The life within urban popular settlements: the experience of the Comprehensive Slum Upgrading Program.

                                                              

The life within urban popular settlements: the experience of the Comprehensive Slum Upgrading Program.

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Solution proposed by: 
Salvadoran Foundation of Development and Social Housing (FUNDASAL, in Spanish)
In a Nutshell: 
The integral rehabilitation of Urban Precarious Settlements, inspired on the concept of social production of habitat and the right to the city, comprises the introduction of infrastructure to guarantee access to basic services, connectivity, the improvement of community cohabitation spaces, regularization of land tenure and organizational strengthening.
Where and When: 
The Comprehensive Slum Upgrading Program was implemented between 2007 and 2015 in 42 urban precarious settlements located in the municipalities of Mejicanos (12), Soyapango (14), Ilopango (14), San Salvador (1) and San Martin (1), all of them within the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador, El Salvador's most urbanized area.
Challenges: 
Families benefited by this Program are characterized by living in conditions of profound marginality and exclusion from their right to the city. Therefore, the Program aims to favor community organization and participation in the resolution of collective conflicts, peaceful cohabitation and the strengthening of organizational structures. Integration of youth to the community's development was accomplished through cultural and sports-oriented activities. Education for achieving capable communities of providing care and proper maintenance to the works built was promoted with recreational methodologies. In order to improve these settlements' living conditions, public services and risk mitigation infrastructure had to be introduced as well.
Innovation: 
The Program has contributed to the reduction of qualitative housing deficit in El Salvador by potentiating the social production of habitat from and for the urban poorest. It has involved organized communities as leading actor of a truly comprehensive upgrading of slums, applying self-help working methodologies and provoking institutional joint responsibility among Local Governments and solidarity cooperation agencies, the main contributors to this Program's goal to this day. The Program has potentiated research processes carried out by national and international academics in the service of the urban poorest.
Concept: 
- Organization: assessment and training for community leaderships in order to qualify their organizational structures, their political advocacy actions, their management skills and organizational sustainability. - Citizen participation: it ensures appropriation of the Program's processes by the families, through decision-making processes that guarantee all human rights of the collectivity are respected and guaranteed. - Youth and children: the Program strengthens their leadership capacities, artistic skills and abilities to promote peaceful cohabitation. - Environmental actions to mitigate risks and reduce vulnerabilities: to diminish the impact of extreme climate events, basic services and risk mitigation infrastructure are improved / introduced. Family and community health conditions and rainwater collection and drainage for preventing floods. - Road realignment: it improves the urban layout and connectivity of settlements' with the city. - Improvement of public space: restoration of cohabitation spaces and community-oriented infrastructure, such as parks, plazas and "communal houses". - Housing: the Program assesses the improvement of housing and introduction of basic services through affordable financial conditions. - Land tenure: legal accompaniment through land regularization processes.
Description: 
Before execution, the living conditions of families inhabiting the urban precarious settlements are characterized by the predominant precariousness of basic, social and public infrastructure: access to fundamental human rights within these settlements is virtually non-existent, provoking severe impacts on their health conditions, social networks and atmosphere of violence. Currently, the 3,144 families benefited by the Program have access to basic services (water for consumption, electricity, waste collection, sanitation, and rainwater drainage and sewage infrastructure). Community social infrastructure such as communal houses and recreational spaces has been built, in order to promote the development of activities in benefit of youth. Communities located in highly risky areas also benefitted from the construction of risk mitigation infrastructure, as well as from the realignment and improvement of roads. Credit granting was also facilitated so that families could have the opportunity to improve their house, due to the fact that they are unable to fulfill all financial requirements commercial banks have established in the formal market. All works previously described were executed through the application of the self-help working methodology, which allows families to participate directly in the construction processes and provide sustainability and maintenance to the works built. Given that these communities live in permanent vulnerability, because of their poverty conditions, integration and realization of their right to the city requires social networks, based on solidarity and inclusiveness, to be built and consolidated among communities and their families. These organizational processes have derived into the conformation of an Urban Precarious Settlements and Communities Association (MAPUS, in Spanish).
Impacts: 
- Reduction of qualitative housing deficit, benefitting 3,144 low-income, socially excluded families living in profoundly precarious conditions. - Urban regulations were adapted to the legal and technical situation of precarious settlements; therefore, regularization of land tenure by these communities could be obtained. - Organizational tissue was consolidated, by strengthening their management skills, political advocacy strategies and their leaderships' capacities for development. - An intervention model for reducing urban poverty was consolidated and transferred to local and central governmental institutions. - International recognition of the Program's experience has been obtained, deriving in solidarity contributions from international cooperation agencies towards similar initiatives.

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