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Sustainable housing applications and policies for low-income self-build and housing rehab

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Recent years have seen an increased focus on the role of house construction and retrofitting within the broader agenda of sustainable development and climate change. To date this focus has largely targeted middle- and upper-income residential neighborhoods in urban areas. However, in the United States, and in middle developing countries such as Brazil and Mexico, there is growing recognition that urban sustainability will only gain traction if widespread applications are also incorporated into self-help and do-it-yourself housing construction and home improvements, especially those that address lower-income housing markets. Here we explore some of the potential ways in which contemporary sustainable housing applications may be integrated into the existing housing stock in low-income and informal settlements in the United States and in Latin America. We document the range of sustainable housing applications that are increasingly available in the U.S. as a baseline for discussion and evaluation of the potential application to lower-income segments of the housing market in both developed and developing countries. A heuristic model is presented to assess the extent to which policy makers, NGOs and low-income owner households may realistically participate in sustainable home building. Beyond physical development applications we close by emphasizing that sustainable housing agendas must adopt a holistic approach: one that embraces community and social organizational development, as well as fiscal and juridical policy dimensions.
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Sustainable housing applications and policies for low-income self-build
and housing rehab
q
Esther Sullivan, Peter M. Ward
*
,
1
Department of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, A1700 Austin, TX 78712-0118, USA
Keywords:
Sustainable development
Low-income housing
Self-help
Retrotting
Weatherization
abstract
Recent years have seen an increased focus on the role of house construction and retrotting within the
broader agenda of sustainable development and climate change. To date this focus has largely targeted
middle- and upper-income residential neighborhoods in urban areas. However, in the United States, and
in middle developing countries such as Brazil and Mexico, there is growing recognition that urban
sustainability will only gain traction if widespread applications are also incorporated into self-help and
do-it-yourself housing construction and home improvements, especially those that address lower-
income housing markets. Here we explore some of the potential ways in which contemporary sustain-
able housing applications may be integrated into the existing housing stock in low-income and informal
settlements in the United States and in Latin America. We document the range of sustainable housing
applications that are increasingly available in the U.S. as a baseline for discussion and evaluation of the
potential application to lower-income segments of the housing market in both developed and developing
countries. A heuristic model is presented to assess the extent to which policy makers, NGOs and low-
income owner households may realistically participate in sustainable home building. Beyond physical
development applications we close by emphasizing that sustainable housing agendas must adopt
a holistic approach: one that embraces community and social organizational development, as well as
scal and juridical policy dimensions.
Ó2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Introduction: making sustainability sustainable
In a noteworthy weatherization rollout speech givenon December
15th 2009 from a Home Depot store, U.S. President Barack Obama
described the notion of retrotting homes with energy efcient
insulation as sexy.
2
Though the moniker sexymay surprise many,
improvingexisting housing stock has been anintegral component of
sustainability since the very inception of the term, which is most
commonly dated to the publication of the UNs Brundtland Report in
1987 and which identied the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own
needs(World Commission on Sustainable Development, 1987).
While it remains a contested concept (Connelly, 2007)withinurban
planning and housing policy, sustainable development is considered
to be the product of three fundamental goals: environmental
protection, economic development and social equity (Campbell,
199 6). In meeting these three goals, especially that of social equity,
the role of environmental protections and improvements for the poor
is key (Higgins & Lutzenhiser, 1995), and must necessarily include
attention to low-income and self-help housing eas the Brundtland
Report clearly states in Chapter 2.
In the decades since its publication there has been mounting
concern over the need to greenthe new as well as the existing
housing stock, and it is increasingly evident that sustainable
rehabilitation must also address informal and self-help housing,
and not just formal and better off residential development. Yet this
remains largely a blind spot in housing policy and research,
notwithstanding a resurgence of interest in informality among
q
This report stems from the work undertaken in a graduate seminar supported
by a 2009-10 grant from the Policy Research Institute to Professor Ward at the
Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. It contains the multiple contributions of
the following graduate students who participated in the Housing Sustainability
class: Leticia Aparicio Soriano, Dana Campos, Lauren Flemister, Sherief Gaber,
Karina Mallaupoma Povez, Daniela Ochoa González, Christeen Pusch, Danielle
Rojas, Jacob Steubing, and Elizabeth Walsh. Charts were prepared by Lauren
Flemister.
*Corresponding author. The LBJ School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas
at Austin, USA. Tel.: þ1 512 471 6302.
E-mail addresses: sullivan.esther@mail.utexas.edu (E. Sullivan), peter.ward@
mail.utexas.edu (P.M. Ward).
1
Peter Ward holds the C.B. Smith Sr. Centennial Chair in US-Mexico Relations
and is professor of sociology and public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Esther Sullivan is a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.
2
http://rstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2009/12/15/4427454-obama-insu-
lation-is-sexy.
