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Lessons from the Ground Up

Approaches to Squatter Settlements

Julio Calderón Cockburn

August 2014, English

In this article, the author identifies the lessons that can be learned from the strategies of residents of squatter settlements, when faced with the implementation of urban planning policies in Latin America. Four approaches to urban planning in squatter settlements are considered, in terms of their influence on public policy. Three of these (progressive development, security of tenure and property rights as well as urban improvement) were generated in the 1960s in the West, when urban planning was strongly influenced by architecture and engineering. The fourth approach which took into account the community (participation and community development) was conceived by civil society in Latin America. The lessons of the last fifty years indicate that the reduced impact of public policies on squatter settlements, in addition to structural factors (employment, income, financial resources) are also due to a cultural problem. Public policy makers have limited knowledge of development strategies implemented by people from on the ground. Because of this, the hierarchical relationship between the state and the people is perpetuated, contributing to the failure of policies and to their lukewarm acceptance.

Keywords: urban squatter settlements, urban planning, Latin America, informality.