Chapter 1: Introduction

The following chapter presents a summary of the literature concerning this study. The chapter is divided into three sections. The first section presents general ideas about dwelling evolution in the housing process and about the concept of progressive development as an interpretation of this process.

The second section raises the problem that originated this research and presents selected works addressing it.

The last section narrows the case study from the broad area of progressive development projects. A short background of Ciudad Guayana is included at this point. Finally, the program and physical aspects of the case study are described.

A summary of the ideas relevant to the study concludes the chapter.

1.1 Dwelling Evolution

1.1a Progressive Development

Dwelling evolution in progressive developments, or progressive development, is the process by which initially very basic and even precarious forms of shelter eventually become lasting, durable housing. The process is managed by users and, consequently, housing is continuously tailored to the household's changing characteristics and needs. These individual interventions can affect the built environment above the dwelling level. In fact, progressive development is just the way many urban concentrations have been created.

Examples of progressive development were found in the evolution of dwellings in informal settlements by early researchers in housing, Charles Abrams, John Turner, William Mangin and Elizabeth and Anthony Leeds. From the initial shack to the consolidated dwelling, housing in squatter settlements was developed as the household's new needs appeared and priorities changed. In turn, the process of evolution of these man-built environments was a reliable reflection of the inhabitants' requirements and priorities. Observations of Mangin and Turner in Latin American squatter settlements support this affirmation:

The classic sequence of housing locations, from the shared room of the young man or very young family to a rented tenement room of the young family, to the progressively developing settlement needed by the growing family reflects a logical sequence of responses to changing needs within the limits of the growing family's means (Mangin, W. and J. Turner 1968:158).

Nevertheless, dwelling evolution in informal settlements was not only the showcase to understand cultural, social and economic priorities, and needs of low-income households. The interactive relationship between dwelling and user was also a need in itself. Low-income households were dynamic pieces shaping their environment, and their dwellings had to be adapted to many different situations along the household life. This relationship between dwelling and user is pictured in the cycle of low-income households:

The possessor of an urban homestead, even if it is not more than a shack on a plot of unserviced land, can rent a part or can use it as a shop or a workshop. The savings will, in general, be invested in the construction by stages of a dwelling with modern standards.... After the ten or fifteen years necessary for the completion of the first unit of their dwelling have elapsed, the average family has a higher priority for modern amenities and lower priorities for permanent tenure.... More important at this later stage will be the social status given by the quality of the dwelling environment and the social security given by its equity rather than by the inalienability of its tenure (Caminos H.; J. Turner; and J. Steffian 1969:vii).

These observations were fundamental in understanding that the failure of conventional housing programs was precisely in not meeting the household's housing needs. Observations drove beliefs that in any effort to provide housing to low-income groups, the household should be totally responsible for housing production.

Dwelling environments are necessarily functions of their inhabitants and, as people's housing priorities are extremely varied, control of dwellings and neighbourhoods must be in personal and local hands (Turner 1976:118).

Not without scepticism, progressive development became the main component of low-income housing, and the basis for radical changes of sponsored housingstrategies. Nevertheless, progressive development also had decisive advantages over conventional approaches. On the one hand, housing could be made affordable when household needs were matched by the household's financial possibilities. On the other hand, environments were adapted to individual characteristics, needs and requirements, making housing satisfactory for users. These have been the two main principles that have supported the continuity of progressive development projects. As Laquian points out:

The main principle behind basic housing is progressive development. This is the idea that shelter and services can be initially provided in the simplest and cheapest way. The housing package can then be gradually improved upon in stages, using the combined resources of the people, community, government, and other institutions. In the process, the shelter and services that evolve are in response to the basic needs of the people and their inherent capability to achieve those needs (Laquian A. 1983:8).

Today, after more than two decades of user-involved housing strategies, international and local sponsoring agencies rely on progressive development projects to meet the housing needs of the poor. Despite its extensive use however, the need to consider more effectively the aspect of dwelling evolution as a component of the planning process has been recently highlighted by several authors.

Incremental development and speed are priorities in the design activity where housing cannot be viewed as an act of finished building (Hamdi, N. 1990:vii)

It becomes clear that understanding dwelling evolution in progressive development projects is a key element to reformulate policies and existing strategies of assistance, and to develop more assertive new projects.