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
Habitat International
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/habitatint
0197-3975/$ esee front matter Ó2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.habitatint.2011.10.009
Habitat International 36 (2012) 312e323
Author's personal copy
architects, planners and policy makers (Brillembourg, Feireiss, &
Klumpner, 2005; Roy, 2005). This includes the call for sustainable
housing policy to prioritize the needs of the poor, especially those
in informal and self-built settlements (Choguill, 2007), together
with a shift in focus that not only includes production of housing
but also the rehabilitation of the existing stock (Priemus & ten
Heuvelhof, 2005).
The importance of addressing the environmental impact of
housing within larger debates about climate change and energy
usage is both well established and widely accepted. However, the
investment necessary to increase the environmental efciency of
existing homes is often seen as incompatible with affordability goals
for low-income residents, so that much of the attention paid to
home rehabilitation and sustainable home improvements concen-
trates on formally produced middle- and upper-class housing.
Moreover, the focus is mainly in urban areas and developed coun-
tries (Varol, Yalciner Ercoskun, & Gurer, 2011), even though the
largest areas of residential development in developing countries are
to be found in low-income settlements, much of which is developed
informally through self-build at the urban periphery (Balchin &
Stewart, 2001; Gilbert & Ward, 1985). Thus if signicant and
meaningful inroads into achieving more sustainable housing are to
be achieved it will necessary to gure out ways of making green
and other applications more accessible to low- and very low-income
communities, including those that are self-help or informal ethe
acid test of housing policy for the lower income groups(Choguill,
2007, p. 147). The aim of this paper is to offer insights about how
this might be achieved in self-managed and self-built housing
undertaken by low-income households in developed and less
developed countries. Research from Texas and from a major multi-
city housing project in Latin America provide the context for this
analysis, and we provide a series of models that highlight a range of
sustainable and often low-cost housing policy applications for
energy conservation and weatherization; garden and microclimate
design; water and wastewater; and solid waste disposal.
Sustainable applications for self-help and housing rehab in
comparative perspective
Thus our paper responds to the desire for creative thinking
about how sustainable technologies might be applied both to low-
income (self-help) settlements in less developed countries, as well
as poorer neighborhoods in the USA in order to make them more
resource efcient and more sustainable, both to improve the
quality of life of the residents as well as to benet the environment
(Winkler, Spalding-Fecher, Tyani, & Matibe, 2002). We will outline
new approaches of sustainable housing applications in two
contexts: rst, that of informal self-help and self-managed low-
income housing environments in Latin America and in the southern
USA; and second, in the context of lower and middle income do-it-
yourself home improvements associated with housing rehab in the
older and often deteriorated rst suburbshousing belts in Latin
America and U.S. metropolitan areas. In focusing upon sustainable
technologies in the developed countries, we wish to explore the
relevance that our ndings in the U.S. can have for the self-built
housing stock of Latin America. We are interested in exploring
how such a baselineof possible housing applications might be
applied more widely in housing practices and policies, especially in
Latin America where poverty levels are more acute, and where self-
build is widespread.
Self-help and informal settlements
In Latin America and in less developed countries the majority of
the urban population lives in informal settlements in which self-
build is the norm (Gilbert & Ward, 1985; Ward, 2012). New settle-
ments continue to be created informally at the urban periphery,
albeit at pace that appears to have slowed in the past decade or two,
and government policies, quite reasonably, continue to prioritize
the provision of basic infrastructure and title regularization
However, apart from some low techpolicy solutions and
approaches to sustainability, interest and commitment to urban
and housing sustainability in Latin America have not been as well
developed as in the U.S.
Less widely known, and with evident differences that cannot be
overlooked, low-income and self-help communities in the U.S.
share some important characteristics with their Latin American
counterparts. One area in which these commonalities are most
clearly observed are the peri-urban and colonia-type settlements
that house some of the nations lowest income residents. Colonias
are widespread especially in the southern states bordering Mexico
(Mukhija & Monkonnen, 2006; Ward,1999) and comprise low- and
very low-income populations with households earning on average
$15,000 or less per year. Informal homestead subdivisions (IFHSs)
are similar except that they are to be found beyond the border
region in the interior of the Southern states, located 10-20 miles
outside of metropolitan areas (Ward & Peters, 2007), and are not
quite so poor (average household incomes are likely to be around
$25,000), and affordability is achieved through informal or self-
nancing, as well as through self-help building and management.
Different types of self-managed housing exist: self-built homes and
extensions; manufactured homes (single or doublewide trailers)
that vary greatly in age; and modular housing structures that are
erected on site (Ward, 2003). But here, too, the policy agenda has
largely eschewed housing sustainability options for self-help and
improvement, although the production of new manufactured
homes increasingly makes use of more sustainable and energy
efcient housing elements (Krigger, 2006). However, for colonia-
type environments the major constraint when thinking about
housing sustainability tends to be that of affordability, and eat
least in the past ethe lack of low-cost sustainable housing appli-
cations provided through the larger do-it-yourself stores such as
Home Depot, Lowes, etc. That is rapidly changing as technologies
become available at much lower cost, as public awareness and
commitment to green practices expands, and as government
incentives such as the U.S. Department of Energy Weatherization
Assistance Program (McCold, Goeltz, Ternes, & Berry, 2008) and the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 come on line to
support weatherization and energy efcient home improvements
and upgrades.
