Revisiting the MDG Housing Program in Timor-Leste
In 2013, my colleague and I wrote about the difficulties of development in Timor-Leste, citing the MDG Suco (Housing) Program as an example of poor infrastructure development. Aligned with the broader United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Timor-Leste Government constructed over 5,000 houses nationwide for social housing, to improve the quality of life of the most disadvantaged members of society.
The MDG housing initiative aimed to provide vulnerable Timorese with modern Western houses with solar energy, water and sanitation. When we wrote our blog post in 2013, we were concerned that the diverse housing needs of beneficiaries (in relation to their capabilities, livelihood activities, socio-cultural contexts and physical environments) were overlooked.
In August, I had the opportunity to revisit the case study site in Manatuto Municipality to see how things have evolved. Five years on, the lack of a consultative social housing approach has become more apparent.
At first glance, the Oma Boku MDG settlement looks more liveable than it did on my last visit. Many households now have established gardens and trimmed bushes. The settlement has social amenities such as a village meeting hall, chapel, health centre and a kindergarten. Yet it continues to experience a low occupancy rate: approximately 56%. Beneficiaries are allocated a two or three bedroom house on a 15 square metre plot of land. With much of the plot taken up by the house, only a marginal area is left for cultivation. Most rural Timorese households are subsistence farmers with some off-farm and seasonal cash crop incomes. For the poorest and most vulnerable individuals and families, having adequate and secure access to land is even more crucial, not only for household food security but as a means to a livelihood. For example, lack of land near the home means that larger livestock must be …read more