1.1b Progressive Development Projects

Progressive development projects left the responsibility of incremental construction to the household. The intention of many of these strategies was to reproduce aspects of the process of housing occurring in informal settlements, that is, "the resources, skills, and personal motivations to provide adequate shelter forthemselves" (Laquian 1983:16). However, most of these strategies did not intend to duplicate informal settlements. For instance, site and services intended to raise housing `efficiency,' maximizing land use and `improving' speed of construction and standards of user-produced housing by providing aid for self-construction. Furthermore, the initial emphasis of such strategies was in "restoring planning control" (Van der Linden 1986:16), that is, the spatial arrangement of sites, streets, facilities and other physical elements (Goethert 1985:28). Meanwhile, the question of whether or not the process of dwelling evolution under new conditions would be analogous to that already observed was not even questioned. Progressive development and its benefits within these new contexts were taken for granted.

All basic housing programs are based on the assumption that people will improve and consolidate their dwellings when they are assured of tenure and provided with the means and time to do so (Laquian, A. 1983:25).

Indeed, the simple fact that dwelling evolution in progressive development projects occurred within the legal urban framework affected the kind of housing produced. In informal settlements dwellings evolved without official or social acceptance. Other usual differences between contexts were the process of settling, the scale of development, settlement layout, plot layout, plot allocation, plot servicing, and so on.

There are good grounds to believe that the process of dwelling evolution in progressive developments has its own characteristics. Therefore, observations of this process in progressive development projects during long periods of time could provide new insights into household life in these different contexts.

1.1c Dwelling Evolution in Progressive Development Projects

Given that progressive development strategies are based on the observation of dwelling evolution of informal settlements, it is surprising that there are few studies considering the process of dwelling evolution within sponsored progressive developments. However, the study of dwelling evolution is gaining attention in progressive developments and in other housing strategies.

Most of the studies in the area of progressive development have been on siteand services projects, and dwelling evolution or "consolidation" has been part of a broader evaluation of the projects. For instance, in a comprehensive evaluation of the Dandora site and services, McCarney reports how settlers did not meet levels of dwelling consolidation imposed by the project (McCarney 1987:105). Dwelling evolution was observed as a function of the time needed to reach desirable levels of consolidation. McCarney showed how speed of consolidation along the life of the project, did not match expectations set by rigid project timetables. On the other hand, Mellin outlined the incremental construction process of a site and services project in Ahmedabad (Mellin 1987:130). In his study, the process of progressive development was suggested by the different levels of development found in the housing stock 8 years after the project was implemented. Few studies, however, have in fact followed dwelling evolution along periods of the life of the settlement.

Among the studies that made long-term observations of dwelling evolution, this report will mention the works of the O.A.S.- F.S.D.V.M. 1977, in an evaluation of the site and services of "San José de Pino" in El Salvador (Organization of American States and Fundación Salvadoreña de Desarrollo y Vivienda Mínima); the work of Bamberger, Gonzalez-Polio and Sae-Hau 1982 in their evaluation of the World Bank site and services projects, also in El Salvador; and the work of Navarrete 1989 in the "Zihuatanejo" site and services, Mexico.

In all cases, studies were limited to the period of evolution until the dwelling reached its physical consolidation. Dwelling growth was rationalized in intervals of relevant evolution, called "stages of development" or "degrees of consolidation." The number of stages dwellings completed depended on the age and improvement of the dwelling during this time. The study of the World Bank site and services carried out between 1975 and 1980 was the longest of these studies (Bamberger, M.; et al. 1982:1). Evaluations of the F.S.D.V.M. and Navarrete were limited to 2 and 4 years of dwelling development, respectively.

The Bamberger, M. et al. study outlined the following process of consolidation:

1st stage: Enlargement of living space through the addition of area.

2nd stage: Security and family privacy enclosing the plot with walls.

3rd stage: Improvements in terms of physical (aesthetic) appearance, finishing and painting to the walls, better materials and decoration of the façade (Bamberger,M. et al 1982:183).

The study of "San José del Pino" had similar findings except that there was an initial stage in which households consolidated the basic habitable space into a more permanent structure before going through this sequence of stages. In addition, the study carefully regarded uses and position within the plot given to additions made during these stages. New additions were mainly kitchen areas, and they were located at the rear part of the plot. Some households also added more bedrooms, and a very small proportion built a second floor (O.A.S.- F.S.D.M.V. 1977:17-24).

The detailed study of Navarrete found a similar incremental process but occurring in a different sequence. In his case study, Navarrete observed that following the occupation of the initial basic area, the differentiation of the spaces for living and cooking and sleeping activities occurred. Only after that did households care about improving all these areas with more permanent materials.

Although the Bamberger et al. study was the longest of these evaluations, observations were limited to the time necessary to produce the house. After that, the incremental process of dwelling construction stopped or was considerably reduced.