Rehab of lower-income rst suburbsand innerburbs
Increasingly, too, throughout Latin America older (now)
consolidated informal settlements that were created thirty years
ago today form part of the intermediate urban area, usually forming
rings around the older urban core (see www.lahn.utexas.org).
These older settlements developed in the 1970s and 1980s are now
fully integrated into cities such that most observers would not
imagine that they had begun as shacks and squatter settlements.
Families have often subdivided their lots and housing units among
(now) grown children and grandchildren. While these settlements
are usually fully serviced there are urgent needs for the rehabili-
tation of the residential environment in order to retrotand recast
the neighborhood and dwelling space to meet contemporary
community and household needs (Ward, Jimenez, Grajeda, &
Velázquez, 2011).
Similarly in the U.S. the older rst suburbsof working and
middle class neighborhoods that formed from the late 1940s
through the 1970s today comprise an inner ring of suburbs that
E. Sullivan, P.M. Ward / Habitat International 36 (2012) 312e323 313
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invariably urgently require renovation and rehab (Katz, Lang, &
Berube, 2006; Puentes & Warren, 2006). As others have pointed
out, rehabbing this large stock of older and less energy efcient
housing is a crucial (Galster, 1996), though often overlooked
component of urban sustainability: .Even as new green building
technology improves household energy efciency, the challenge to
broad energy use reduction will be creating the economic oppor-
tunity for technology investment and retrotting of old infra-
structure(Agyeman & Evans, 2003, p. 46). Many of the U.S. rst
suburbsare undergoing major physicalchanges as former working
class neighborhoods are subject to urban renewal and gentrica-
tion(Katz et al., 2006). Whether through the construction of new
housing, or the rehab of existing structures, in U.S. cities the inner
urban areas are often in the vanguard of policies to reverse urban
decline, laying the basis for greater sustainability with less
commuting, more efcient use of public transport systems, higher
densities, and the creation of more integrated communities
(Fainstein, 2010).
However, because they are often costly, sustainable applications
are most easily adopted among the more economically advantaged
sectors (Wilson and Dowlatabadi, 2007) namely in middle and
upper-income residential neighborhoods, or among back to the
citygentriers who can afford the costs of smart housingwith
higher levels of energy efciency and investments in renewable
energy applications. As the negative impact of buildings on carbon
emissions and total energy consumption continues to be docu-
mented (Hammond, 1972), there is growing awareness of the social
equity argument in favor of making sustainable housing solutions
much more widely available (Holden, Roseland, Ferguson, & Perl,
2008). Doing so extends access to the health benets of sustain-
able upgrades (such as indoor-air quality), as well as the economic
benets of energy and water saving technologies. Indeed, the lack
of energy efcient housing in low-income communities means that
poorer households often nd themselves incurring higher utilities
costs relative to their incomes and capacity to pay (Wolfe, 2007).
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recog-
nizes that utility bills disproportionately burden the poor and can
even cause homelessness. High utility bills and the threat of being
shutoff leads households on tight budgets to make difcult trade-
offs, purchasing heat or electricity for air-conditioning instead of
food or medications (HUD, June, 2009). Meanwhile investments in
residential energy efcient interventions have increasingly signif-
icant positive rates of return for homeowners when compared to
upfront costs (Laitner, Karen, & Prindle, 2007).
Recent initiatives in the U.S. and in Latin America are taking up
the call to make sustainable housing solutions more widely
available. Although they have been in existence in the U.S. since
1976, weatherization programs have received a major llip as part
of President Obamas stimulus package that targets residential
improvements and weatherization programs in order to achieve
two major outcomes: rst, to put people into the workforce in the
production of energy efcient housing elements (e.g. doors,
windows, electrical appliances etc.); and second, to promote the
demand for these home improvement items through grants, loans,
rebates and other incentives. Today issues of sustainability and
housing improvement are rmly on the urban and housing agenda,
with the important difference that they are now being promoted
as part of the mainstream for all income groups including those
living in informal and self-built housing (Berner, 2001), in manu-
factured housing, and in so called colonias and informal homestead
subdivisions in the peri-urban areas many metropolitan areas
especially in the global South (García Pleyán, 2001; UN-Habitat,
2009).
In Latin America, Brazil and Mexico stand out as leaders in this
respect. Recent initiatives in Mexico, Brazil, and elsewhere have
indicated that middle developing countries are becoming invested
in issues of sustainability, global warming, and renewable energy
usage as part of the global debate. In November 2009 Mexicos
principal workershousing agency (INFONAVIT) organized the
First International Conference on Sustainable Housingin which
Mexicos President Calderón made a major speech advocating the
need for a broadening and deepening of sustainable housing
applications both within low-income formal housing projects as
well as for self-build settlements.
