Chapter 5 Research Paper Summary


The following chapter concludes this report. A summary of the research is presented, and findings of the study are discussed and interpreted. The significance of this research in the immediate context of El Gallo and in the field of low-income housing is examined. Recommendations for further research end the chapter.

The scope of the following conclusions is limited to the context and historical characteristics of El Gallo. Thus, applied to other situations, these conclusions may yield incorrect assumptions. Still, these conclusions are relevant to the process of dwelling evolution in progressive development projects.

5.1 Summary of Research

This study observed the process of dwelling evolution in progressive development projects. The literature review was concentrated on the process of progressive development occurring in planned sponsored projects. It was found that, based on observations of the informal settlement process, progressive development under different contextual conditions was not questioned, and its benefits were taken for granted. Studies in the area were reduced to the period of improvement up to the time when the dwelling was physically consolidated. Longer term evaluation of progressive development projects were not found.

Research was undertaken on a 27-year-old progressive development project in Venezuela. The intention was to observe the process of dwelling evolution and the kind of housing that was being produced under progressive urban development projects on a long-term basis. The case study showed dwellings built with different initial levels of user-participation. Dwelling evolution was observed in a survey sample using parameters relevant to the case study (i.e., area increase, dwelling spatial growth and plot occupation, and changes in the functional structure).

Survey dwellings followed identifiable patterns of evolution in size, spatial structure and use-layout. Patterns were affected by aspects of the surrounding context and by aspects inherent to characteristics of the initial dwelling. Consequently, different dwelling groups showed different processes of progressive development.

5.2 Discussion and Interpretation of Findings.

As progressive developments, dwellings at El Gallo were able to adopt new and diverse roles along their whole process of evolution. In this section, relevant issues of the process of dwelling evolution observed at El Gallo are discussed. The first concerns the role of the non-permanent structure in the context of El Gallo as a sponsored progressive development project. The second comments on the process of dwelling evolution that followed the construction of the permanent structure.

In principle, non-permanent structures at El Gallo were similar to ranchos built in informal settlements. Ranchos at El Gallo served as primary shelters while more basic household priorities were met (i.e., services and infrastructure were provided, sources of income were found and generated, and even a favourable social environment was developed among neighbours). However, the majority of tin shacks were neither considerably increased nor upgraded with better materials even when they were used for long periods of time. This fact, together with the sudden change in the pace of development caused by the construction of a very complete permanent dwelling and subsequent removal of the rancho, had no connection with the gradual process of shack replacement observed in invasion settlements of Ciudad Guayana during this study (Portela, M. 1992). Neither did this process have a relationship with the system of "piecemeal construction" described by several housing researchers as characteristic of low-income dwellers.

The shanties were... housing in process of improvement. In particular the piecemeal system of building afforded great advantages to those who, like most of the poor in developing societies, have great variations in income from month to month (Peattie L. 1982:132).

Under El Gallo conditions of land security, ranchos did not show consolidation, and revealed their transient character because they were eventually substituted by permanent structures. The non-permanent structure revealed the primary household's aspiration for a minimum satisfactory habitable area. However, besides basic shelter during the initial stage, ranchos served to the purposes of capital accumulation that eventually allowed households to buy a basic unit according to official standards, or building a bigger, more complete first permanent structure. The size of ranchos reflected households' aspirations for the permanent dwelling, that is,smaller ranchos were substituted by basic units of the housing programs. Instead larger ranchos were substituted by large self-produced dwellings.

It is difficult to ascertain why ranchos were removed when they could have been kept as part of the dwelling, as in fact did a minority of households (2 cases). Is a fact that the temporary materials of ranchos contributed to their deterioration that ended with the total removal of the rancho. However, an idea that may have contributed to the demolition of the rancho was the household's adoption of the planner's belief that ranchos were a bad but necessary step on the way to obtaining permanent housing. Thus, once the permanent dwelling was built, the price households paid to gain credibility (i.e., that this stage was reached) was the demolition of the rancho itself. This interpretation can be specially true for Ciudad Guayana, where dwellings of certain quality such as those of El Gallo were seen as "casas" or houses. Instead, structures of similar quality in the hills of cities such as Caracas were still considered ranchos. In the long run, informal settlements obtained the largest benefits from this process because they gained far more official tolerance and social credibility (i.e., that shacks were actually temporary means of residence towards good-quality housing).

Those who lived in smaller ranchos improved their spatial conditions by moving to the small basic dwellings. Those who occupied bigger ranchos built bigger dwellings by themselves. Still, some households built their dwellings without going through the rancho stage. Self-produced dwellings followed the formal models either to gain the government's credibility of user commitment to build "good" government-like housing, or because households believed so. Imitation of the formal models, however, varied according to the builder's interpretation. For instance, the pattern of the detached dwelling was adopted, but often one of the side yards was reduced to a physical separation between the dwelling and the plot separation wall. More effective interpretations involved enlarging the front porch or using the central circulation axis to allow easy extension in the future.

