The transformation of public housing provision in Egypt and the role of self help
Egypt faces a great challenge in relation to the provision of housing for its urban poor. Not only has the right formula to be found of how to satisy the escalating demand, both in terms of quantity and quality, but also of where to locate such housing. The New Cities and Settlements in the desert seem to be the only option left in order to combat the continuous loss of the agricultural land to the expanding existing urban centres. The New Cities however, initiated in the late 70's, failed to attract the low income groups of settlers. This was mainly due to the lack of affordable housing for such groups. Whilst thousands of finished residential units remain unoccupied, the workers employed in some of the New Cities' factories are commuting on a daily basis to and from the closest urban or agricultural centres near Cairo. This research argues that aided self-help and user interventions in general could offer an appropriate answer. When most of the New Cities and Settlements were planned many self-help schemes were proposed but were frequently abandoned in favour of the conventional medium rise mass housing approach. Little or no research has been carried out to evaluate the very few schemes which were implemented. The decision to cancel self-help schemes was entirely political and seemed to stem from the governments fear of the creation of sub-standard and poor image built environments within the New Cities. The research based its defence on projects which allow user interventions and participation in two Case Studies. The first concerns multi-storey extensions informally built by the residents in 5 storey walk-up public housing flats located in Heiwan and El Tebeen. The second deals with a core housing project located in The Tenth of Ramadan, one of the New Cities. The multi-storey extensions of Helwan and El Tebeen provided clear . evidence on the potentialities and capabilities of low income users working and living in positive and supportive circumstances. The Tenth of Ramadan Core Housing Scheme provides explicit and substantiated proof of the benefits of self-help and user intervention approaches, in contrast to the views of the Government and Local Authority who condemn the process as negative development leading to a lowering of standards and poor quality envi ronments. The research argues that self-help has succeeded where the mass housing approach has failed.The involvement of the household and community group are seen as integral decison makers in the planning and design process. The user's efforts to transform and consolidate their housing requirements should be appreciated and encouraged and to achieve this the research concludes that a review of management and design procedures would be the first step towards achieving this aim.