3
In Brazil in 2010 the American
Planning Association (APA) launched its newest initiative, the
Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) which is
designed to encourage city leaders, academics, state and national
policy makers, and practitioners across the Western Hemisphere to
engage in dialog on housing and urban planning solutions specic
to Latin America and the Caribbean. If the concept of urban
sustainability is to become meaningful in developing nations, then
greensolutions and approaches need to be congured for low-
income housing production ewhether this is formal or informal
in nature.
Research objectives and methodology
As noted above, middle- and upper-income housing has over-
whelmingly provided the context in which green home solutions
are tried and tested. Broadening the application of sustainable
home technologies and rehabilitation to low-income and self-help
housing requires careful consideration of the feasibility, cost and
potential benets of specic technologies in the particular context
of low-income, often informal, homes and communities and this
formed an integral element in the research that was reviewed for
this paper.
In the remainder of this paper we offer a comparative assess-
ment of a broad range of items and applications that we considered
in order assess their potential for rehabilitating low-income
housing. Energy efciency and renewable energy issues are the
most frequent foci for studies about sustainability at the household
scale, but we are also interested in other arenas of sustainability:
namely water and wastewater management, solid waste disposal
systems, and microclimate or garden design applications including
home alignment, shading, rainwater harvesting, home composting,
etc. In addition to exploring the range of applications in each case,
our goal here is to focus attention upon the more modest and low-
cost approaches that could nd immediate and widespread adop-
tion among lower-income residents in the U.S.A. as well as in less
developed countries (Verbruggen et al., 2010). In so doing, we wish
to identify the primary constraints that act to limit sustainable
housing applications whether these are legal and regulatory,
organizational and human resource-based, knowledge and culture
based, or based upon resources and affordability. In short, thinking
about sustainability goes beyond the realm of practical physical
applications egreenor not. It includes an understanding of
social, juridical and scal approaches that support the imple-
mentation of technologies.
This research was undertaken in several phases. First we gath-
ered data that would synthesize the range of applications available
for sustainable home improvements, highlighting those that
appeared to be most immediately applicable for use in low-income
and self-help communities. Second, we created a rubric for rating
the effectiveness of selected applications and assessed them
according to dened categories (discussed at length below). Third,
we developed a comprehensive matrix of the ratings of these
3
1er Foro Internacional de Vivienda Sustentable, INFONAVIT, Mexico City, Sept.
10e11 2009.
E. Sullivan, P.M. Ward / Habitat International 36 (2012) 312e323314
Author's personal copy
technologies that compares their performance across the pre-
dened categories of sustainability mentioned above.
The sources for this comprehensive literature review included
academic, technical and legal literature on various technologies:
specically books, academic and trade journals, government
reports, and industry manuals. We also consulted directly with
experts including utilities providers, manufactured housing
suppliers, community organizers, and homeowners themselves.
This led to a major report, which can be found on the website:
http://www.lahn.utexas.org. (Click on Texas Colonias Studies e
Sustainability) The report includes access to an annotated bibliog-
raphy and over one hundred pages of appendices. This compen-
dium of materials was used to create a rubric by which we rated the
various technologies in terms of: ease of maintenance, cost savings,
initial cost outlay or investment, and amount of sweat equity or
professional expertise required for implementation. We present
these valuations and the details of how they were constructed in
the ndings section below.
4
Ultimately our goal was to produce a single chart that will
allow NGOs, community groups, local authorities and individual
users themselves to more readily assess the feasibility and desir-
ability of a broad range of sustainable applications available to
new self-build home construction as well as in housing rehab and
home improvements. The aim is to create a set of tools that will
facilitate discussion about how these applications might be
applied to lower-income segments of the housing market, with
a special interest in informal communities, in both developed and
developing countries.
Dimensions of sustainable housing applications
Implementation of sustainable upgrading in the types of low-
income communities outlined above requires providing residents
with affordable homes that are resource efcient, healthy, and
comfortable. In the U.S., energy efciency of homes is the area of
retrotting most commonly addressed by federal and local incen-
tive programs although we note that this is only one area of
sustainable retrotting. High-tech renewable energy technologies,
such as photovoltaic (solar) panels are not likely to be appropriate
or feasible in low-income, self-built, or manufactured housing.
However solar panel water heaters are widely available costing
between U.S. $1100e1300 (Eaton, 2009). These heaters comprise
single solar panels that heat water to a tank that passes (or
bypasses) the regular water heater tank and can reduce a house-
holds energy costs by 80 percent. In developing countries this
remains a relatively high cost investment although many of the
large-scale new social interest home construction projects in
Mexico are including these panels on rooftops as standard. Else-
where ein the Caribbean for example ethey are common, but are
mostly tied to the homes of the wealthy. But much lower cost
alternatives exits, such as passivewater heaters that simply use
solar radiation to heat a water tank orhosepipes to provide partially
heated water at no cost.
5
This is but one example of the range of
technologies that are not only appropriate for the construction of
self-built and manufactured housing, but which are also low-cost,
affordable, and easy to operate and maintain.
