Proposal for Building Low Cost Housing

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					             Incremental Housing: Its Potentials and Limitations
                      Evidence from Khartoum State

                        A Proposal for Empirical Research


               Department of Physical Planning and Urban Design
                        Department of Housing Studies
                Faculty of Architecture, University of Khartoum


This document outlines a research proposal on Incremental Housing as a mechanism
for addressing the housing needs of the urban poor, who constitute, by some
estimates, about 70 – 80% of the residents of Khartoum State. The research
investigates the potentials and limitations of this mechanism, and how best to augment
its positive aspects so that it contributes significantly to bridging the ever-widening
gap between demand for and supply of housing for the vast majority of urban

The research is part of a comparative global research on Incremental Housing
spearheaded by the Special Interest Group on Urban Settlements at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT). A Consortium of Universities from around the world
(especially in Latin America, East Asia, Africa) has been formed to share knowledge
and experiences on this promising approach. The Faculty of Architecture represents
the University of Khartoum in this Consortium. The first event for this Consortium
was held during the fifth World Urban Forum that took place in Rio de Janeiro during
22nd – 26th March 2010.

Statement of the Problem

Housing is a basic human need, which every household has to satisfy in one way or
another. The ability to satisfy this need is governed by household resources: the more
resources the household has, the more likely it will be able to satisfy its need for
housing and vice versa. On the other hand, this basic human need may become a
status symbol for rich households who could afford to spend lavishly on it.

With about 80% of households in Greater Khartoum classified as being of low-
income, the demand for housing far exceeds the ability of the vast majority of
households. This results in a wide gap between demand and supply manifested in
over-crowding, doubling-up, as well as in massive growth of informal housing
settlements devoid of basic services on the fringes of town. The housing deficit in
Khartoum State is estimated at 60,000 units annually (UN Habitat and Khartoum State
MPPPU, 2008:94).

The predominant housing supply mechanism adopted in Greater Khartoum, and in
virtually most of Sudan, is site-and-services, whereby government authorities

allocate land at subsidized prices to households based on specified criteria. Between
1959 and 2005, some 300,000 plots were allocated at an average of 6,250 per annum
(Ibid:26). Services (i.e. physical and social infrastructure) are provided by various
public agencies at subsidized prices that vary depending on the size and class of the
housing plot. Households are often left on their own to manage the design and
construction of their dwellings by hiring professional designers and builders. The cost
of building a minimum house (e.g. one bedroom, a kitchen, verandah, toilet and
bathroom) is virtually beyond the ability of the vast majority of households. Thus,
only 39% of the allocated plots have been developed.

Incremental housing – sometimes referred to as core housing – is a key mechanism
for increasing the housing stock, particularly for low-income groups, because it allows
the household to start with a 'core' dwelling which it can enlarge or improve as its
resources increase and its size grows. This has been the practice in virtually all
informal settlements that people develop on their own without help from formal
institutions or NGOs. It is also the mode in site-and-services areas where households
usually start with a few rooms, a kitchen and a toilet, that can accommodate them
when they first move into their new home. In latter years, when they accumulate
surplus resources, they can add more rooms to suit any expansion in their family size.

Because of its flexibility and initial low cost, incremental housing has been embraced
by housing and real estate agencies that seek to assist low-income groups. In Greater
Khartoum, the fastest growing metropolis in Sudan, for instance, the Ministry of
Engineering Affairs has established since the early 1990 a housing development
mechanism to develop popular housing units that can be sold to low- and middle-
income groups against annual installments. This approach was viewed as a better
alternative to allocating them plots in site-and-services areas because it facilitates
economies of scale. Between 2002 and 2008, about 18,258 popular housing units have
been built in various locations in Khartoum State at an average of 2,754 units per
annum (Khartoum State Housing and Development Fund, 2008:3). In 2002, the
National Housing and Development Fund (NHDF) was established to undertake
the supply of affordable housing at the national scale. Its target is to build 150,000
units in 15 states over a period of five years. The NHDF has already made great leaps
towards achieving this target.

However, there are several criticisms levied on the earlier core housing examples: (i)
the supply of "core" houses is very low compared to the excessive demand and
amount of housing stock provided by the informal housing and site-and-services
mechanisms; (ii) they were of low quality in terms of building materials and
construction techniques. (iii) they were not flexible enough so as to facilitate the
process of expansion and upgrading in an orderly manner; (iii) they were not
affordable to a large number of beneficiaries who couldn't fulfill their repayment
obligations; (iv) when efforts are exerted to provide communal facilities, such as
schools and health centers, they are not sustainable and don't nurture a sense of

Research Objectives

The objectives of this research are to:
1. Assess the potentials and limitations of incremental housing in providing decent
and affordable housing to low-income groups.

2. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the past examples of core housing
implemented in Khartoum State with a view to drawing lessons from them that could
inform future schemes.
3. Propose alternative designs and construction techniques that could increase the
supply, flexibility and robustness of incremental housing.
4. Suggest planning guidelines to make incremental housing areas livable and
4. Suggest alternative financial packages that could increase the affordability of low-
income groups and increase the loan repayment rates.
5. Facilitate the process of cross-fertilization and sharing of knowledge between
local and international examples, as well as between different local housing supply
mechanisms (viz. informal housing, site-and-services and agency-built).

