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< prev - next > Disaster response mitigation and rebuilding Reconstruction pcr_tool_5_learning (Printable PDF)
Learning from the Housing Sector
Most low-income housing in developing countries,
especially in rural areas, is constructed by people
themselves. In urban areas, it is more common to
find a variety if housing production processes with a
number of the urban vulnerable living as squatters
or tenants. When a disaster strikes, low-income
housing usually suffers the greatest damage.
The housing sector can offer important
lessons in achieving successful people-centred
reconstruction for three key reasons:
1. There is substantial evidence of people playing
central roles in constructing houses. The
knowledge from this could be applied to post-
disaster reconstruction.
2. Much of the context that defines housing in
any location will also apply to reconstruction.
Although it may have been changed by the
disaster, and those changes must be taken
into account, it is important for post-disaster
reconstruction to be consistent with housing
solutions developed outside of the emergency
3. The same context also helps us to understand
how housing performs during a hazard and thus
how its limitations contributed to the resultant
disaster. Unless we understand the underlying
vulnerabilities and capabilities, as well as
strengths and weaknesses in construction, it
will be difficult to build back safer. Some of the
most successful reconstruction programmes
such as ERRA in Pakistan adopted vernacular
skills and technologies with a good disaster
People-Centred Reconstruction (PCR) values
the role people play in housing. People often show
great resourcefulness, and are empowered in the
process of their involvement. Most governments
now realise that the people provide a more cost-
effective way of producing housing than they can
themselves and that they will need the resources
of those people to help resolve housing backlogs.
Consequently there has been a general move
away from top-down policies of housing provision,
towards approaches that facilitate social housing
processes. PCR adopts the same approach for
reconstruction. Whilst doing so, it realises that
conventional housing is not always perfect; it can
be constrained (for instance by inadequate access
to land, finance or information). Disasters, and
the influx of additional resources, that follow, may
generate opportunities to overcome some of those
Predominant housing processes and
their disaster performance
A lot of factors influence how housing is designed
and built including: tradition, culture, climate,
available knowledge and skills, available materials,
Formal urban housing
Land is acquired
and registered
Site and house plans are designed
and approved
Infrastructure is installed
Houses are constructed
Titles are allocated
Houses are occupied
Taxes on land and housing are
Informal urban housing
Land is invaded or acquired
Occupants build a shelter
Over time this is expanded and
improved to become a house
Infrastructure is accessed
piecemeal and inadequately
Eventually ownership may
be regularised
if regularised taxes are established
Informal rural housing
Land is owned and shared
under traditional rules
House design and
construction are mostly
Infrastructure is basic
and sometimes shared
Home ownership is often
not formally registered and
can pass on within families