Optimal sustainable interventions for low-income households
Our research identies four different arenas of technological
interventions that we believe are highly applicable to low-income,
self-managed, and manufactured housing:
1. Microclimate design and technologies to support greater
energy efciency;
2. Renewable energy technologies to support access to alternative
energy;
3. Water and wastewater technologies to promote water conser-
vation and quality; and
4. Waste systems to promote resource reuse and recycling.
One of the earliest and most important insights in our research
was when we became aware of the large number of effective
actions that can be undertaken at very little, or only modest, cost.
This nding reinforced our initial premise that, once properly
understood, sustainable housing has considerable relevance for
many low-income populations and different dwelling environ-
ments. While solar panel arrays costing hundreds (and sometimes
several thousand) of dollars are likely to be the preserve of middle
and upper-income homes, other low-cost initiatives such as
passivewater heaters, basic insulation improvements, window
louvers and awnings, properly sealed doors and windows,
improved air circulation, rainwater capture and retention, and
micro-climatic adjustments can often be achieved at two gure
sums or less. Other initiatives such as reduced water usage, low-
energy incandescent lighting xtures, reecting foil on exposed
windows, and better planning of house construction and window
apertures to capture or reduce solar gain, can all be achieved at
minimal or virtually no cost and lend themselves to self-help
improvements.
Modeling the assessment of sustainable housing applications
Our main goal in this paper is to explore and assess how far the
benets of greenhousing home building and rehab could be
extended to low-income households. In order to do this we sought
to: 1) outline the range of possible sustainable housing interven-
tions across a number of different arenas; 2) document their rela-
tive costs; and 3) quantify the feasibility and relative ease of
implementation.
Because we wanted to examine only those interventions that are
most appropriate for low-income households we paid special
attention to the economic and social feasibility of implementing
various sustainable technologies. We recognized that the primary
constraining factor that determines the feasibility of an interven-
tion among low-income communities is cost: specically the front
end economic investment required, the technological complexity of
the proposed intervention, and the labor and human capital
involved in its installation. Thus in constructing our charts we
identied the principal evaluation axes as: 1) the suitability of
different technologies in terms of their cost; 2) their ease of oper-
ation; and 3) their ability to be installed using the sweat equity of
the homeowner his or herself.
This framework allows us to assess each technology or
intervention in terms of cost, savings, opportunities for self-
help, and the relative ease of implementation. These results
are described and presented in diagrammatic form utilizing
a standardized rating scale that ranks each intervention in terms
of: i) ease of maintenance, ii) cost savings to homeowner once
4
A second (sidebar) report (Rancho Vista and Redwood Study) is also available at
the same website and was prepared by several members of the same graduate
research team. This is a major survey of housing conditions and weatherization
opportunities related to home improvement. In surveying these populations we
also gathered information about attitudes and knowledge of sustainability, and the
study provided valuable hands-on and local insights about potential applications
that might gain traction in making home improvements in low-income self-help
housing communities.
5
Many low-income residents in spontaneous settlements already bathe in
lukewarm water from passive water heaters, and minimize water heaters.
E. Sullivan, P.M. Ward / Habitat International 36 (2012) 312e323 315
Author's personal copy
installed, iii) initial cost outlay or investment, and iv) the
amount of sweat equity or professional expertise required for
implementation.
The following four diagrams represent each of the four areas
outlined earlier, namely: microclimate, renewable energy, water
and wastewater, and solid waste management. In each of the
following charts we assess the economic and practical feasibility of
select technologies and applications within each of these four
arenas. The nal (fth) chart of circles combines all four sets of
interventions into a single graphic overview.
Rubric to the gures
A key to our assessment is included in each of the following four
charts: Weatherization and Microclimate, Recycling and Solid
Waste, Water and Wastewater, and Renewable Energy.
For Ease of Maintenancewe ranked each intervention on
a scale of 1e10, with 1 indicating that the technology needs
minimal to no maintenance once installed and 10 indicating that
the technology must be consistently or precisely maintained.
For Savingswe indicated the amount of savings made possible
by the intervention. For ease of comparison across the four areaswe
interpret savings to mean total savings on utility bills made possible
by the intervention. Again we used a scale of 1e10 with1 indicating
minimal savings and 10 indicating savings of about 50% of energy or
water used, or money spent. Often this was a qualitative assess-
ment based the percent of total water, energy or expenditure that
could be offset if the intervention were made.
For Initial Cost Outlaywe created six categories to represent
different levels of initial capital investment. The majority of the
technologies are captured in categories that range from one to four
dollar signs. A key to these symbols is included in each chart. Those
interventions that require less than $20 in initial investment are
denoted by a 1-cent symbol, while at the other end of the cost
spectrum interventions that require more than $5000 (new energy
efcient AC systems or solar arrays, for example) are denoted by
a diamond symbol.
