Baan Mankong Collective Housing
Baan Mankong Collective Housing Program was launched by the Thai
government in January 2003, as part of its efforts to address the housing
problems of the country’s poorest urban citizens. The program channels
government funds, in the form of infrastructure subsidies and soft housing
and land loans, directly to poor communities, which plan and carry out
improvements to their housing, environment, basic services and tenure
security and manage the budget themselves. Instead of delivering housing
units to individual poor families, the Baan Mankong Program (“Secure housing”
in Thai) puts Thailand’s slum communities (and their community networks)
at the center of a process of developing long-term, comprehensive solutions
to problems of land and housing in Thai cities.
As part of this unconventional program,
which is being implemented by the Community Organizations Development
Institute (a public organization under the Ministry of Social Development
and Human Security), poor communities work in close collaboration with
their local governments, professionals, universities and NGOs to survey
all the communities in their cites and then plan an upgrading process
which attempts to improve all the communities in that city - all of them
- within afew years. Once these city-wide plans are finalized and upgrading
projects are selected, CODI channels the infrastructure subsidies and
housing loans directly to the communities.
This housing experiment in Thailand is the result of a process which has
been developing over the past thirteen years, starting with building community
savings activities around the country, then forming and strengthening
large-scale networks of poor communities, and finally using these people’s
managerial skills to deal with housing problems at city scale. But Baan
Mankong has only been possible with the commitment by the central government
to allow people to be the core actors and to decentralize the solution-finding
process to cities and communities.
By creating space for poor communities, municipalities, professionals
and NGOs to work together on the housing problems in their cities, Baan
Mankong is bringing about an important change in how the issue of low-income
housing is dealt with: no longer as an ad-hoc welfare process or a civic
embarrassment to be swept under the carpet, but as an important structural
issue which relates to the whole city and which can be resolved. The upgrading
program is helping to create local partnerships which can integrate poor
community housing needs into the larger city’s development and resolve
future housing problems as a matter of course.
The Verdict is in
conventional low-income housing strategies focus on the physical aspects
of housing and treat housing as an individual need, to be provided to
poor families individually. The individual approach may work for better-off
people, but not for the poor, whose position at the bottom of the economic
ladder leaves them especially vulnerable when they’re alone. But while
the poor may be weak in financial terms, they are particularly rich in
social terms. In Thailand’s communities of the poor, there is a social
force which can and does already deal with most of the economic disadvantages
people experience individually.
There’s no denying that a lot more poor people will be coming into Asia’s
cities in the coming years. The old conventional housing approaches won’t
be able to answer these growing demands for housing. A new approach is
badly needed, in which poor people themselves can work together and bring
their huge energy and their social force to the task of delivering secure,
affordable housing to everyone.
The Baan Mankong program is now in its fifth year. Upgrading projects
in 1,010 communities are either finished or underway in 226 towns and
cities, in 69 of the country’s 76 provinces, involving 54,000 households.
We’re not talking any more about a few pilot upgrading projects - it’s
the whole country now and growing!
This concept of a people-driven housing development process, in which
poor people themselves are the main actors, the main solution-finders
and the main delivery mechanism is no longer a new concept in Thailand.
While adjustments continue to be made in the Baan Mankong program, as
lessons learned along the way are plowed like fertilizer right back into
the process, this people-driven approach has been the core principle since
the beginning of the upgrading program.
Since the beginning, people in hundreds of different contexts have transformed
situations of informality, insecurity and powerlessness into situations
in which they are in control of their housing and their settlements, which
are now clean, healthy, beautiful and secure, with social support systems
that are stronger then ever before - all using their own steam and their
There is still a long way to go, but after almost five years, we see very
clearly that this approach is not only feasible and affordable, but it
is the right way to solve very large, very complex housing problems on
a country-wide scale.