Affordable Housing

Greetings from the 5th World Urban Forum here in Rio de Janeiro.

I was attending a talk on Affordable Housing when the Panel invited a representative of an NGO to present the NGO's views. I was quite intrigued as many of the NGO's representatives are all over the conference venues. The members were wearing green tee shirts which say 'Shack/Slum Dwellers International'. This group apparentlty even had a international song or rather international sound or probably better described as their 'war cry'. I can't even described it but it does sound African.

The lady representing the NGO was very vocal, to say the least, and very passionate about her work. I guess she would have to be as SDI probably represented millions of people who lived in slums throughout the world. One of the thing that I pick up from her argument is that the poor can pay their own way - of course not to the level of the non-poor - but they are still able to pay their way. What was more important is that the poor wants to be regularised. In other words, acknowledge them. Give them their rights. Give them an address. If they build a house, provide the house with an area name and a proper address. That alone will allow them to open a bank account etc. That struck me a bit. We try to help everyone but does everyone need our help? I didn't even realise the human rights issue of not having an address. That will have be part of our work then.

In Rio, we see many of these slums. From far, you are actually quite fascinated to see these houses being built right on the hill slopes. Here in Brazil, the hillside are generally granite and thus you can build right at the edge of the mountain. These lots are called 'favela' in Brazil and each favela is home to like thousands of people. They have water from the mountainside but hygiene is a still poor. The garbage are normally dumped by the roadside. I see a lot of ongoing and recent efforts by the government. Many facilities are being built.


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