It's Time to Turn Back the Clock on Slum Upgrading

In the 1970s and 80s, bottom-up slum upgrading schemes inspired by the ideas of British-born architect James F.C. Turner benefited tens of thousands of residents of Mumbai. Current policies incentivize top-down redevelopment, harming slum dwellers.

Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava, co-founders of URBZ: user-generated cities and The Institute of Urbanology, examine Mumbai’s Slum Rehabilitation Scheme, the primary tool used to improve the living conditions of slum-dwellers in the city, and find it severely lacking. "It encourages private developers to clear areas classified as slums by the municipality and build high-rise housing blocks in which each family receives a free 225-square-foot unit. In exchange, the developer gets valuable 'transferable building rights' on public land," they explain. "A government report on the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme described it as 'nothing but a fraud, designed to enrich Mumbai’s powerful construction lobby by robbing both public assets and the urban poor.'”

Instead, Echanove and Srivastava propose returning to the ideas promulgated by Turner: supporting local know-how and the use of locally available resources to improve slum conditions. "Our contention is that only by working within the existing fabric and with local actors can urbanists, architects, engineers and policy-makers contribute meaningfully to ongoing user-led improvement in homegrown neighborhoods," say the authors. "This is why we have just started a new project called Homegrown Cities that aims to demonstrate that an alternative to 'redevelopment' is possible. We want to combine our observations with relevant aspects of Turner-inspired schemes and adapt them to the contemporary context of Mumbai."


Full Story: Why Slum Upgrading Requires a Light Touch

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