Saturday, January 12, 2013

ISSUES OF URBAN REDEVELOPMENT IN EUROPE AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES


1.1 Introduction
City development and redevelopment over the years have witnessed several strategies and implications for urban settlers in both developed and developing countries. The evolution of these practices has left in its path critical implications for understanding urban planning processes and the institutions that facilitate the process: public; at national and local levels, private sector actors as well as non-for profit organizations in the phase of these interventions. 

Central to this evolution as captured by Shatkin (2000), Hall (2002), Weinstein and Ren (2009) and Fainstein (2011) have been the emerging roles of development bearers in urban areas. Community Based Organization (CBOs), Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) and the private sector and their influence on urban redevelopment interventions in urban areas of developed and developing countries in one way or the other shaped these developments. The themes of urban poverty, urban housing, development-induced displacements and impoverishment, local economic development, decentralization and community participation are espoused in great details in their interventions. Similarly Shatkin (2000), Hall (2002), Weinstein and Ren (2009) and Fainstein (2011) have discussed these issues in critical details. As part of a series of papers (blog articles) on "Urban and Local Economic Development Issues and Strategies", I present the observations of key writers and the implications of their observations for urban planners and policy analysts. 

This paper, the first of eleven others, articulates the observations by Shatkin (2000), Hall (2002), Weinstein and Ren (2009) and Fainstein (2011) in Europe and developing countries to put the discussions in context. This has been supported by other literary materials on the issues they have raised.

1.2 Urban Redevelopment and Poverty
On the subject of urban poverty, all these authors have concluded that urban redevelopment have most often for most part of their implementation affected informal settlements. There have been increases in the poor spate of informal dwellers who are normally low income earners and immigrants by disintegrating their housing assets without due consideration to alternative housing provisions and adequate compensations. With case studies from Shaghai (China) and Mumbai, Weinstein and Ren (2009) observed that urban redevelopment has from the 1950s and 1960s meant the mass demolition of informal settlements to pave way for sky rise and monumental infrastructure for urban elites with the intent of promoting rapid commercialization or industrialization as well as modernization of the urban space. Typically they argue that there have been several “forced demolition without residents’ consent” which “paved the way for large-scale urban renewal programs” (Weinstein and Ren, 2009). These actions have manifested in varied forms in Mumbai and Shaghai. For instance, “in Mumbai, those mostly affected by these shifts are the residents of slums and squatter settlements or of defunct industrial lands in the city center”. On the other hand, in urban renewal in Shanghai has affected “a wider stratum of residents ranging from private homeowners and public housing tenants to rural migrants” (Weinstein and Ren, 2009). Current events suggest that these negative effects still persist but with greater awareness for better practices. In Colombia for instance, about 4000 people in MedellĂ­n in major cities become displaced between communes and quarters (Morris, 2010).

Several factors contributed to these trends including the issues of privatization of land, legislation, and civil right activism.  These have in one way or the other shaped the processes of urban redevelopment interventions either by reducing their effects or perpetuating their negativity. Preceding this realization has been the observation made by other authors as the effectual result of urban displacements cited by Weinstein and Ren (2009).  Consequently they intimated that “issues of residential displacement and housing security have long been central to inquiries in urban sociology, whether displacements were caused by ‘natural’ processes of invasion and succession (Burgess, 1967), by the federal bulldozers of urban renewal (Gans, 1962; Jacobs, 1961), or by the surplus value extraction associated with gentrification” (Smith, 1979; Zukin, 1982).

1.3 Urban Redevelopment and Low-Income Housing
As a result of these negative ramifications of urban redevelopment, urban housing has become critical parts of urban redevelopment discourse. Issues of displaced settlers became and are now a major focus of most development literature and apprehension. They attempt to understand whether these interventions were “just.” The moot point of development discourse and best practices were compared to events in Amsterdam, Netherlands (Fainstein, 2011). This is especially compounded by the urban housing systems that are in place in most developing economies as priority for low-income housing is given less priority. The central issues have mostly been land ownership and access to adequate housing for both low-income dwellers and migrants. Desai (2010) intimates that “most urban poor rely on the informal sector to acquire land (without title) to build their house, or buy or rent a house in an informal settlement or slum. Thus new migrants to the city begin their urban lives as outlaws, and remain vulnerable to police exploitation or bribe taking) for the duration of their stay.” Consequently, in the event of demolition exercises, they face the arduous task of having a say in the events unfolding as illegal status meant illegal occupation and thus deserves no compensation; a fundamental conclusion and working assumptions in the era of redevelopment in most developed and developing countries. 

