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Housing density and housing preference in Bangkok's low-income settlements

The traditional view of a low-income informal settlement is of overcrowded space that has both high population density within its land area and within each dwelling. This paper investigates whether this high density is observed in practice, and whether it is perpetuated in other forms of low-income housing, both community-developed (in settlements upgraded through participatory processes) and public housing. This is done through spatial analysis of housing and settlement form and function, household surveys of socio-economic characteristics and satisfaction with living conditions, and in-depth interviews with residents.

The study suggests that traditional high-rise public housing forms see the highest settlement-scale density, despite having the largest proportion of open space. The traditional ‘slum’ settlement is the least dense – suggesting that not all ‘slums’ conform to the stereotype of densely built-up spaces. However, the slum dwellings are the most densely inhabited. With regard to satisfaction, the three upgraded communities demonstrate the highest average levels of total satisfaction and neighbourliness, which may arise from the community-driven, participatory process of the settlements' design.
The results highlight that there are numerous factors to consider when building affordable low and lower-middle-income housing. While national minimum floor space standards are met, on average, across the settlements, there are various types of overcrowding across households. However, in-home density does not seem to have a bearing on satisfaction: rather, it is density at the level of the whole settlement which influences resident satisfaction. This reinforces the need to consider low-income housing beyond the housing unit itself; not just as a residence, but also a place of socio-economic importance, for both work opportunities and social relationships. Maximising land usage for housing projects in city centre areas should be balanced with socio-economic needs of residents.

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IIED has been working with local partners to seek out alternative routes to density, that don't force people to choose between being displaced to distant peripheries or being crowded into unhealthy "slums" or apartment blocks.

More at www.iied.org:
Helping low-income groups in Karachi, Bangkok and Kathmandu to take advantage of urban density