The changing focus of urban research and policy
Gareth A. JonesandKavita Datta
University of Wales, Swansea
A strong relationship between levels of urbanization and wealth has been demonstrated both theoretically and empirically in numerous studies (Malpezzi 1990, World Bank 1993b). Yet, in practice, it has proven to be very difficult to harness the enormous wealth generated through urbanization for the benefit of low-income households. Traditionally, faced with other development priorities, governments and international agencies have been reluctant to encourage investment in housing, which has often been seen as an item of consumption (UNCHS 1991b, 1996). Moreover, many of the first wave of housing finance institutions were poorly managed and contributed to macroeconomic disruption (Buckley 1996, Buckley and Mayo 1989). Even by the late 1980s, Renaud was able to observe that ‘few aspects of economic development remain as unexplored and poorly analysed as the potential to induce financial development and ways to improve the financing of housing’ (1987b:30).
These practical and conceptual difficulties notwithstanding, during the 1990s housing finance moved to the top of the urban agenda (World Bank 1993a). Under pressure to reform urban management, governments have made important legislative and institutional reforms to enable private institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to have a greater role in the provision of housing finance. 1 The lead of the World Bank has been especially important in making the shift from housing projects towards the delivery of housing finance (World Bank 1993a). From 1983 to 1988, Bank lending for housing finance exceeded the total for sites-and-services from 1972 to 1988 and by 1989 almost one-half of all Bank urban lending was for