by Shareen Elnaschie
Following the devastation caused by tropical storm Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, questions on where and how to resettle over 100,000 prioritised Informal Settler Families (ISFs) became the focus of much needed attention. These families, currently situated in high level risk zones within Metro Manila – mostly along polluted and congested waterways – are the first to suffer when the city experiences extreme and frequent weather events. The strong preference for in-city relocation, an ever-growing population and costs associated with building upon poor soil, has catalysed a renewed interest in what are commonly known as medium rise buildings (MRBs: buildings up to a maximum of five storeys).
Whilst the emphasis is on providing safe housing as quickly as possible – relying on currently available models – there is need to invest in parallel investigation. Much opportunity exists to learn from past experiences and to challenge the way that we conceive of, and conduct, resettlement projects. Towards this aim, TAO Pilipinas, under their Young Professionals scheme, initiated a research project investigating three MRB projects within Metro Manila, focusing on the physical aspects of the projects and how they relate to the socio-economic sphere.
The three chosen projects represent different approaches to housing provision. Separated by the Estero de Vitas, Katuparan Housing (1990) and the Smokey Mountain (2004) development make an interesting comparison. Both house approximately 1,200 families from a similar catchment area and both suffer from similar site ailments: poor ground conditions, poor air quality and pollution from the nearby R-10 highway and industrial port, and flooding. TFI Townhomes (2009) by Habitat for Humanity is an example of a more inclusive approach that is made possible by working with smaller beneficiary groups.
The goal of this study was to take an objective approach to assess the successes and failures of these projects, to begin to distinguish common themes and issues and to identify key questions and areas for further research and enquiry. The first stage of this research was presented at a round-table discussion at the Department for Interior and Local Government (DILG) office, involving members from DILG, National Housing Association (NHA), Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA) and other key housing stakeholders. The following is a concise summary of the findings and initial conclusions from the discussion.