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User-initiated extensions in government-built estates in Ghana and Zimbabwe: Unconventional but effective housing supply

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Graham Tipple


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Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have large stocks of government-built housing, which, for various reasons, is in poor physical condition and/or does not conform to occupants' expectations. In many countries, occupants of such housing make unauthorized but quite considerable changes and extensions to their dwellings for their own use and for renting out. These changes and extensions are generally known as "transformations," and may contain useful models for future policy concerning existing housing estates and policy on new developments. This paper examines user-initiated transformations to government-built housing in Ghana and Zimbabwe. Both cases were surveyed in a DFID - sponsored research program. The 733 dwellings (398 in Ghana and 335 in Zimbabwe) surveyed show how relatively low-income households are capable of supplying new rooms and services both to improve their own housing conditions and to supply rental rooms or accommodation for family members living rent-free. In addition, the new construction is often of a quality at least as good as the original structures and sometimes envelops the original in a new skin. Thus, transformation can be seen to be a means of renewing the housing stock at the same time as adding accommodation and services. The research demonstrates that conventional views of housing design should be rethought with long-term users' involvement allowed for and encouraged. It also demonstrates that extensions tend to turn "modern" bungalows into traditional compounds. Through workshops, it has had some success in changing official attitudes in Ghana and Zimbabwe. Suggested policies to encourage transformations include the provision of loan finance and the planned colonization of open space next to the dwellings where plots are not provided. For new housing, transformation demonstrate that designs should take account of the likely increase in housing on site over decades. This, in turn, indicates larger plots, rather than smaller ones, and wider ones, rather than narrower.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tipple AG, Owusu SE, Pritchard C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Africa Today

Year: 2004

Volume: 51

Issue: 2

Pages: 79-105

Print publication date: 01/12/2004

ISSN (print): 0001-9887

ISSN (electronic): 1527-1978

Publisher: Indiana University Press