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Habitat Observatory

    paraSITE: Shelter for Homeless
  The Industrial Revolution created the concept of urban cities where many societal characteristics emerged due to the Capitalist Economy, which came out to be a huge money spinner for industrialists. What was left was the urban conglomeration of squatters who immigrated from villages and suburbs for employment opportunities. The concept of squatters developed as a side effect to this industrial revolution in cities.

The concept of paraSITE derives from its definition that, the parasite uses host’s energy and power to thrive. In response to addressing the problem of the homeless in urban cities, Michael Rakowitz, an Iraqi American Conceptual artist developed a small, collapsible, double-membrane shelter that uses the escaping warm air from a building’s HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) system to inflate and create a warm and dry temporary home. The initial shelter was made from black plastic in the hope of providing privacy and darkness to sleep in. However, upon asking the clients, Rakowitzrealised that what was most important to them was their security and to be able to see out from inside in case of an attack and a desire to be visible and acknowledged. Windows were thereby installed to overcome the concerns of clients. The paraSITE is made from plastic bags and waterproof tape and the cost of one unit is INR 300.

Over the course of 17 years, Rakowitz has built at least 60 shelters in various cities he’s lived in and plans to develop this project further. In India, Delhi – mHS (micro Home Solutions) tried to address the same issue at a large scale for sheltering a group of homeless people by their Modular Shelter Project, which came out as a successful initiative to shelter the homeless. The paraSITE is easily installable and can be handled by one or two persons, as it is water proof and helps inhabitants withstand harsh weather conditions since its ventilation is derived from the HVAC system that splits hot air.

This temporary and transportable shelter, paraSITE is a conspicuous social protest, not a long-term solution to homelessness. "It is very much an intervention that should become obsolete," says Rakowitz.

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    Sangli-MirajKupwad: An Approach for providing Decent Housing to the Urban Poor
  Indian cities receive abundant funding to meet the housing backlog under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNRUM). However, in many places such projects have raised serious concerns about both the judicious use of public resources and the unfolding urban scenario. Forced relocation to peripheries, cramped dwelling units, glaring absence of infrastructures and amenities, social and economic uprooting have been increasingly accepted as necessary byproducts of the urbanization story.

However, Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad (SMK) Municipal Corporation (Maharashtra) made a commendable move in 2009 by partnering with Shelter Associates, a local NGO, to pilot the city slum housing project under the Integrated Housing and Slum Redevelopment Scheme (IHSDP) of JNNURM. SMK Municipal Corporation enabled Shelter Associates to take a systemic view of habitat situation at city level and come-up with a consistent slum up-gradation strategy. The first step was to map out all slums settlements, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing technology (Google Earth).

Tenable slums were then set for onsite redevelopment into four-storey buildings. Construction has already been initiated on seven sites, and shall start soon on three others. The increased density will permit not only to accommodate the entire population of the slum pockets, but also relocate untenable slums’ residents to the closest tenable sites. For slum-dwellers, this means no less than breaking free from the usual housing versus livelihood trade-off.

In terms of design, both aspirations and life-styles of beneficiaries were carefully taken into account. For instance, the kitchen design does not include cooking platforms, as data showed that Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad slum dwellers preferred to cook on the floor. The blocks of flats have a maximum of 31 dwelling units each and all of them are built around an inner courtyard where children can play safely. The courtyard also provides natural lighting and ventilation to the flats. Considering residents’ occupations, the project includes spaces for livestock as well.

Despite numerous improvements brought about by Shelter Associates, several issues remain, for instance, how to provide houses for different family sizes in such projects. As per government standards, the current size of a dwelling unit is indeed capped at 25 sq. mts. To enable low-income customers to access decent living conditions, innovative models are the need of the hour.

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