Forced evictions and displacements should be stopped, but it is not enough. Muhammad Azka Gulsyan wants us to think about how to rebuild the evicted homes and restore affected communities and their livelihoods. Vertical Kampung projects in Jakarta show that rebuilding and restoring are possible.
Before 2017, forced evictions and displacements of the informal settlements of low-income communities – known as ‘Kampung’ – were frequent practices in Jakarta. In its worst period, 2015, the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute recorded 113 forced eviction cases, where 8.145 families were displaced.
After the new administration of the Jakarta city government, with a pro-poor platform, started in October 2017, the practices of forced evictions and displacements stopped. However, the problems did not end there. Already thousands of families were displaced from their homes, and hundreds of communities have been destroyed. Is it possible to rebuild those evicted Kampungs and restore their communities?
The Vertical Kampung Redevelopment Projects from Jakarta City Government aim to achieve that mission. In these projects, Kampungs that had been evicted and displaced are rebuilt. Three evicted Kampungs were selected to be pilot projects and rebuilt: Akuarium (evicted in 2015 for a waterfront project), Kunir, and Bukit Duri (evicted in 2015 and 2016 respectively, both for river enlargement programs). 486 low-income families used to live in those three Kampungs, most of them living with less than US$200 per month. They mostly work as street vendors, stall merchants, coolies, fishermen, and other urban informal jobs.
Kampung Akuarium and Kunir are both rebuilt in the exact location where their pre-evicted Kampungs were there, while Bukit Duri is rebuilt ex-site. The Akuarium vertical Kampung project, consisting of 107 units, has been completed in August 2021, while the remaining 134 units will be completed in September 2022. Meanwhile, Bukit Duri which consists of 75 units, and Kunir with 35 units are topped off in August 2022.
The evicted Kampungs were reconstructed, with a new architectural design concept, to be vertical mid-rise buildings. The concept is named the vertical Kampung concept. There is now available space for open green spaces and public utilities, and the housing units can be built in accordance with minimum health living standards. However, it mimics design elements of the original landed Kampungs, including active alleys, social spaces, active facades, multi-functionality of houses (i.e. shops, stalls, eateries, etc.), and more. Thus, creating a sense in the communities, that they are living in the same Kampung as before.
Community Participation in Planning and Design
Furthermore, as the project aims to restore the community, the planning and design process of the project are also conducted through a participatory approach. Community members on each Kampung were involved in every aspect of the planning and design process. From data and information gathering, problems and issues analyses, visioning and concept development, to design drawing. In doing so, communities were guided and facilitated by several local NGOs, including Rujak Center for Urban Studies, Ciliwung Merdeka, ASF-ID, Urban Poor Consortium, and Jaringan Rakyat Miskin Kota.
The result of the participatory planning and design was then presented to the city government. There were several deliberation processes between communities and the city government and several design iterations before an agreement between both parties was achieved. After that, the construction started, using designs proposed by the community that agreed with the city government. During the construction process, the communities were also involved in monitoring and decision-making regarding the construction. They were also employed in supporting the projects while skills requirements were met.
Housing Cooperative to Self-Govern Housing Management
The process of rebuilding evicted Kampungs does not stop with the physical development. To enhance and restore the community life, as previously in place in the pre-evicted period, the vertical Kampungs dwellers are allowed by the city government to self-govern their new (vertical) Kampungs. The communities created housing cooperatives to be their collective institution to manage their new housing.
Through the housing cooperatives, they self-govern the management of their Kampungs, including building maintenance, operation of common facilities (e.g. electric generator, groundwater tank, alarm system, etc.), security, cleaning, and financial management. They decide by themselves how much service charge should be paid by every household, how to allocate budgets, and how each family should contribute to the building maintenance or services. For example, they will decide that some families should allocate members in a given time to clean common areas, do security patrolling, or check the groundwater tank, etc.
This is a new approach to housing management in Jakarta. Commonly, public housing is managed by the city government apparatus. Yet most of them are poorly maintained due to inefficient bureaucracy. The self-governance model approach by the housing cooperative is a new experiment for the management of public housing. Nevertheless, the experience from Akuarium vertical Kampung, where it has been one year since the cooperative self-govern the management of their housing, shows that the housing is better maintained compared to conventional public housing.
Restoring Communities and Providing Better Quality of Life
Compared to pre-eviction conditions the quality of life for those communities is improved. Beforehand, they could live collectively as a Kampung community, but the living conditions are impoverished. After rebuilding their Kampung in the form of vertical Kampung, the communities could be restored, but now they live in a liveable living environment: their houses now follow the minimum healthy living standard, the waste is managed, wastewater is treated, clean water supply provided, and they receive fresh air supplied from green open spaces available next to their houses.
The main outcome these Kampung rebuilding projects want to achieve is the restoration of communities on these evicted Kampungs. Before eviction and displacement, they lived collectively in their Kampungs. Social capital and collective networks between them are their assets to increase resilience and survive harsh conditions, despite their poor individual economic situations. The forced evictions and displacements separated and scattered them, making each of them vulnerable. The rebuilding of their Kampung, their involvement in the rebuilding process, and involvement in managing their new Kampung after rebuilding was completed proved to be able to restore the communities.