Majority of residents in Colombo are living in slums &shanties or low-income earners housing that are known as underserved settlements in the city. The government has carried out a massive housing project to resettle these families in high-rise buildings located within the city under the UDA’s Urban Regeneration Project launched in 2010. New housing units are completely new environment to the poor to live in and also they need to adjust their livelihoods in a new physical setup. Urban Development Authority (UDA) has signed a MoU with SEVANATHA and Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) to seek the support for initiating an action research project that aims to transform and substantially improve the quality of life of 820 low income families already or proposed to be resettled in 12-storey flat called Muwadora Uyana, at Ferguson Road, Colombo 14, as part of the urban regeneration project.
The initiative emerges from the understanding that mere physical relocation and provision of new housing structures does not result in a qualitative and substantive transformation in the personal and social lives of low-income communities. Addressing these issues calls for a participatory, consultative and community rather than infrastructure-centered approach to urban development. The pilot action research is undertaken in Muwadora Uyana to developing and institutionalizing such a suitable approach to ensuring such a participatory, consultative and community-centered approach within the UDA. Major concerns and Key questions being addressed under this initiative are as follows:
- Enabling communities to meet the challenges and opportunities generated by resettlement: What forms of assistance or support do communities need to adjust to the challenges and opportunities generated by resettlement? How can resettlement, if necessary, be transformative and enabling in terms of quality of life and well-being rather than just physical relocation?
- Enhancing the nature, quality and access to common amenities to satisfy unmet social needs: What are the broader unmet social needs that need to be addressed in resettled communities? What additional common facilities need to be provided in order to meet these needs and enhance quality of life? How should they be prioritized and addressed?
- Supporting communities to deal with economic vulnerability and constraints on livelihoods rather than focusing only on the ability to pay: What are the concerns regarding livelihoods and economic vulnerability in resettled communities? How can they be addressed especially in relation to the most vulnerable households?
- Ensuring effective and sustainable maintenance and management of the built environment and common infrastructure: What are the challenges to ensuring effective and sustainable community-based maintenance of physical structures and the environment? What strengths and risks exist that would shape/affect such initiatives? How can they be addressed through capacity building programmes?
- Enhancing the sense of security and safety in resettlement sites: What measures can enhance sense of security and safety in resettled communities?