Mainstreaming community-led processes for housing and urban poverty alleviation:
The development of CODI and the Baan Mankong programme
- further information
© COD / ACHR
Launched by the Thai government in 2003 and implemented through the Community Organizations Development Institute, the Baan Mankong (‘Secure Housing’) programme has set itself the target of improving housing, living and tenure security for 300,000 households in 2000 poor communities in 200 Thai cities within five years. The programme operates differently from most conventional approaches in that government funds are channelled in the form of infrastructure subsidies and housing loans direct to poor communities’ organizations and/or their networks, to allow them to plan and carry out improvements to their housing environment and basic services wherever possible, and to develop and work on city-wide upgrading programmes together with the city authorities, national agencies and other local actors.
The Urban Community Development Office (UCDO) was first set up by the government of Thailand in 1992 in order to address urban poverty. From the outset, UCDO sought to bring together different interest groups – with its board comprising senior government staff, academics and community representatives. This was critical to the recognition by UCDO that for pro-poor development to take place, relations between low-income groups and the state had to change.
Initially, loans were available to community-based savings and loan groups for income generation, revolving funds, housing and housing improvements. However, as the savings groups that worked with UCDO became more numerous and larger, it was decided to address scaling-up by providing loans to community networks that then on-lent to their member organizations. These city networks have particular importance for supporting city-wide upgrading programmes that are today part of the Baan Mankong programme.
By 2000, when UCDO’s work was integrated into CODI (a government agency with its own legal entity, contrasting with UCDO placed within the National Housing Authority) 950 community savings groups had been established and supported in 53 out of Thailand’s 75 provinces. Baan Mankong was specifically set up to support processes designed and managed by low-income households and their community organizations and networks. These community groups and networks work with local governments, professionals, universities and NGOs in their city to survey all poor communities and then plan an upgrading programme within three to four years. Once the plans have been finalized, CODI channels the infrastructure subsidies and housing loans directly to the communities.
© COD / ACHR
© COD / ACHR
Each upgrading programme builds on the community-managed programmes that CODI and its predecessor, UCDO, have supported since 1992 and on people’s capacity to manage their needs collectively. They were made possible by what communities have already developed and how they have mobilized and joined together to form a network to work together and negotiate with city or provincial authorities, influence development planning or simply work together on shared problems of housing, livelihoods or access to basic services. For instance, in the city of Uttaradit, the initiative started with survey mapping of all the slums and small pockets of squatters, identifying landowners and those slums that could stay and that needed to be relocated. This helped link community organizations and began building a community network supported by young architects, a group of monks and the mayor. Together, they sought to find housing solutions for 1000 families within the existing city fabric through different techniques such as land sharing, reblocking, in situ upgrading and relocation. Their city-wide housing plan became the basis for the city upgrading programme under Baan Mankong and now includes infrastructure improvements, urban regeneration, canal cleaning, wasteland reclamation and park development.
Baan Mankong seeks to go to scale by supporting thousands of community-driven initiatives within city-wide programmes designed and managed by urban poor networks working in partnership with local actors. By September 2005, initiatives were underway in 415 urban poor communities involving more than 29,054 households. Where possible, relocation was avoided and most households received long-term land security – for instance through cooperative ownership or long-term leases to the community or to individual households.
The work of CODI stands is an example of how a government agency can actively support community-driven solutions for city-wide development and urban poverty reduction. The Baan Mankong initiative shows how different aspects of city management can be decentralized to communities – from public parks and markets, maintenance of drainage canals, solid waste collection and recycling to community welfare programmes. According to the director of CODI, ‘opening up more room for people to become involved in the development of their city is the new frontier for urban management – and real decentralization’, and ‘Slum upgrading is a powerful way to spark off this kind of decentralisation’. Making development more favourable to low-income groups implies that these are involved in decision making, must be able to own the decisions that are taken, and must be in control of the activities that follow.
The Baan Mankong programme imposes as few conditions as possible in order to give urban poor communities, networks and stakeholders in each city the room to design their own programme. The challenge is to support upgrading in ways that allow urban poor communities to lead the process and generate local partnerships so that the whole city contributes to the solution.Rather than ends in themselves, projects must be seen as part of a more comprehensive strategy driven by the poor to improve their living conditions and their relationship with the local institutions in charge of responding to some of their needs and priorities. Programmes such as Baan Mankong create space for people to think about the issues that affect them as a community, and provide tools and resources to translate their social development and community welfare ideas into facilities. In this way, ‘Baan Mankong is helping to strengthen collective social processes, which improve security and well-being in many ways other than simply physical assets’.
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Community Development Fund, Experiences of UCDO/CODI, presented at UNCHS meeting in New York, available from the Shack Dwellers International website: www.sdinet.org/reports/r14.htm
Boonyabancha, S. (2003) A Decade of Change: From the Urban Community Development Office (UCDO) to the Community Development Institute (CODI) in Thailand, IIED Working Paper 12 on Poverty Reduction in Urban Areas, International Institute for Environment and Development, London
Boonyabancha, S. (2005) ‘Baan Mankong: Going to scale with ‘slum’ and squatter upgrading in Thailand’, Environment and Urbanization, 17 (1), pp21–46
CODI (2004) CODI Update 4, June, CODI, Bangkok, can also be downloaded from the ACHR website: www.achr.net/bann_mankong.htm
CODI official website: www.codi.or.th/ (in Thai, with some pages translated in English)
Asian Coalition for Housing Rights web guide to Baan Mankong: www.achr.net/bmkguide.htm (in English)
Maurice Leonhardt and Tom (ACHR
2044/31-32 Petchburitatmai Road
Huaykhwang, Bangkok 10320