Why in-city resettlement is best
The newly resettled poor family was looking forward to their next meal. The caldero of rice on the fire outside the house began frothing, and the mother stepped quickly into the house to get a sandok. But when she went out, the pot of rice was gone. And there was nobody in sight. Her bitterness was tinged with acceptance; some family was more desperate than they were. She understood that the whole community was in the same predicament.
This is one of the stories of desperation we heard the first time we visited Golden Horizon, an off-site government resettlement project in Barangay Hugo Perez, Trece Martires, Cavite. These frustrations are what make resettled poor and vulnerable families often think they lose more than they gain in overall well-being as a result of resettlement. In the places where they came from — those precarious informal settlements along Metro Manila waterways and other danger zones — yes, they were poor, but they had mobility and access, income and livelihood, social services and social networks. The city enabled survival, even if it meant taking on multiple jobs as vendors, caretakers, janitors, construction workers and house help.
Last week, the seventh Asia-Pacific Housing Forum was held at the New World Hotel in Makati, organized by Habitat for Humanity Philippines and the Asia-Pacific Housing Forum Philippines, with the newly created Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development as a content partner. The forum was an opportune time for rebooting and refreshing the continuing efforts for development professionals and workers to understand and help solve the wicked problems spawned by poorly designed and implemented housing efforts.
I made a presentation on “Gainers and Losers — the Resettlement Experience of Metro Manila Informal Settler Families,” based on the study conducted by the Universities Network on Innovation for Inclusive Development in Southeast Asia and the Ateneo de Manila Development Studies Program for the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Resettlement Governance Program Management Office.
The study classified 30 resettlement communities into five community transformability categories: Five Star—gainers with minor challenges; Four Star—gainers with major challenges; Three Star—no gain no loss; Two Star—losers with long-term challenges; and One Star—losers with urgent and long-term challenges.
The study looked into seven dimensions of community well-being: shelter and living space; mobility and access; income and livelihood; social services; social networks and safety nets; community governance; and integration in the receiving local
government unit. Using surveys and
focus group discussions, six sectors in each community—women, men, youth, senior citizens, PWDs and LGBTQs—gave their self-assessment of well-being along these dimensions.
The Five Star resettlements are mostly in-city: Pascualer Ville, Bistekville and Ernestville handled by Social Housing Finance Corp. (SHFC); the Manggahan Low-Rise Building and Disiplina Village by the National Housing Authority (NHA); and Estero de San Miguel by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The only Five Star off-site project is the Alpas handled by SHFC.
The One Star resettlements are mostly off-site: St. Martha’s, Towerville, Pandi Residences 1 and 2, Pandi Village 1 and
Logia de Cacarong, all handled by the NHA; and one in-city project, the Kabalikat sa Kaunlaran ng Baseco Inc. by the DILG.
What do resettlement communities gain or lose? Taking only those communities that were resettled off-site, the study shows that these generally lose more than they gain. While residents say they have better shelter and security, they nevertheless lose mobility and access, income and livelihood and social services. Taking only those communities that were resettled on-site, the communities did not suffer any losses, instead gaining in all the dimensions of community well-being.
The message is clear: In-city relocation is best for resettled communities, until such time as resettlement providers are ready to enable equivalent and better conditions in mobility and access, income and livelihood, and social services in off-site communities.
What should housing advocates and authorities, suppliers and prospective beneficiaries do? Simple. Go visit the resettlement gainers and losers. Talk and feel the difference with them.
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