Structuring Low-Income Housing Projects in Developing Countries


This course explored the divergent motivations and resultant dynamics among international funders, national ministries, local authorities, and project benefactors in housing project development. Issues of development were tested against actual projects in a comparative format. The course was intended as an introduction and understanding of current issues in Third World housing policies and projects, and particularly for those interested in a practical understanding of how projects are prepared by development agencies.

Particular interest this term was the entry of China as a development player.

Description: Tensions and contradictions between the theories of developing projects for the low income were compared to the reality of compromise necessitated by real project demands, particularly when projects are supported by the international donor community. The underlying belief is that theory-building cannot be divorced from practice: both must be complementary for effective programs. Focus was at the project scale, with ongoing or planned projects as prime references. Case examples provided a comparative basis for understanding the preparation and implementation of housing projects.

Learning objectives: Students left the course with:
- A basic understanding and background on Third World housing issues, particularly ‘site and services’ and upgrading projects.
- Understanding of the context in which projects are prepared.
- Ability to prepare project proposals following accepted customary practice, particularly the logical project framework approach.
- Identification of issues and dilemmas when structuring projects.
- Exploration of tradeoffs and alternatives in practice.
- Awareness of the varied perspectives and motivations of the lender, government, local agencies, and user.

Format: The class divided into 4 groups, with each group championing one project during the term. Each week the groups explored a theme. The first session was spent outlining the underlying theory, basic considerations and tradeoffs. The second session was devoted to actual practice as seen through the case examples, with each group reviewing their projects according to the previous discussions with a summary presentation to the class.


1. Project Goals, Main Features: Types of goals: implicit and explicit; clarity; scope; process of setting goals; rationale for project; what is included in project; components: physical vs. non-physical, project vs. non-project. What project papers say, what don’t they say. How are goals set: ZOPP, other techniques.

2. Project Organization: Implementing agency structure; number of agencies; who’s responsible for what; new agency vs. augmenting existing structure; tasks, coordination; staffing issues: prestige, pay, stability; time frame/schedule, staging. Big issues: accountability of funds, bookkeeping.

3. Funding Flow/Project Costs: Terms, sources, dispersal mechanism; tied vs. untied funds; local contributions; project cost distribution.

4. Land Issues: (may not be included, depending on interest) Selection of projects, expansion areas; competition with other uses; pricing; the Bertaud Model attempt.

5. Affordability: Rationale, replication; “rules of thumb,” original costs and expansion expenses; issues of income determination; income levels reached - tradeoffs; market surveys.

6. Cost Recovery, Items recovered, percent recovered; subsidy issues; cross-subsidy and other techniques; equity, comparison to other developments.; comparison to the informal market.

7. User Issues: Selection; target income levels, eligibility; advertisement; forms, user requirements; allocation of lots; training. Filtering through applications.

8. Loan Issues: Payment terms, time issues, loan options: Materials vs. money; payment alternatives; informal payment mechanism; collection, default. Upfront vs back end emphasis.

9. Community Participation/Self-Help: Previous experience, traditional arrangements; future potentials; administrative requirements/pre-conditions.

10. Monitoring/Evaluation: Purpose; what to monitor, how and who; reliability, validity, incorporation of feedback.

11. Post-Project Issues: Speculation, resale, turnover; impact on adjacent developments; removal of administrative support; long-term community development.