Slum Clearances – An Unlikely Source Of Housing Inspiration?

houses and possessions destroyed during slum clearance
A forced eviction in Kenya, which triggered legislative reforms to protect the housing rights of people living in informal settlements

With all of the reports about tent clearances across North America, it is encouraging to learn that there are some places where the rights of people living in encampments have been honoured. It should also be more than a little embarrassing to wealthy nations like Canada the stories discussed in this post are about illegal encampments in so-called developing countries.

The United Nations takes a great deal of interest in the circumstances of people who live in temporary housing that we might refer to as slums, shantytowns and favellas. Residents live with the constant threat of forced eviction as they have no title to the land where they live. And make no mistake, forced evictions do happen, often in middle of the night, with no warning.

The UN has issued specific guidance about forced evictions. In 2018 it published a collection of case studies where where alternatives have been implemented. The document is useful because it demonstrates a range of legal tools that have been developed to ensure that people experience a right to housing even if they don’t own it. The report is published by UN-Habitat: Alternative solutions to Forced Evictions and slum demolitions

In addition to the UN’s case studies, here is a story about new housing in Jakarta, Indonesia, where slum dwellers designed the permanent housing they now live in. The housing was built on the site where they formerly lived without title to the land. Read more at reasons to be cheerful: The Slum-Inspired Apartment Complex Designed by Its Own Residents

While there aren’t favellas in Canada, there are tent encampments. The UN’s directives about forced evictions apply equally here. Canada has made some progress in recognizing the right to adequate housing. Now it can look to Jakarta for inspiration!