Low-income housing, the environment and the state : the case of St. Lucia.
The convening of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 represented a
major milestone in the global debate on environment and development. This thesis,
however, is not concerned about the broad views and perspectives advanced by
developed and developing countries. Rather, the focus is at a much more micro level.
The thesis examines the relationship between the environment and one aspect of
development, namely, housing. The discussion centres on environmental conditions
in low-income communities in a developing country: St. Lucia. This is really the
reality of the debate within the boundaries of Small-Island Developing States (SIOS).
As Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia states " ... peasants are likely
to be far less concerned about holes in the ozone layer than about holes in their
rooft" (in Main, 1994:3).
It is within this context that the thesis is set. Brown agenda issues are
becoming increasingly more evident in the cities of the developing world. In St.
Lucia this is most visible in low-income housing communities. This thesis examines
the underlying reasons for the neglect of low-income community environments and
assesses whether there is a direct correlation between the level of government
intervention in the establishment of these communities and the state of their
household and neighbourhood environments. It also provides a comprehensive
understanding of the operations of the formal and informal housing sectors in respect
of low-income housing.
The thesis argues that the State has failed in its attempts to provide lowincome
housing and that low-income households have taken the provision of their
shelter needs literally into their own hands. However, construction within the
informal sector has resulted in serious environmental degradation. While households
themselves are making some effort to address their environmental conditions, their
actions tend to be reactive and ad-hoc, with little improvements being realized. These
households have however acknowledged that they are unable by themselves to
ameliorate their environmental conditions to any significant extent. They emphasize
that the State must playa facilitating role in the process.
This thesis is therefore concerned about the ways in which these stakeholders
can work together to ensure the delivery of low-income housing within an
environmentally sustainable framework. The argument put forward is that this can be
achieved through an aided self-help approach, which will signal a new orientation
towards the provision of low-income housing in St. Lucia and implicitly, a new
environmental agenda for low-income communities.