It would seem that 35 to 40 square meters is an acceptable area to most of the families (Bamberger et al 1982:183).

On the contrary, Navarrete acknowledges a continuity of dwelling evolution to further stages of the "consolidation process" (Navarrete 1989:55). Cited studies were restricted to the Latin American context, and it can be seen that the processes described had certain basic elements. However, dwelling evolution varied from project to project. Sometimes differences were slight, such as the time when a permanent dwelling was incorporated into the processes of form evolution. In other opportunities relevant distinctions can be made, such as whether or not households stopped the process of area increase of their dwellings.

Studies also created tools for the analysis of dwelling evolution. Incremental development could be observed in differentiable stages affecting the area of the dwelling. The order in which functions were added to the existing spaces indicated the priorities of the households. The location of these structures within the plot was a product of the available space left, but it was also related to the function of theadditions.

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1.2 Progressive Development Projects in Venezuela

1.2a The UMUP Strategies

One of the most basic progressive development approaches consists in the allocation of land and its progressive servicing while housing is built and upgraded. This approach, similar to rudimentary site and services projects, was experimented within several countries long before site and services became the main housing tool of the international development agencies.

In Colombia 12,000 plots with minimum standards -- roads and communal water taps -- were built during the early 1960s under the "Minimum Urbanization Program" (Goethert 1985:28). In Chile, basic urbanized plots, formally called "Operation Site" (Operación Sitio), were also developed. However, the strategy eventually evolved into simply demarcated plots that became popularly known as "Operation Chalk" (Operación Tiza) (Kusnetzoff, F. 1975: 50). Recently the idea of non-serviced plots has been brought to light again by Sharma under the name of "Planned Upgradable Sites" (Sharma S.K., 1990:41). Research by the Minimum Cost Housing Centre has also used this concept, with the aim of providing new housing alternatives (Bhatt, V. et al, 1990).

A similar approach was followed in Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, where tracts of lands were subdivided and progressively serviced with the inhabitants' participation. The approach of these developments was like that of "projects of plots with minimum services," or "incremental housing schemes," and stressed the importance of upgrading both services and dwellings. These progressive development projects began in Ciudad Guayana in 1962, taking the name of "Progressive Urban Improvement Units," UMUP (Unidades de Mejoramiento Urbano Progresivo). The concept of UMUP proposed that, starting from minimum services, individual dwellings and public services be progressively improved in a government-user effort.

With very few fundamental changes, UMUP strategies are still in use in Ciudad Guayana as one of the strategies to avoid random squatting and provide services and housing to low-income groups.

1.2b General Background of Ciudad Guayana

Ciudad Guayana is a planned industrial city created as part of a decentralization strategy by the Venezuelan government in 1961. The city is located in the south-eastern region of the country in the confluence of two main rivers, the Orinoco and the Caroni (see Fig.1). The site has an incredible resource potential, and it was expected to have a main impact on lowering Venezuela's economic dependence on its oil revenues. American iron mining companies had been on the site since the early thirties (Dinkelspiel, J. 1970:51). Today iron exploitation is a state monopoly. Bauxite is also extracted and processed into aluminum for exportation. Electricity is obtained from two dams in the Caroni River, which supplies 60% of the electricity consumed in Venezuela. A third dam is under construction.

The Ciudad Guayana's development agency, the Corporación Venezolana de Guayana ( CVG), was created to lead the development process of the city in 1960. To assist the planning of the city, the CVG hired a multidisciplinary consultant group, the Joint Center for Urban Studies of MIT and Harvard.

By 1960 Venezuela had one of the fastest rates of urban growth among developing countries. Ciudad Guayana already had a very high influx of migrants when it was created in 1961. The housing consultant of the Joint Center affirmed:

CVG reluctantly had to face the fact that it would not be possible to build Ciudad Guayana without slums. The city already has eight slum areas and around 5.300 `ranchos' [shacks] (Corrada 1966:5).

Since building sufficient housing to match the expected rate of migration was unfeasible, squatter settlements could be prevented if a containment strategy similar to that followed in Brasilia was implemented. Squatting would be allowed in adjacent areas of the new city. Relocation of squatters occurred as the housing construction process permitted. Squatter settlements were not upgraded since no land security was given; the squatting area was of transitory nature.

