Evaluating "success"? - case of Kirtipur Housing Project, Kathmandu, Nepal
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Almost everyone familiar with housing issues agrees on the most pressing problem facing the industry today insofar as housing the poor: the shortfall in supply to demand is getting worse, despite of the innovations and investments so far (Hamdi, 1991). All the good intentions in the form of ‘development projects’ trying to improve the housing conditions especially housing for the urban poor; yet every morning, nearly 1 billion people still wake up in insecure, substandard homes (UN Habitat 2003a, p14). Why then is there a gap between the good intentions of all these ‘development projects’ and the reality in cities? On what grounds are the achievements of these projects assessed and who assesses it? This research is triggered by the urge to seek answers to these types of questions deeply rooted in its context and time. The main focus is on a housing resettlement project for the urban poor in the capital city of one of the least developed countries in South Asia - Nepal. Most of this overall urbanization status of the country is contributed by its capital – Kathmandu which has led to complexities in the urban development processes. This is spatially manifested in the form of squatter settlements which in the context of Nepal is defined as informal settlements of urban poor, marginalized and immigrants on non-claimed land (Joshi and Bjonness, 1987). Although individual nations develop their housing and urban policies, the World Bank and other international aid agencies have had powerful impacts in promoting and applying their favored theories and practices of housing (Pugh, 2001, p. 400). One of the very first examples of such an attempt in the context of Nepal is the case of Kirtipur Housing Project - the first ever NGO led housing resettlement project for evicted squatter families in the history of the whole country and the ‘success’ of which has also been claimed at both national and international levels. Therefore the need for the research becomes even more crucial. However, empirical evidences from the research indicate possible limitations in this assessment of success of this project as reality held a very different picture altogether. This research will also illustrate the project planning process of Kirtipur Housing Project in terms of local translations of global agendas such as community participation in housing for the urban poor. Although the project was a pioneer in establishing a working partnership between various urban actors such as the local NGO, municipality, CBOs, donors, etc in terms of providing housing for the urban poor; however, the main rationale of the project which was to resettle evicted squatter families was not completely achieved. Therefore the research tries to highlight the limited success of the project which does not correspond to its prior achievement claims. Nevertheless, both positive as well as negative lessons can be learnt from this project in order to improve similar future interventions.