The building approach of the permanent structure influenced the process of evolution that followed. Basic units built by the housing agencies had a compact, complete layout with higher standards of construction; however, aspects of the design, such as internal dimensions, were inadequate for household criteria, and the layout was not well adapted. Dwellings built according to provided plans and specificationshad similar problems, but households enlarged spaces and modified layouts when they were building the units. The level of construction standards was also reduced since the lateral façades of some dwellings were unfinished. Dwellings built totally by self-help means were the largest permanent structures. Aspects of the design of the first permanent structure allowed easy extension of the dwelling towards open areas of the plot. More user participation was reflected in straight-forward processes of evolution without internal modifications, and fewer stages to reach the current houseform.

5.3 Significance of the Study

While this study acknowledges again the effectiveness of progressive development in the housing system, it shows how dwelling evolution in progressive development projects can have different characteristics produced by internal and external interventions. Usually, projects are designed and launched to reproduce certain desirable outcomes and meet specific expectations. However, conditions prevailing in these projects and sometimes strategies that are introduced to "improve," "speed up" or make more "efficient" the process of evolution can affect the outcome in many different ways. This study showed how contextual characteristics of El Gallo, as well as the design and level of user participation in the initial permanent dwelling, affected successive stages of progressive development. However, it is important to recognize that are other issues beyond the spatial aspects that are intrinsically related with the evolution of the dwellings and that were not included within the scope of these particular research (i.e., household's changes in income, size, and age or gender structure).

The findings at El Gallo add modestly to the body of knowledge of literature on progressive development. Progressive Urban Development Units, UMUPs, have been the main housing strategy in Ciudad Guayana these last years, and they are likely to keep being used. Simple facts such as knowing the characteristics of the additions and modifications that households make to their dwellings over time can be the basis for more assertive actions supporting or enforcing progressive development activities. Understanding the process of dwelling evolution in low-income developments would be an effective way to help the process that, in the case of Ciudad Guayana, zonings and bylaws have been unable to regulate.

5.4 Recommendations for Further Research

Long term assessments are particularly constrained by the availability and reliability of recorded data. The frequency, and often the methodology, in which censuses and surveys are made do not always suit the purposes of this kind of research. Household interviews are very important, but they may become troubled by informant's limited memories and the continuity of the household in the dwelling. Aerial documentation, if available, represents one of the most reliable sources to observe physical change. Nevertheless, a careful and detailed process of observation of aerial data becomes very time consuming. For similar studies, a first phase in which the housing diversity is identified in the aerial data according to the selected criteria, would allow to reduce the number of detailed survey samples needed, thus considerably reducing the time of data collection.

In the context of Ciudad Guayana, further studies of the non-permanent dwelling in recent UMUPs would reveal new insights into the function of these structures in progressive development projects. This would be essential especially if any kind of initial aid is to be provided. On the other hand, following the growth of progressive developments is necessary if services and infrastructure are, as they are now, the responsibility of the local government. Identifying the producers of physical evolution -- i.e., the drivers and catalysts of change -- would be an important step for further research. An interesting step within this trend could be to ascertain the extent in which other household processes -- family growth, income increase and economic stability, household aging, changes in the household composition (single- to multi- family), etc., affect the process of dwelling evolution.

In the context of low-income housing, the process of progressive development needs further understanding. As in Ciudad Guayana, progressive development is likely to be the main housing strategy for other developing countries in the near future. Local authorities would do well to follow the evolution of settlements and to identify real household needs, and the consequences of public and/or private interventions in low-income settlements. Perhaps the most important learning of this study is that the experience of El Gallo acknowledges again the dynamic participation of the low-income households under different conditions, and still leaves wide room for a positive participation for the many other actors in the evolving urban entity.

. Notes for Chapter V

1 Dodge reports that some settlers of Ciudad Guayana kept the rancho and rented it to poorer families (Dodge,C. 1968:220). This attitude has been more common in other progressive development projects. The Dandora site and services also encouraged the construction of temporary shacks while the permanent dwelling was built. However, non-permanent structures remained to be rented or used as storage areas even after the permanent dwelling was built (McCarney, P.L. 1987:90).

1. Bias. Business establishments, agencies, or organizations usually present or manipulate figures to their favor. For instance, an advertisement may quote statistics to show that a given product is superior to any other leading brand. We should be wary of the use of statistics in this case because of the obvious

profit motive behind. An individual may also do the same. A respondent to a questionnaire or in an interview may commit the same bias o protect his own interests. Like the case of the science teachers in the high schools of Province A, they may respond that the science facilities in their respective schools are adequate although they are not just to protect the good names of their own

schools. A respondent, if asked how many science books he has read, may say that he has read many although he has read only a few to protect his name. Hence, if there is a way of checking the veracity of presented data by investigation, observation, or otherwise, this should be done to insure the accuracy of the conclusion based upon the data under consideration.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *