1. On-site UPGRADING

Slum upgrading is a way of improving the physical environment and basic services in existing communities, while preserving their location, character and social structures. Usually upgrading means that the houses, lanes, roads and open spaces are improved, without changing the layout or plot sizes. Besides improving the physical conditions and quality of life in these poor communities, the physical improvements made under an upgrading process can act as a springboard for other kinds of development among community members such as income generation, welfare and community enterprises. 


Reblocking is a more systematic way of improving the infrastructure and physical conditions in existing communities by making some adjustments to the layout of houses and roads to install sewers, drains, walkways and roads, but doing so in ways which ensure the continuity of the community. Communities can then develop their housing gradually, at their own pace. When communities opt for reblocking, some houses usually have to be moved and partially or entirely reconstructed to improve access. Some lanes may also have to be re-aligned to enable drainage lines, water supply systems or sewers to be constructed. Reblocking is often undertaken in cases where communities have negotiated to buy or obtain long-term leases for the land they already occupy. In both cases, the process of reblocking is an important step in the progress towards land tenure security and improved housing.


In this upgrading strategy, existing communities are totally demolished and rebuilt on the same land, either under a long-term lease or after the people have negotiated to purchase the land. The new security of land tenure on the already-occupied land often provides community people with a very strong incentive to invest in their housing, through rebuilding or new construction. Reconstruction also allows communities on low-lying land to first raise the level of the land above floodlines before investing in proper housing. Although the reconstruction option involves making considerable physical changes within the community and requires some adaptations to a new environment, the strategy allows people to continue living in the same place and to remain close to their places of work and vital support systems. This continuity is a crucial compensation for the expense and difficulty reconstruction involves.


Land-sharing is a housing and settlement improvement strategy which allows both the land-owner and the community people living on that land to benefit. After a period of negotiation and planning, an agreement is reached to “share” the land, where the settlement is divided into two portions. The community is given, sold or leased one portion (usually the less commercially attractive part of the site) for reconstructing their housing, and the rest of the land is returned to the land-owner to develop. There’s no rule about how the land is divided: the amount of land the people get and how much goes back to the owner is settled during the negotiations.

At the core of a land sharing process is the ability to translate conflicting needs and conflicting demands into a compromise which takes a concrete “win-win” form, and which is acceptable to all parties involved. The people may end up with less area than they had before, and the land-owner may get back less-than-all of his land, but the trade-off is that the poor will no longer be squatters but the legal owners or tenants of their land. And the landlord finally gets to develop the land.

Nearby or not-so-nearby RELOCATION

The greatest advantage of the relocation strategy is that it usually comes with housing security, through land use rights, outright ownership or some kind of long-term land lease. Relocation sites can sometimes be far from existing communities, job opportunities, support structures and schools. In these cases, community members who want to keep their old jobs or attend the same schools must bear the burden of additional traveling time and expense and must adapt themselves to a new environment. But in many towns and cities around the country, resourceful communities are finding bits of land to buy or rent cheaply for their housing that are not far away at all.

In Baan Mankong, we distinguish between NEARBY RELOCATION projects (within 5 kilometers of the original settlement) and RELOCATION projects (more than 5 kms away).

In all cases of relocation – whether it is nearby or not-so-nearby relocation – communities face the cost of reconstructing their houses at the new site, and in some cases the additional burden of land purchase payments. But tenure security tends to be a big incentive to invest in housing and environmental development at the new community.