For Human Capital(denoted by hammers in the diagram), we
use a visual representation of a composite variable that attempts to
capture three things: rst, the amount of time and labor necessary
to implement or install the technology; second, the opportunity for
the homeowner to use his or her own sweat equity (an important
element in self-help); and third, the necessity to employ profes-
sional assistance or expertise. Here the number of hammers is the
amount of labor necessary: one hammer indicates minimal labor,
two hammers indicate moderate labor, three hammers indicate
intensive labor and four hammers indicate that the amount of labor
needed may be prohibitive to some households. The hammers are
also shaded on a gray scale to represent the level of expertise
required to implement the upgrade: light gray means a novice can
do the work; medium gray means some skill is required; and dark
gray means expertise or professional assistance is necessary. A
circle (in place of hammers) means that negligible labor is required
(as in the case of installing compact orescent bulbs, for instance).
We created a valuation of each intervention across the four
categories of: ease of maintenance, cost savings, initial cost outlay
or investment, and amount of sweat equity or professional exper-
tise required for implementation and present these valuations in
the following four charts.
Weatherization and microclimate
Fig. 1 demonstrates that there are a greater number of potential
interventions in the area of weatherization and microclimate than
in any of the other areas that we studied. It is also apparent that
many of these interventions are quite affordable and can produce
signicant savings (savings rated over 5 on a scale of 1e10).
However, it is also apparent that the majority of these interven-
tions require signicant labor on the part of the householder, as
well as some degree of technical prociency or the help of
a professional.
Recycling and solid waste
The area of recycling and solid waste, Fig. 2, offers most
opportunities for self-help (i.e. it shows the most interventions
rated with one light gray hammer). The key exception here is
recycling cooperatives; these community-wide initiatives require
a large human capital investment and a moderate degree of
expertise. The use of bio-digesters as a solid waste disposal method
also stands out as an intervention that requires more economic and
human capital investment but produces signicant savings.
Water and wastewater
The water and wastewater technologies chart, Fig. 3 shows
that there is a range of very high and very low-cost interventions
that produce signicant water savings relative to their use. There
are also a number of effective gray water technologies that
recycle used water from faucets and baths for other home and
yard uses.
Renewable energy
Interventions in the area of renewable energy, Fig. 4, are some of
the most expensive and require the most labor and expertise for
installation and the most maintenance. But as already mentioned
there are several relatively low-cost applications that merit
consideration and wider application. However, the savings that
these technologies provide to households varies greatly and more
often than not other investments such as weatherization will
generate greater immediate savings, and may also be a prerequisite
before more complex and expensive interventions can be made.
Overview: the comprehensive diagram
The comprehensive diagram, Fig. 5, depicts all of the above
ndings on a single graph. A single circle represents each tech-
nology or intervention. Different hatchings are used to show the
area of sustainable applications to which each circle, or technology,
belongs:
Circles with vertical narrow hatching: Water and Wastewater
interventions
Circles with horizontal narrow hatching: Recycling and Solid
Waste interventions
Circles with vertical wide and narrow hatching: Renewable
Energy interventions
Solid black circles: Weatherization and Microclimate
interventions.
The X-axis of the graph depicts ease of maintenance for each
intervention on a scale of 1e10 where 1 means little or no main-
tenanceand 10 means consistent and carefulmaintenance.The Y-
axis represents the amount of human capital/labor investment
required, where the number of hammers indicates the amount of
time and labor needed to install the technology. Included in our
valuation of sweat equity is the need for technical expertise. The
need for professional assistance, which was indicated by a grayscale
in the human capital hammer symbol in the four separate charts, is
E. Sullivan, P.M. Ward / Habitat International 36 (2012) 312e323316
Author's personal copy
indicated here by a dot on the circumference of each circle. A black
dot represents that some skill is required and a white dot indicates
that professional expertise is a prerequisite. Circles that do not have
a dot on their circumference represent technologies that do not
require professional skill or expertise and thus are most suited to
self-installation and sweat-equity programs.
Each intervention is represented by a different-sized circle. The
circles total size represents the initial cost of the intervention.
Thus, the circles comprise ten different sizes that correspond to the
1e10 value designated in the Initial Costcolumn in the above
charts. The thickness of the ring around the circumference of each
circle represents the Cost Savingsvaluation, again based upon
a1e10 value (low to high). Thus, when each circle is viewed in
terms of its total size, relative to the width of the ring around its
circumference, this is an indication of the total cost of a technology
in relation to the total savings it can produce for a household.
As we anticipated a priori, there are many low-cost, low-tech
options thathave the potentialto produce signicantsavings for low-
Fig. 1. a. Weatherization and microclimate. b. Weatherization and microclimate chart continued.
E. Sullivan, P.M. Ward / Habitat International 36 (2012) 312e323 317
Author's personal copy
income households and which stand out in the diagrams. Several of
our depicted arrays of interventions show high cost savings relative
to initial cost ratios (i.e. a thick circumference ring relative to small
total circle size). We alsofound that many of theseinterventions were
located in a section of the chart that requires low levels of mainte-
nance, and minimal labor and human capital investment etech-
nologies that should be relatively easy to implement in low-income
communities in Latin American and the U.S. Because the circles that
represent the various interventions are patterned according to the
area of sustainability to which they belong, it is clear that that some
sustainable retrots eespecially those dealing with weatherization
and microclimate (i.e. the solid black circles) eare clustered in the
highest potential zone which requires low maintenance and rela-
tively low human capital requirements.
