The faulty paradigms that have worsened the plight of urban informal settlers have to go

The faulty paradigms that have worsened the plight of urban informal settlers have to go

“The faulty paradigms that have worsened the plight of urban informal settlers have to go” argues former PSS President and Institute of Philippine Culture research scientist Prof. Mary Racelis in her latest column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. In this article, Prof. Racelis identities six faulty paradigms that have governed housing policy through decades and puts forward counter-proposals to enforce urban poor communities’ right to the city.

Last 17 May, Prof. Racelis presented her work on urban informal settlements at the Manila Urban Design Festival in Intramuros. Together with Albert Santos Zambrano (an architect and urban planner) and Filomena Cinco (chairperson of Barangay 412, Zone 2, Manila), the panel showcased Estero de San Miguel as an example in participatory design in housing. They demonstrated how technical experts can meaningfully engage with urban poor communities who have practical knowledge in managing and navigating the challenges of everyday life.

In her talk, Prof. Racelis challenged representations of urban poor communities as lazy, violent and incapable of contributing to urban communities. Instead, Racelis argues that urban poor communities, while living in irregular layouts and precarious conditions, have strong networks of solidarity, cohesion and social capital.

She concludes her presentation with proposals on how social scientists and policymakers can engage with urban poor communities as partners in  planning and development. Among these suggestions include the following:

  • Listen to and learn from informal settlers; get their points of view; understand and respect their People’s Plan; respond with appropriate interactive technical assistance
  • Seek flexible win-win solutions in close consultation with the community
  • Intensify confidence building mechanisms
  • Reorient government bureaucracies and systems toward genuine partnerships with urban poor communities.

Download the presentation slides here.

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