Living in Unauthorized Settlements
–Housing Improvement and Social Participation in Bolivia–
Graciela Landaeta, Architect, Ph.D
Views and proposals on social participation and housing improvement in Latin America have gone through changes in the last decades. These changes are noteworthy. In general, the population living in settlements scheduled to be upgraded, and the people target for participatory action, did not have much say in policy making.
Social participation and housing improvement issues are linked to the Laws for Popular Participation and for Administrative Decentralisation in Bolivia.. These laws set up tools and mechanisms to enable involvement from the grass roots. The vision of these laws is that people have to be involved in decision-making process on ‘things that affect their lives’, for improvement of their living conditions, including housing.
The study aims to understand housing improvement and social participation from the perspective of the people living in unauthorized housing in Bolivia. To achieve this aim, the study attempts to elucidate the effects of truth the discourses of housing improvement and social participation deployed in the country have on the perceptions of the people living in the case study area.
Qualitative research methods were considered suitable for understanding the research questions from the people’s perspective. The objective of in-depth research made the “one case study research methodology” as part of the research strategy. Quantitative research tools were also used, but the study has a qualitative perspective.
The case belongs to unregulated housing developed in the fringes of Cochabamba City in the last few decades. The settlement is located in District 9, one of the new districts the Municipality of the Cercado Province administers after the new laws came into force. People are affected by the poor housing conditions found at most unregulated housing areas in District 9. The settlement has been selected by the Municipality for the regularization process, to be implemented in the near future.
Two discourses are discussed related to the low-income housing field in the context of Latin America. Concepts that belong to each of these discourses, and that I found relevant for this study, are also discussed.
Discourse of housing improvement results from debates on housing for low-income groups, particularly on ‘housing by people’ as the most clearly defined feature of the urbanization process in this region. Concepts discussed here are: legal/illegal city, unauthorized housing and regularization.
Discourse of participation emerged in the low-income housing field as a result of changes in the view on unauthorized housing and is, in this sense, subordinated to the discourse of housing improvement in the context of this study. Concepts discussed here are: bottom-up approach, empowerment, local knowledge and needs assessment linked to the ‘community’ idea.
Bolivia/Cochabamba/ Discourse, Power and Knowledge/ Housing Improvement/ Housing Needs/Housing Policy/ Land Tenure/ Low-Income Housing/ Public Participation/ Regularization/ Self-Help Housing/ Social Participation/ Unauthorized Housing
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Last updated: 2007-01-17