Research Questions

The questions that will be investigated in this research are the following:

1. What are the main features of the earlier examples of incremental housing
implemented in Greater Khartoum? How do they differ in terms of size, design and
building materials?
2. What were the allocation criteria? What were the repayment rates? To what extent
were they affordable to low-income groups?
3. To what extent does incremental housing represent an effective method for
providing affordable housing units in sufficient quantities?
4. What options are there to make incremental housing areas livable and sustainable?
5. How can the process of informal housing and self-managed housing supplied
through site-and-services schemes inform the provision of incremental housing
through the NHDF and similar agencies?


The research methodology that will be applied in this research includes the following:

1. Desk review of the previous studies on housing in general and on incremental
housing in particular. Special emphasis will be placed on housing for low-to-middle
income groups in the Sudan at large and specifically in Khartoum State.

2. Field Survey of 300 households researched within six selected settlements that
represent each of the following housing mechanisms:
      (i) Site-and-services: typical blocks in each of Al-thawra, Al-Sahafa and Al-
      Haj Yousuf in Omdurman, Khartoum and Khartoum North, respectively will
      be the context for this study. These site-and-services neighborhoods
      represent consolidated housing areas that have been built more than 30 years
      ago. In each of them 35 households will be randomly selected and
      thoroughly researched.
      (ii) Former squatter areas: since Khartoum State authorities have been active
      in "treating" squatter areas, there are only a few of them left. Hence, two
      residential areas that had been squatter areas for about three decades and had
      undergone re-planning and upgrading more than 10 years ago will be
      selected to represent this second category. Umbadda and Al-Haj Yousuf are
      obvious candidates for this category. 40 households will be selected in each
      of them and thoroughly researched to investigate the transitions they have

     gone through in their housing and the physical ramifications of those
     (iii) Five low- and middle-income housing projects constructed intentionally
     as incremental housing by the Ministry of Housing/Physical Planning and
     the Housing Development Fund at different periods will be the context for
     an in-depth study. 24 households in each one of them will be randomly
     selected and researched. Al-Kurmuta, Abu-Ayoub Al-Ansari, Thawra Hara
     20, and Dar Al-Salam are representative examples of this category.

3. Graphic and photographic documentation of the changes that took place in each of
the 300 cases described above. This will be based on old drawings and photos, and on
people's recollections of the social and physical transitions that took place in their
houses. This database of cases will facilitate conducting longitudinal studies on the
incremental housing process in the future.

Expected Results/Outputs

The research is expected to result in the following outputs:

1. A final report that summarizes the literature and fieldwork results, synthesizes the
findings, present recommendations and suggest. This report will be published and
disseminated to a wider audience.
2. A Regional Workshop on housing in Greater Khartoum to be co-organized by the
University of Khartoum, the Housing development Fund and the State Ministry of
Planning and Urban Development.
3. Alternative designs, policies, and financial packages that would enrich the
housing delivery mechanism.
4. At least a couple of published articles.
5. Two papers to be presented in international conferences: the first one is the fifth
World Urban Forum that took place in Rio in March 2010 and the second in the
International Association of Housing Science's conference that will be held in Spain
in October 2010.
6. A Masters thesis.

Research Team

Within the Faculty of Architecture, the research is conceived as a collaborative
research project between the Departments of Physical Planning and Urban Design on
one hand, and the Department of Housing Studies on the other. It will involve faculty
members from the two departments as well as post-graduate students and teaching
assistants. The team is composed of the following persons:
Dr. Gamal M. Hamid, Principal Investigator
Dr. Ahmed A.M. Elhassan, Principal Investigator
Arch. Rami Zeinalabdin, Research Assistant
Arch. Nafeesa Kamal, Research Assistant
Fieldwork Assistants
One Executive Secretary

Time Frame
The time frame for this project is eight months (net) spread over a twelve months
(gross) period. This is detailed in the attached table.


The estimated budget for the research project over its twelve-month duration is as

Items                                    Units            Unit Cost      Total (SDG)
Transportation to research sites         36 days          50              1,800
4 Fieldwork Assistants                   2 months         1000            8,000
Research Assistants                      6 months         1250            7,500
Part-time Executive Secretary            8 months         250             2,000
Regional Workshop (to be detailed)                                       50,000
Drafting, photocopying, photography                                       2,500
Report Publication (local publisher)     200 copies       10              2,000
Ticket (Khartoum–Rio–Khartoum)           1                4,500           4,500
Ticket(Khartoum–Madrid–Khartoum)         2                1,800           3,600
Accommodation and Meals                  2 x 5 days       400             4,000
Per-diems for investigators              2 x 8 months     400             6,400
Total                                                                    92,300


The main partners in this research are:
1. The national Fund for Housing Development.
2. The University of Khartoum.
3. The Khartoum State Ministry of Planning and Urban Development.

The Partners will fund the research jointly and be its main beneficiaries. Other
partners can join when required.

                                                       Research Project Time Table

                            Jan. '10   Feb.   Mar.   Apr.    May       June     July   Aug.   Sept.   Oct.   Nov.   Dec. '10
        Activity                              '10    '10     '10        '10             '10
Finaliz Proposal
Secure Funding
Conduct Field Survey
Process Results
Derive Prelim. Findings
Present in WUF V, Rio
Refine Findings
Draft Report Manuscript
Regional Workshop
Present in IAHS37,Spain
Final Report Manuscript
Submit 2 Journal Articles
Publish Report


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