Nevertheless, a different approach was followed in Ciudad Guayana. The work of John F. Turner, associate researcher for MIT-Harvard at that time, along with William Mangin, crucially influenced the perspective of the Joint Centre team on the rural migration to urban areas. Squatting was to be guided towards settlement areas within the city, and shacks were to be built according to a community layout. The intention was to facilitate the replacement of the initial shack and the subsequentprovision of public services (Ibid). The UMUP concept was introduced in the planning program of Ciudad Guayana as a means of giving security of land to the residents, thus producing a quick response in the house construction. Like in some site and services, UMUP strategies avoided large investments of money in providing public infrastructure -- services were to be provided gradually -- and in relocating squatters from land needed for other purposes. According to Corrada, the aim of the housing strategy was "to speed up and improve the upgrading process of squatter settlements" (Corrada 1966:6).

It was expected that given security of land, squatters would be encouraged to build by their own means. However, housing assistance was provided to accelerate the process of dwelling transformation. Relevant to this study, one of the ideas proposed the preparation of a construction manual based on the skills of squatters, so that materials were economically used and the quality of the shelter improved. The idea was materialized in three house plans which specified required materials and amounts to be efficiently used.

1.2c The Case Study: El Gallo

In 1963 a pilot project was undertaken in San Felix, on the west side of Ciudad Guayana. According to Corrada, the objective of the project was:"to determine the feasibility of guiding squatting and replacing shacks" (Corrada 1966:18).

As part of the "El Roble Pilot Project," 1,000 plots with minimum services (communal water taps, electricity and unpaved streets) were developed. In terms of housing, the program included 500 loans for construction materials. The program also sought to encourage the formation of community organizations within the neighbourhoods.

The UMUP projects were directed to the poorer low-income families. Construction loans were aimed at providing dwellings for these families, though it was expected that part of the families select other means to build their houses. The program reached three communities or "Neighbourhood Units" - UV (Unidades Vecinales), UV 102, UV 103 and UV 112. Among these communities the neighbourhood unit UV 112, "Urbanización Manuel Piar," but popularly known as El Gallo, was the case that involved Progressive Urban Development as theurbanization strategy. The others mixed this approach with conventional housing programs.

Some aspects of the El Roble program affecting El Gallo are worth mentioning at this point:

Land Tenure: The Development Agency CVG, owner of the land, leased the plots to the user with an option to buy after construction of a durable house. In doing this the CVG aimed to keep control over land use, thereby preventing land speculation while encouraging house investment. Initially, the yearly rent of the plot was about Bs 80 (US$ 18). Once the permanent dwelling was built, the 300 sqm plot would be sold for Bs 1,500 (US$ 330).

Preferential Attention: Priority was given to the families that were relocated from the areas to be flooded by the construction of the first dam and the other areas affected by the development works. Families with total monthly incomes under Bs 500 were given preference, although a certain proportion of families of higher incomes was desired.

Construction Loans: The amount of the loan ranged between Bs 3,000 and Bs 4,000, based on estimates of the material costs. A minimum monthly income of Bs300 or a co-signer with the capacity to repay the loan was required.

Repayment Program: Repayment time was 20 years at an annual interest of 4%. No downpayment was required either for the land or for the material loans. Instalments were low at the beginning and progressively increased according to increases in income.

1.2d Initial Physical Aspects of El Gallo

Just before streets were laid out, El Gallo was a land extension with a strong slope towards the "El Gallo" hill, a historic site dating from the wars of independence. Although the area was cleared and urbanized in 1964, some of the oldest residents surveyed in this study had been living in El Gallo since 1962. El Gallo was in the most peripheral land of Ciudad Guayana, 1.5 km from the center of San Felix and 7 km from Puerto Ordaz. Transportation to the limits of El Gallowas by public bus or por puesto (jitney cabs), taking about 20 minutes from downtown San Felix, plus the journey from the limits into the settlement. Going to the industrial side of the city, Puerto Ordaz, all vehicles had to cross the Caroni River by ferry, making the time of travel about two hours. El Gallo was bounded by one main perimetrical artery and two street segments of future avenues of San Felix (see Fig.2).

Initial infrastructure included 18 residential blocks, accommodating 434 plots and 12 intermediate green areas, where communal water taps were placed. All streets were unpaved and, according to the older settlers, they themselves planted the poles for the electricity (see Fig.3). A central area was reserved for the community facilities of the neighbourhood.

Residential plots occupied 42% of the El Gallo extension. Streets and pedestrian circulation occupied 28%, and the space reserved for facilities represented 30% of the area. The blocks were composed of back-to-back plots with 12-meter fronts and a 25-meter depth (300sqm). Given that the average household size was 6 people, density at El Gallo was 123.7 persons per residential hectare (see Fig.2).

