Community Participation in Urban Land and Housing Delivery

Evidence from Kerala (India) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)

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Current approaches to the provision of shelter, largely driven by national governments and/or the commercial private sector, continue to fall short of what is needed to reduce housing deficits. The number of people without access to adequate housing continues to grow, especially in cities of the Global South. Increasing attention is being paid to alternative models for organizing land and housing delivery, such as those led by, or at least including, civil society. In this paper, we consider two national land and housing programs—the 20,000 Plots Project in Tanzania, and Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP) in India—alongside community-led housing initiatives from each country. We explore the extent to which community participation in housing delivery can have social and environmental advantages when compared to ‘business as usual’ methods and find that, given appropriate state support, community-based, and civil society actors (including organizations of the urban poor) have significant potential to contribute to acquiring land, building homes and improving the quality of life of vulnerable segments of the population. This paper echoes calls for community-led housing to become a recognized part of formal housing policy whilst emphasizing the need for theoretical refinement of the process so as to prevent it from being captured by prevailing market-led narratives.