Banks, Sweat and Shelter in Addis Ababa: Sites and Services in Performance

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    In the 1970s and 1980s the politics of international development aid keenly promoted planned progressive development strategies as the primal method to produce affordable housing for the urban poor. Through this period, the World Bank used the so-called “sites and services” program to encourage staged development, flexibility, and the use of sweat equity in affordable housing production. This program aimed at providing security of tenure and a range of basic services to enable and encourage low-income households to improve their housing through time using self-help financing and/or construction. While reports produced in the 1980s assessed positively the sites and services approach it was abruptly replaced in the late 1980s by the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) policy, inspired by the bourgeoning neoliberal politics. Recently, however, the rationale of the sites and services program is reappearing in many development programs and design strategies.
    In this paper I will contend that notwithstanding some methodological innovations brought about by recent instances of planned progressive development strategies such as incremental housing or aided self-help strategies, more research is needed to stimulate a critical integration of formal and informal spatial practices in the design of affordable housing. I will argue that a vital component of this research should be focused on the nexus between design decisions and the performance of human settlements through time. To contribute for the production of knowledge on this topic, I will analyse the Nefas Silk sites and services settlement, a World Bank-funded project with approximately 3500 serviced plots developed in Addis Ababa in the 1980s. Launched in the heyday of the Derg - the socialist regime that overthrew the emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 - the settlement survived many political, social, economic and demographic transformations through the last three decades. With such an eventful history, Nefas Silk provides an excellent case to analyse the performativity of the sites and services approach.
    This analysis will draw upon the material collected and the knowledge produced by an on-going research and educational project focused on the topic of affordable housing in the global urban south, developed by the Chair of Architecture and Dwelling at the TU Delft, in partnership with the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC). The product of this research will be complemented with archival documentation retrieved from the World Bank database and recent site observations at Nefas Silk. This material will be used to build up an analytical account of the settlement’s development through time, using a retroactive life-cycle analysis as main research method. With a critical account of the results of this analysis I will single out the potentials and the threats of reconceptualising the sites and services programme to develop new affordable housing policies and support design decision-making processes for all the stakeholders engaged in actively promoting sustainable development in the global urban south.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationNo Cost Housing Conference 2016
    PublisherETH Zürich
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    EventNo Cost Housing - ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
    Duration: 30 Jun 20161 Jul 2016


    ConferenceNo Cost Housing
    Internet address


    • Sites and Services
    • Housing
    • World Bank
    • Ethiopia
    • Architecture

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