1.4 Urban Redevelopment and Local Economic Development
From most of the discussion by these authors, they recognize the immense change that has occurred over the years and acknowledged the efforts to improving the urban redevelopment consequences of displacements. Interestingly, what these actors are salient on is the issue of the compounding effects of these displacements on the general welfare of these individuals or households. It is a not a matter of just lost of housing but most importantly a destruction of their livelihoods; “assets and capabilities that enable them to making a living” (DFID 2000). Baker and Schuler (2004) explains that poverty is a complex issue of interrelating factors, to the extent that the physical foundations on which the means of making a living is destroyed then the issues of access to health, education, potable water and adequate shelter becomes a mountain to climb. Recent evidence of urban redevelopment does not preclude on informal housing. However, in most developing countries, informal economic activities have also experienced the consequences of displacements and their destructive implications as documented by these authors. In Ghana, the eviction of informal sector workers by urban planning authorities present critical semblance of the events of Shangai and Mumbai. This has been done with “the aim to decongest the Central Business Districts by means of removing unsolicited or ‘illegal’ structures and hawkers” (Broadbent, 2012). The discordance here is the central focus; economic livelihoods (businesses) against physical livelihoods (housing). Even though there may have been alternative avenues for these individuals, evidence suggest that these interventions have been inadequate and unproductive with these actors returning few weeks or months after these activities are implemented. These reoccurrence illustrate probably a lapse in deliberation process and poor management processes of informality in the urban space. 

Contrary to the happenings in developing countries, the events of urban redevelopment programs and their consequences in developed countries related to retaining urban settlers rather than relocating them. Despite the economic character of both of these strategies where all seek to promote economic development by facilitating and increasing privatization of land and investments into the urban environment, there were mark differences. First, the fundamental economic nature of developing countries interventions were also related to modernization of the urban space which meant a removal of informal settlements with little recourse to compensations. In contrast, urban redevelopment in developed countries which sort to help transform the urban image rather focused on retain settlers and at same time attempted to import low income earners and migrants to support the dwindling and dissipating urban economy (Hall, 2002). Secondly, factors inducing these urban redevelopments in developing countries were influenced by the economic prosperity whereas in developed countries urban redevelopment was induced by economic recession or declining urban economies. Unfortunately in both cases there have been and are still having negative consequences on urban settlers; mostly low income earners.

There have been debates about the focus on economic development as all these critical investments to improve the urban areas during these periods urban redevelopment programs were directed at the economic potential of urban areas. In developing and developed countries, the World Bank (2009) espouses that cities account for some 70 percent of national and global GDP driven by rising productivity, fluid labour markets, and greater market access. Arguably, economic growth therefore has positive correlation with urbanism and thus “cities are the driving force for economic development (UN-Habitat 2011). Though this is true, it should be understood and appreciated that how this welfare is generated and distributed is not even. Moreover, there are always tradeoffs associated with this potential. To the extent that these tradeoffs affect urban informal sectors negatively; often captured as sacrifices for greater good of society; puts a dent in this potential. As such development that leads to impoverishment is by no means development (Downing 2002) and also espoused succinctly by the Cocoyoc Declaration.

1.5 Urban Redevelopment and Human Rights
Attention is reverted back to the discussion of urban redevelopment in developing countries because evidence presented by the Shatkin (2000), Hall (2002), Weinstein and Ren (2009) have a great deal of implications to the management of low income settlements. Their evolution through local activism and advocacy have had been drastic changes in the structure and managements of the negative effects of urban redevelopment. In addition, the Amsterdam case study from Fainstein (2010) also provides a legitimate argument in discussing these former cases as this evidence espouses a feasible alternative. This is not to say that these interventions have resulted in the eradication of displacements as a result of urban redevelopment. As would be indicated in the subsequent discussions, it is obvious that the awareness on the subject matter has increased and the issues and frameworks for better management have been instituted and promulgated. Yet the challenge remains. The central issue of land ownership, stronger private for profit sector and right issues continue to provide new dimensions and perspective on urban displacements in current urbanizing cities and urbanized countries.

The increase spate of urban displacement resulting from urban redevelopment came along the question as to whether those displaced has a right to the urban space. As espoused by Harvey (2003), the displacement of urban dwellers from redevelopment programs poses the questions as to whether these individuals have “the right to the city” by means of “the right of access to what already exists” or “a right to change it”. This allusion made by Weinstein and Ren (2009) draws inferences that the evolution of urban redevelopment has changed the course of this moot point. Together with evidence from Shatkin (2000), Hall (2002), and Fainstein (2010) they articulated that community based activism have seemly forced urban low income dwellers with little holdings on land as well as immigrants to alter the decisions that would have otherwise reflect ownership decisions into a more ownership and user decisions. 

1.6 Urban Redevelopment, Decentralization and Community Participation
In Britain and the US community based actions and decision-making replaced centralized decision process as mega redevelopment project from the national or federal, and state levels in the period between early 1980s and 1990s were ineffective in solving the economic crises in the major industrial cities in these two countries. Hall (2002) cites cases from the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and the Britain Dockland investments as particular examples. Yet this has not had a great impact on these evolutionary trends. Evidence suggested by Weinstein and Ren (2009) in the case of Shaghai in China and Mumbai in India confirm that central action from higher decision making levels still influence urban development interventions. Shatkin (2000) documented similar events in Manila in the Philippines. CBOs, workers’ associations and individuals’ agitations have raised the issue of right to influence the actions that affect them especially when it affects them negatively. This thus puts up the claim that “if it affects me then I have a right to how it affects me and what you can do about it”.