This comprehensive graphic might be most usefully applied by
households, community leaders and policy makers that wish to
rehabilitate current homes, develop new and more sustainable
low-income housing, and/or create programs that utilize sweat-
equity. Together, the diagrams provide a heuristic to demonstrate
the range of possible technologies for rehab and new development,
Fig. 1. (continued).
E. Sullivan, P.M. Ward / Habitat International 36 (2012) 312e323318
Author's personal copy
the contexts in which they are most suited, the potential outcomes,
and the anticipated benets to individual households.
Final thoughts: dimensions of sustainability and policy
making
It is widely argued that any analysis of environmental issues in
housing studies needs to be linked to broader themes such as social
and economic sustainability, social integration and globalization
(Brown & Bhatti, 2003). This is a truism and there is always a danger
that by focusing upon available technologies and their imple-
mentation, as we have done in this paper, may create a misleading
impression that technological policy xesand applications alone
can improve the lives of residents. Not so, of course, and the crea-
tion of more sustainable urban environments ewhether in
developed or less developed countries ewill require a more
Fig. 2. Recycling and solid waste chart.
E. Sullivan, P.M. Ward / Habitat International 36 (2012) 312e323 319
Author's personal copy
holistic understanding and convergent policy approaches along
three principal dimensions: social, juridical (regulatory) and scal.
In order to ensure that our physical applications models outlined
above are more holistically framed, we wish to briey underscore
these other key dimensions.
Social sustainability requires the broadening and deepening of
participation and buy-in in sustainable living practices, yet because
of its subjective characteristics it has been difcult to dene (Shen,
Ochoa, Shah, & Zhang, 2011). It is sometimes dened as develop-
ment that is compatible with the harmonious evolution of civil
society, fostering an environment that encourag(es) social inte-
gration, with improvements in the quality of life for all segments of
populations(Polése & Stren, 1999,p.15e16). Pursuing social
sustainability according to this denition will require better infor-
mation and public awareness, support for social capital formation
and community mobilization, capacity building, and education. In
less developed countries high level of social mobilization often
accompany self-help housing processes especially in the earlier
phases of land capture and development. However, once neigh-
borhoods are established and consolidated, public participation
Fig. 3. Water and wastewater chart.
E. Sullivan, P.M. Ward / Habitat International 36 (2012) 312e323320
Author's personal copy
atrophies, and it is necessary to revitalize mutual aid and
community development programs around regeneration and
housing rehab. The same is often true in inner city and rst suburb
neighborhoods in the U.S. where multiple stakeholders need to be
engaged.
Juridical sustainability entails policy actions that ensure sensitive
planning controls and zoning to discourage the proliferation of
unsustainable housing development, but do so in a way that will
also enhance greater commitment to and participation in sustain-
able housing practices. This might include the creation of mini
social development zones in which approved upgrading and
improvement initiatives encourage progressive(gradual)
compliance with planning norms over an extended period of time,
since these can rarely be achieved overnight. Regularization of
property title, and the adoption of simple inheritance procedures
will do much to encourage investment in home improvements,
especially in long established inner urban neighborhoods where
heirship and inheritance is often confused. Creative systems of
shared titling, ownership, and cooperative management will foster
stakeholder engagement in home improvement.
Fig. 4. Renewable energy chart.
E. Sullivan, P.M. Ward / Habitat International 36 (2012) 312e323 321
Author's personal copy
Fiscal sustainability is the third dimension. Cities need to be able
to sustain themselves nancially through taxation and effective
pricing policies for public goods and services. This is the platform
on which creative policies to leverage federal and other investment
stands, providing appropriate incentives for much of the sustain-
able dwelling applications described in this paper. Many tax and
other rebate incentives to encourage more energy efcient prac-
tices and appliances already exist, but mostly fall to the middle and
upper-income groups. Just as we have emphasized the importance
of engaging lower-income groupsknowledge and participation, it
is also necessary to offer them tangible scal incentives so that they
are not locked out of enjoying at least some nancial advantages.
Also, scal incentives should not just obsessively pursue sustain-
able energy practices (although these are important and the hard
end of current thinking), but should also offer other arenas of
sustainable housing activities such as lower-tech water, waste-
water, and solid waste disposal systems.
Arguably, with the exception of the rst suburban ring, the
settlements that we have identied in this paper are in some
respects fundamentally unsustainable. In the United States, for
example, peri-urban suburbs dependent upon long commutes and
largely private (rather than public) transportation are not sustain-
able, and are one of the principal reasons for the back to the city
movementand smartdowntown and inner-city growth and
densication policies. But these are relatively recent, and since the
1950s suburbanization and sprawl have been the norm, invariably
predicated upon private car use. Expansion into peri-urban areas
and exurbia by low-income colonias, and informal homestead
subdivisions in the 1980s and the proliferation of large lower cost
formal housing developments since the late 1990s present major
challenges to smart and greengrowth initiatives. However, no
matter how far the growth of these residential suburbs and exurbs
are controlled in the future, those already in existence can only
benet from sensitive policy measures that encourage awareness
and adoption of sustainable housing options as we have outlined in
this paper: they already exist and will not go away, such that
maximum effort is desirable to minimize their negative environ-
mental impacts and carbon footprints.
