Bor Farang Housing Development Project

Background on the area:  For many years, the Siam Cement Group Company (SCG) had been manufacturing cement and excavating soil on this sprawling 10-hectare site in Bangkok’s Chatuchak District.  By the time production stopped in 1927, the land had been reduced to about 1-hectare, around a 9-hectare pit, which eventually filled with water and became Bor Farang (“Foreigner’s Pond”).  Later, poor families began squatting on the deserted land around the lake.  Eventually their settlement grew to include 340 households of vendors, laborers and garbage recyclers.  Since the community wasn’t recognized by the authorities, the people were unable to access municipal electricity, water supply, waste collection or drainage,and the lake became increasingly polluted.  Plus, without any access road, the people had to pass through State Railway land, adding isolation to poverty.

The Bor Farang land-sharing project is born:  Fast forward to recent years, when the area is rapidly transforming into Bangkok’s new rail transport hub, and the SCG Company expresses willingness to redevelop the site, with part of the land being used to provide decent, secure housing and employment opportunities for the 340 poor families who live there, and the pond and surrounding area being cleaned up and turned into a public park.  That’s how the land sharing project at Bor Farang was born, and it is an interesting one:  a model housing project in which a private-sector land-owner proactively participates in a housing and economic development process for the poor, in close collaboration with several government agencies and with the community, which plays a key role in all the planning and decision-making.

How the land-sharing agreement works:  The part of site that to be used for housing the community people will be turned over to the Treasury Department and become public land, and will be then leased (30 years, renewable) to the community cooperative, which has already been registered.  CODI has given loans to the cooperative to develop the first 60 houses, with support of the Baan Mankong program.  Housing for the other families will take the form of four-story blocks of flats, which will be jointly developed by the community, the SCG Company, the government and CODI.  The pond and area around it will be redeveloped as a public park and green space in area that is rapidly becoming a concrete jungle.  Besides full infrastructure facilities, the project will also include public market areas where community members can sell community products to park visitors, to boost their incomes.  Access to the housing area will be facilitated by a new access road, on State Railways land, which is being leased for the purpose by SCG, as part of the agreement.

Three types of housing:  Community members have taken part in design workshops to develop their ideas about what kind of houses they’d like to live in and how they’d like their new community to be laid out.  Three housing types have been agreed upon:  2-story row-houses (60 units), four-story blocks of flats (133 units) and a special building for elderly community members (4 units).

Progress so far:  The 60 townhouse units have been completed and construction work on the four-story apartment blocks is underway.  Most community members are taking active part in the savings group – saving for their housing and also for their community welfare fund.  Young community members have organized their own saving group, and use their collective resources to fund a variety of youth activities in the community.  Several community enterprises have been set up, to boost incomes and strengthen collaboration and self-reliance within the community.

Who pays for what?  The housing project at Bor Farang will cost about US$ 13 million, which will come from four sources.  The SCG Company will provide the land (for free) and contribute about 40% of the project cost. The government will provide about 37% of the cost for the construction of housing and infrastructure.  The community will contribute 20% of the cost, and the rest will come from CODI.

Bor Farang Project Details:

  • Households: 340
  • Landowner: Private sector company (donated to central government)
  • Tenure terms: Cooperative land lease (30 years)
  • Type of project: Land-sharing
  • Completed so far: 60 rowhouses
  • In process: 137 walk-up flats