DHSHD considers giving Yangon land ‘to communities’

As Yangon develops under the 2040 city plan, authorities are considering options to help ensure illegal residents are not forced out of their communities, according to Daw Hlaing Maw Oo, assistant director of the Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development (DHSHD).

“We are considering many options for the relocation of squatters, with the help of NGOs,” she said yesterday at the New Urban Topologies seminar hosted in Yangon by Sweden’s Färgfabriken in collaboration with Pun + Projects.

Illegal residents often live in a community for many years, and are generally only asked to move out to allow for the redevelopment of a building or a plot of land.

“We have low cost housing and affordable housing options, as well as the option to relocate, but we would prefer to keep people on site,” said Daw Hlaing Maw Oo.

The Yangon government has set aside K100 billion (US$97 million) to build 10 affordable housing projects in fiscal year 2016, a senior DHSHD official told The Myanmar Times earlier this year, with units provisionally priced at around K10 million each.

“However, if you give land to the poor, even a small piece of land, they often choose to sell it and to squat somewhere else,” said Daw Hlaing Maw Oo.

“Then businessmen will buy several of these plots of land to build a new development. We are still working on that problem because it’s very difficult to control business people right now.”

New York University has offered to carry out a study and to help provide solutions to some of these problems, she said.

“An idea we have is to give land not to individuals but to communities, of let’s say 30 to 50 people. They will propose their plan for how to use the land, and we will propose ours, and we will discuss it. That way they will be able to have development but they will not be able to sell out, as it will not belong to Mr A or Mr B but to the community.”

She did not elaborate on how this scheme would be funded, or who the stakeholders might be.
Working with NGOs has made the process of negotiating with local communities easier, said Daw Hlaing Maw Oo.

“Previously we would have been doing this by ourselves which would have led to a lot of confrontation, because some people don’t trust government workers,” she said. “But with the NGOs people are more open.”
On a broader scale, the DHSHD wants to involve the people of Yangon in city planning, she said.

“But we can’t give them an open sheet and say, ‘Everyone come up with a plan’, as it would be so chaotic. So we are working with NGOs and experts to come up with a framework that is usable, and then we will hold workshops in every township, to find out what the people want.”

However, in answer to a question from a member of the audience, she said that a public debate on the future of Yangon would not be practical.

“We have too many stakeholders already, and each has their own interests. I do agree with public debate in principle but open public debate for the time being will not lead anywhere,” said Daw Hlaing Maw Oo.

Source: Myanmar Times

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