In Latin America and other less developed countries, irregular
self-help settlements and modes of housing production and home
improvement are and will continue to be the norm, and a funda-
mental barrier to sustainability in these communities is poverty.
And while cities and local authorities are often administratively
weak and scally challenged, the nature of informality and the
weaker juridical and regulatory environment offers these pop-
ulations considerable exibility in allowing them to go it alone.
Socially, too, these irregular settlements display greater mutual aid
and community mobilization capacity than their U.S. counterparts,
especially in their formative years. Here we expect that galvanizing
support for home and community level improvements that also
embrace an agenda of sustainability should be quite possible. In the
older established consolidated areas this propensity for mutual aid
has often waned, and there is a need to re-galvanize some of that
erstwhile social and community mobilization. However, the
stability of many owner households in these neighborhoods where
neighbors know each other well and interact closely provides
a basis for community mobilization, defense of interests and
engagement around sustainable community renovation, service
retrotting and dwelling rehab. The paradox is that many of these
settlements ewhether peripheral or located in the innerburbs e
are potentially much more sustainable than their peri-urban U.S.
counterparts, being, as they are, more compact, with higher
densities, and with a greater dependence upon collective trans-
portation systems.
Fig. 5. Comprehensive diagram.
E. Sullivan, P.M. Ward / Habitat International 36 (2012) 312e323322
Author's personal copy
Ultimately, however, whether in developed or developing
countries, issues of urban and housing sustainability will only
become truly meaningful if they can embrace lower-income pop-
ulations and poorer residential environments. We have shown in
this paper that much can be achieved by taking small steps, which
even if very modest in their impact, will do much to raise aware-
ness, commitment, and buy-in among what are often the majority
population of the worlds cities.
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Thesis
The way social housing in Mexico is procured could play a significant role in the sustainable development of the country. This thesis seeks to identify the critical challenges in enabling social housing. It identifies deep-seated issues around the fundamentals of land ownership, the relationship between the public sector, the private sector and the communities living in this housing sector. Finally, it also looks into the contemporary regulations and the procurement environment. The work deals with the historical challenges that still inform the characteristics of poorly planned urban growth seen through the rapid expansion of social housing. The research seeks to define what characteristics of sustainable development are particularly relevant to the Mexican experience. This thesis gains focus through fieldwork based in the city of Leon located in central Mexico. The research identifies the complexities of social housing procurement in a clearly defined context. Research conducted in Leon sets out relevant physical, commercial and cultural landscapes as well as key social, economic and political actors. This investigation also looks at the processes of housing procurement, urban impact and the understanding of sustainability in social housing and how sustainability might be addressed in this housing sector. This analysis establishes whether the current programs promote sustainability and if they are efficiently applied, and if not, how they can be improved. Overall, the research seeks to define what characteristics of sustainable development are particularly important to the context of a city, in this case Leon.
Book
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1. Introduction: the research issues and strategy 2. Bogota, Mexico City and Valencia: the social, economic and political backcloth 3. Access to land 4. Servicing low-income settlements 5. Community organisation: participation or social control? 6. Conclusions Appendices Notes Bibliography Indexes.
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An important paradigm shift in development planning was under way by the late 1960s, as some researchers began to notice the unintended negative consequences of large-scale, modernized city-building schemes. Lisa Peattie's The View from the Barrio (1968), a critique of the Ciudad Guayana experience in Venezuela, led the way. 1 There were others, too, at MIT and elsewhere, who by then had started to advocate for an alternative, bottom-up approach to city building. In architecture, John Turner's graduate classes at MIT introduced students to the nature of urban settlement, and during 1968–1972 he developed the framework for a comparative analysis of " low-income housing systems, " which eventually led to major publications (Turner and Fichter 1972; Turner 1976). Turner mentored a number of graduate students who subsequently became the carriers of his ideas not only to their own countries but also to multilateral agencies and nongovernmental organizations. At Harvard, William Doebele's research in Colombia generated a new understanding of informal land development processes. He showed how policymakers could integrate irregular settlements into the land market. In anthropology and sociology, Tony and Liz Leeds, working on Brazil and Peru, were developing a nuanced understanding of squatter settlement typologies. Simultaneously Susan Eckstein at Boston University and Wayne Cornelius at MIT were completing manuscripts based on their doctoral dissertations that examined protests in low-income settlements and offered new insights into the political awareness of the poor. In retrospect, one can see this groundswell of research was part of a growing disillusionment with the export of the then dominant planning paradigms of state-led modernization. It is paradoxical that the questioning of the orthodoxy came out of the same Cambridge-Boston stable, and in some cases even out of the same research group, that had helped
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