involved. I forgot architecture right there and then, and stayed in Bangkok (at the Asian Institute of Technology) for a decade to confront the housing question head on. One of my first questions was "how many people lived in slums and squatter settlements in Bangkok?" Nobody really knew. Some said 300,000, others said 600,000. Receiving no satisfactory answer, my students and I counted them using air photographs. We found them to number 1 million, and we discovered that only fifteen percent of them were squatters. The rest paid land rent -- they were slum dwellers all right, but not squatters. A big difference. My first lesson.

That same year, the governor of the newly formed National Housing Authority of Thailand announced -- like all new housing ministers before and after him -- that he was going to build many thousands of apartments for the poor, surely clearing slums here and there in the process, and somehow handing out the new units to the not-so-poor. Stan and I published a polemical article in the Bangkok Post entitled Seventeen Reasons Why the Housing Problem Can't Be Solved. The governor ignored it, but some people listened and started to get together regularly to talk about housing. In the following years, I conducted housing research in many cities in Asia, discovering that the poor had dozens of ingenious ways to obtain shelter, that there was a housing delivery system in operation that ensured that everyone was housed somehow, and that virtually no one remained homeless. Unfortunately, this system was largely invisible to those engaged in policy because much of it was substandard, repulsive, and illegal.

In 1976, Paul Chamniern and I organized a Muslim slum community in Bangkok to upgrade itself. The community decided that its highest priority was . . .

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