Though the inadequate conditions of many slums today pose health and safety threats to millions of slumdwellers around the world, architects today recognize the lessons to be learned when it comes to the resourcefulness and collective innovation from which they are born.
In places like Mumbai, where 60% of the population lives in informal settlements, government policies favor the relocation of slumdwellers to “redevelopments” cheaply constructed by builders who get the floor space index to build lucrative apartment blocks. The logic behind the Slum Redevelopment Act of 1995 is to accommodate more people through vertical rehabilitation, yet the flawed model disregards the efficiency of existing typologies, which serve as multipurpose hubs with thriving communal industries.
In light of such development obstacles to providing adequate housing in India’s slums, Mumbai-based urban research collective Urbz has launched a pilot project to provide a homegrown alternative to slum upgrading. After a successful crowdfunding campaign that ended just last month, Urbz founders Rahul Srivastava and Matias Echanove, together with Mumbai and Paris-based social entrepreneur Aaron Pereira have embarked on a pilot project that aims to demonstrate how informal settlements can be upgraded at grassroots level.
The Homegrown Cities project involves renovating an existing home in Utkarsh Nagar slum in Bhandup by teaming up with local contractors and setting up a co-operative housing society to support the community’s good practices and help improve construction. By relying on the expertise of local contractors and their close ties to community members, the Urbz team can co-create with the community to meet genuine needs and ensure good design. But most importantly, the team hopes to change mainstream prejudices about homegrown neighbourhoods and while they’re at it, convince civic authorities to legitimise alternative housing models born from the communities themselves.
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