As such current intervention of urban redevelopment that targets mostly low income settles, most often noted as slums, have received the human rights’ arguments. These have influenced urban development projects are implemented and how displacements are managed. The rights of informal and low income workers are increasingly be recognized and integrated in the management processes. Even though this phenomenon continues to grow and skepticism as to whether developing countries can adequately managed them in the phase of the urbanized world. Criticisms, local level empowerment, and research in best practices have consolidated households “right to change the city” as a fundamental approach to human and urban development.

This is critical for developing countries. They are the fastest urbanizing regions in the world as a result of both natural increases and rural-urban migration and sadly have little capacity to manage this increase. Poverty migration from rural areas is compounding poverty situations in urban areas thus aggravating the issue of slums (UN-Habitat, 2003 and 2007). As at 2001, it was estimated that “the total number of slum dwellers was 32 percent representing 924 and 43 percent of the combined urban populations of all developing regions lived in slums (UN-Habitat 2003) with rural-urban migration and globalization being the inducing factors. Current situation seems gloomy than this (UN-Habitat, 2007). 

The good news is that the realization of “the right to the city” and the negative consequences of urban redevelopment are helping to shape and change approaches to urban redevelopment. The process is now becoming more participatory with increase provisions for alternative housing as well as improvement in compensations. Accordingly, the World Bank explains that “approaches to urban slums brings together the growing and rich body of knowledge on the vital issue of improving the lives of existing slum dwellers, while simultaneously planning for new urban growth in a way which ensures future urban residents are not forced to live in slums” (UN-Habitat, 2003). 

The foundation that has warranted these changes has been the political institutions that coordinate these redevelopment programs. By drawing implications for the political environments as facilitators of these events means that leaving urban development to the whims of the urban politics leave in its wake prolong inefficiencies as documented in Britain and USA (Hall (2002) cites Fainstein). Leaving the political environment as it is without planning and social policy values will increase the impoverished states of low-income dwellers, increase displacements with little or no compensation (Shatkin, 2000; Hall, 2002; and Weinstein and Ren, 2009). According to Fainstein (2010) “diversity, democracy and equity” remain fundamental to achieve this.

1.7 Conclusion

In all these discussions, learning from previous interventions is critical and engaging those affected is one way of identifying potential negative consequences and how tensions and marginalization can be managed effectively, efficiently and sustainably. Mitigating these consequences should therefore be one of the major interests of the urban planner or the policy analyst who is not only a facilitator or promoter of development but also an activist for mitigating the negative consequences of development. Development should not be assumed to be positive as history has revealed that there are two sides to this positive endeavor. 

For developing countries, managing urban low income settlements (slums) requires the awareness “that secure tenure is a prerequisite for stimulating investment in housing construction and improvement, and stress that evicting people is most often counter-productive as it only displaces a problem in addition to creating unnecessary social tensions” (World Bank, 2003). Thus the realization that “cities generate tremendous wealth” should be supported by the understanding that “local governments help to create land value through better urban planning and creating friendly business environments” (UN-Habitat, 2011). Thus “it is very important for governments to capture land values to re-invest in the city to improve its infrastructure and business environment” by recognizing and integrating both land owners and land users in the decision processes” (UN-Habitat, 2011)

Again, realizing that cities or urban areas are potential for economic growth does not imply lack of regulation and consideration for local economy and economic livelihood assets. To the extent that Britain and the USA in some time increased regulation of the private sector warrants this understanding. In this regard, facilitating the private sector of growth should not mean an endeavour without great government influence. Adopting social policies should complement these economic efforts. This will therefore establish “a floor beneath which people would not sink”. With democracy and decentralization these can be achieved effectively, efficiently and sustainably (Fainstein, 2011).  


REFERENCES
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Broadbent, E. (2012). Research-based evidence in African policy debates -- Case study 1 Decongestion in Accra, Ghana. Evidence-based Policy in Development Network

Burgess, E. (1967). “The Growth of the City: The Introduction to a Research Project,” in R. Park and E. Burgess (eds.), The City: Suggestions for Investigation of Human Behavior in the Urban Environment. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

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Morris, T. (2010). Adapting to urban displacement - Urban Somali refugees in Yemen,. Forced Migration Review. Issue 34, February 2010. http://www.fmreview.org/sites/fmr/files/FMRdownloads/en/urban-displacement/FMR34.pdf [Accessed on September 1, 2012].

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Smith, N. (1979). “Toward a Theory of Gentrification: A Back to the City Movement by Capital, not People,” Journal of the American Planning Association 45, 538–548.

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Weinstein, L. and R. Xuefei (2009). The changing right to the city: Urban renewal and housing rights in globalizing Shanghai and Mumbai. City & Community, 8 (4), 407-32.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to extend my sincerest appreciation to Prof. David P. Varady who was the instructor for the "Urban Poverty and Local Economic Development" course for allowing me to post all my reviews as part of my blog articles for the series on "Urban Poverty and Local Economic Development Issues and Strategies".

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