Global problems, housing and land shortages : Is there a solution?
Bangkok, like other major cities around the world, is getting bigger, in terms of population. Bangkok has the highest population density in Thailand, with approximately 5.6 million people residing in the city and, by 2030, Bangkok’s already crowded population is expected to increase to 11 million.
The Thai government has attempted to tackle the housing problem by launching urban renewal projects, aimed at redeveloping run down areas of the inner city and increasing residents’ quality of life. The Din Daeng community was the first urban renewal project, involving three organizations, namely the National Housing Authority (NHA), the Department of Public Works, Town & Country Planning (DPT) and Local government (Municipality).
Recently, the first phase of the new 28-storey Din Daeng flats was completed and they are now home to 334 households, including residents from five of the old flats. Din Daeng district is located in the heart of Bangkok, and very close to transport connections, highways and many schools, hospitals, government agencies and office buildings. The improvement plan started in 2000, passed through seven national administrations and involved a longstanding dispute between the authority and the locals, because of the failure to properly negotiate the old tenements’ demolition.
Eventually the five-storey, half a century old buildings, mostly suffering with rusting metal beams, cracks and weakened structure, were demolished. The new Din Daeng flats are a good case study and have inspired The Port Authority of Thailand, the owner of Bangkok’s biggest slum, to build 25-storey condos for 26 slum communities, costing 7.5 billion baht, on nearly 200 Rai (12 hectares) in Klong Toey district.
Since land is very limited, especially in inner city areas, building high rise condominiums is probably a good solution to solve housing supply shortages. While a minority of Bangkok’s residents can afford modern, luxury condos, by far the majority are average or below average income earners who require inexpensive but convenient housing.
“There are three challenges in providing affordable housing for the have nots” according to Jonathan Reckford, Chief Executive Officer of Habitat for Humanity International. Firstly, land, if there are subsidies for land from the city or government, which earmarks land early, as they are improving infrastructure or transit services, then some of that land can be used on which to build affordable housing. This would make it more affordable for developers to construct low cost housing.
Second, the prices of building materials and manpower are rising. The innovation in construction and building materials can help low-income families and builders to develop better houses on limited budgets. For example, recycled ‘Green Roof’, roofing sheets made of used milk and beverage containers. Lastly, access to financing. Many low income families are unable to get a traditional mortgage.
When asked what could be the best solution to housing and land shortages, Jonathan says, “In my view, if we not building enough of affordable housing it will actually slow down the economic growth of our city because workers can’t work unless they can find housing. It also becomes an issue of basic human dignity, and I think the best thing for the city as it grows is to allocate land for affordable housing as part of the overall municipal development plans. South Korea did a pretty good job when they expanded the transit system. They reserved some of the land for affordable housing, and the city’s population can keep growing without informal settlements or slums. So, I think the key is for city administrations to be proactive. You know that population growth is inevitable, so plan ahead of that growth and make sure that land for affordable housing is built into that growth plan, rather than letting it happen informally”.
Reporting by Jeerapa Suvanvitit