‘We need ground space’: urban densification and transitional housing in Ethiopia

by Minna Sunikka-Blank, Dawod Abdie and Ronita Bardhan

26 Oct 2021
Journal of the British Academy
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Abstract: Like many countries of rapid urbanisation, Ethiopia has an acute low-income housing shortage. Ethiopia’s Integrated Housing Development Programme (IHDP) can be seen as an attempt to innovate low-income housing provision. Over 200,000 IHDP units have been built since 2005. Drawing from a Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) survey in Amhara region, this article asks how the transition to high-rise has affected household practices and energy use. The POE survey shows low satisfaction among the residents, despite energy access and sanitary facilities. The new built environment compromises and contradicts established cultural practices, reducing the residents’ well-being compared to previous living in more informal settlements where the dwelling had direct access to outdoor space and community. This means that the residents tend to view IHDP housing as transitional, disincentivising improvements in the environment or social networks. Further, the loss of ground connection causes domestic and cultural practices to move indoors, increasing energy demand and reliance on appliances. This paper argues that high-rise as the only typology for mass housing should not go unchallenged. If it is the only option, design standards should not be left open to interpretation by the developer and regulations should ensure adequate design, such as dual aspect, flexibility and privacy in floor plans, and design and designation of outdoor spaces. The findings question the idea of modernisation of housing as a linear process and challenge the literature on the compact city model as ‘the’ paradigm for sustainable cities in Southern urban practice.

Keywords: Low-income settlements, slum rehabilitation, domestic energy, urban densification, housing policy.

Article posted to the Journal of the British Academy, volume 9, supplementary issue 9 (The Urban Impacts of Climate Change)

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