CODI History:

Formation of Urban Community Development Organization

Thailandís economic success during the 1980s and early 1990s brought little benefit to the poor. In fact, housing conditions deteriorated for many people and settlements were at ever-greater risk of eviction as land prices increased, leading the policy community to recognize the need to develop more participatory models of support for low-income groups. Consequently, CODIís precursor, the Urban Community Development Organization (UCDO), was founded in 1992 to address urban poverty.

 


UCDO was tasked with providing loans to organized communities for land acquisition, housing construction, housing improvement, and income generation. The $50 million fund was initially placed under the National Housing Authority (NHA) to enable rapid establishment. The organization was governed by a board of directors comprising of government staff, academic experts and community representatives; the board institutionalized partnerships and brought together different interest groups.

As a special unit within NHA, UCDO was able to operate with considerable freedom and flexibility, shielding it from the conventional system of bureaucratic control. The UCDO Board was directly responsible for policy planning, implementation and the appointment of the managing director, while the director developed systems, practices and a staff team.

Initially, the primary activities of UCDO included providing loans to communities for their housing and land needs. Interest rates were subsidized by the government, allowing communities to repay them. However, they were high enough to allow the initial fund to be sustained and to cover administrative costs.

Because of difficulty in scaling up its work, UCDO began linking individual savings groups together in the form of networks or federations. UCDO loans were provided not only to communities, but also to community networks who then on-lent to their member organizations.

Additional programs were spearheaded, including a community-managed environmental improvement project funded by the Danish-government, a Thai and Japanese government sponsored fund to assist savings groups in repaying loans after the 1997 financial crisis.

As savings schemes became stronger, increasing emphasis was given to linking community groups with city authorities, which then developed into city-based networks able to initiate and manage city-wide programs.

UCDO and Rural Development Fund merge to form CODI

In 2000, UCDO officially merged with the Rural Development Fund to become a new public organization called the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI). The government mandate that brought CODI into existence allowed CODI to operate as an independent public organization, providing greater possibilities, additional flexibility, wider linkages and expanded possibilities for collaboration between urban and rural groups. CODI could apply to annual government budget directly in order to finance additional programs.

After CODIís inception, the primary challenge was merging rural and urban strategies and methodologies. CODI applied many of the lessons of urban community organizing, housing finance, welfare funds and savings groups to the rural setting.

Baan Mankong Collective Housing Era

In January 2003, the Thai government announced a policy to provide secure housing to one million poor households within five years. This ambitious target was to be met through two programs. In the first, the Baan Ua Arthorn Program ("We care" in Thai), the National Housing Authority designs, constructs and sells ready-to-occupy flats and houses at subsidized rates to lower-income applicants on a "rent-to-own" basis.

The second, Baan Mankong Collective Housing Program ("Secure housing" in Thai), channels government funds, in the form of infrastructure subsidies and soft housing loans, directly to poor communities. Through local collaborations for land tenure security negotiations and arrangements, communities plan and carry out improvements to their housing, infrastructure, and environment, and manage their finances collectively for all aspects of development.

Instead of delivering housing units to individual poor families, the Baan Mankong Program encourages existing slum communities to form co-ops and develop their housing in a collective way; each participating community would end up having a collective land title. This method is designed to discourage speculators from buying off individual housing units from the poor and selling them out to higher income groups. Collective housing provides the security for low-income families so that they can have access to jobs in the city - usually as day laborers and street vendors - and where they can have the opportunity to get out of poverty.

The Baan Mankong Program is only possible with the commitment of the central government to allow people to be the core actors and to decentralize the solution-finding process to cities. In August 2005, the Thai Government approved a 4-year plan to improve slum communities and develop housing in 200 cities in the country.