The objectives that El Gallo and other UMUPs pursued for Ciudad Guayana can be summarized as follows:

. To provide an adequate environment for low-income settlers to invest in their houses (investment of private resources -- time, labour and savings -- in housing).

. To provide housing and land ownership to low-income families.

. To incorporate the urban squatters and the informal housing activity into the legal framework of the city.

. To reach a level of acceptable living standards for low-income inhabitants.

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1.3 Summary

The chapter emphasized that the concept and different strategies of progressive development were based on the observation of the process of dwelling evolution in informal settlements. Progressive development in informal settlements is a reflection and, at the same time, a part of the household's needs. However, the study questions how dwelling evolution occurs under the conditions of progressive developmentprojects.

The review of existing studies in the area outlined important aspects of the evolution of dwellings in progressive development projects. In general, studies concluded that dwellings increased their area through additions and changes made to the existing dwelling. The use given to the additions and the sequence in which these were built revealed the household's needs and priorities. The place within the plot where additions were made was also relevant to the process.

On the other hand, dwelling evolution in progressive development projects has been observed during periods of time that revealed the process up to the construction of a "consolidated" structure. However, no studies have been made during longer periods. Thus, a long-term assessment of this process can provide new insights into housing in progressive development projects.

Finally, the case study of this research was introduced identifying the approach followed. Aspects of the background of the case study, as well as initial physical features of development and objectives of the project, were presented.


. Notes for Chapter I

1 Studies about dwelling evolution in other contexts than progressive development projects are quite recent. The most relevant titles collected in this research are:

  • The work of Andrade-Narvaez, who explained dwelling evolution in invasion settlement using an analogy with cellular growth (Andrade- Narvaez, J., 1985 "Houseform Transformations in Santa Ursula, Mexico City").
  • The study of Bazant, Nolasco and Gomez, which distinguished three phases of dwelling evolution (a formative, a developmental and a consolidation phase) in spontaneous settlements of Mexico (Bazant, J., M. Nolasco and J. Gomez 1981 "Aspectos Cualitativos de la Autoconstrucción de Bajos Ingresos" in "Memoria de la Primera Reunión Nacional sobre Investigaciones en Autoconstrucción" by the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, Mexico).
  • The study of Meer and Dinesh Mehta, which examined spatio- temporal patterns of evolution in two settlements: an invasion settlement, and a subsidized public housing settlement (Mehta, M., D. Mehta and V. Patil 1990 "Spatio-Temporal Patterns of Settlement Evolution Processes").
  • The study of Tipple is perhaps the most recent. This study drew on the work of several researchers in the area of Transformations in Public Housing (Tipple, G. 1991 "Self-Help Transformations of Low-Cost Housing. An Introductory Study").

2 Sharma proposes a viable housing solution for low-income groups, manipulating the order of the sequence of development. Through the comparison of sequence of development in different approaches (conventional: land - services - house - people; site and services: land - services - people - house; slums: people - land - house - services). A different sequence is proposed to allow the user the earliest participation in a planned housing intervention (planned upgradable sites: land - people - house - services) (Sharma S.K., 1990:41).

3 The Self-Selection Process proposes the earliest user-intervention seen in a planned housing strategy. The users are involved in the early stages of selecting the size, location and characteristics of their plots (Bhatt, V. et al, 1990).

4 During the decade 1950-1960, the average annual rate of increase in urban areas was 5.8 per 100 persons, same as Peru and among the 5 Latin American countries with largest growth in urban population. However, being more than 60% urban, Venezuela has the second highest total growth in Latin America (Koth, M., J. Silva and a. Dietz 1965:11).

5 The interannual rate of population growth between 1960 and 1967 was 11% (Caminos, H., J. Turner and J. Steffian 1969:10).

6 Corrada comments that the average expropriation price paid to squatters was US$310 for a two-year-old rancho and US$890 for a ten- year-old one, compared with US$47 for the empty plot and US$324 for the plot after minimum services were provided (water taps, electricity and paved streets). (Corrada 1966:6)

7 Equivalences were estimated with the exchange rate for 1964 of Bs 4.50 per US$ 1.00. However, a better idea is given knowing that the program of UMUP was aimed at households with monthly incomes below Bs 500.00 or US$ 111 (Corrada, R. 1962:2). The average income in the country about this time was US$ 210 (Koth, M., J. Silva and A. Dietz 1965:54).

8 Figures are based on Lisa Peattie's experiences while living on San Felix (1968:78).

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