Michael Hooper publishes research on forced eviction and involuntary resettlementSep 10, 2012
Michael Hooper, assistant professor of urban planning, together with Stanford's Leonard Ortolano, recently published the results of a study of forced eviction and resettlement in Tanzania. Their paper, in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, responds to an increasing hope that grassroots mobilization can help marginalized groups address development-related challenges, such as involuntary resettlement.
The paper investigates how participation in an urban social movement—the Tanzania Federation of the Urban Poor, or TFUP—influenced resettlement success following evictions in Dar es Salaam. The paper draws on detailed pre- and post-eviction interviews with slum dwellers in the city's Kurasini ward.
Forced evictions and resettlement rank among the most widespread human rights violations. According to the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions, 4.31 million people were affected by implemented or threatened evictions in 2007-08. Despite the large number of evictions taking place worldwide, there has been limited research on involuntary urban resettlement, especially in the developing world. By tracking a group of extremely poor evictees (with an average household income of 2.93 U.S. dollars per day) from before eviction to after resettlement, Hooper and Ortolano's research seeks to improve understanding of both the dynamics of social movement participation and the consequences of evictions.
Their surprising results show that the majority of interviewees reported improved post-eviction housing, but adverse employment impacts not anticipated in the movement's mobilization strategy. This mirrors the preparation by planners and community leaders in other resettlement scenarios, where the focus is typically on housing impacts, and employment outcomes get only limited consideration.
TFUP members, expecting TFUP to secure housing for them, delayed finding accommodation. This led to resettlement farther from their former homes and employment. Women were especially vulnerable following eviction, with their post-eviction pay falling because of the nature and location of their pre-eviction work.
The findings confirm key results from the limited prior research about the impact of evictions on the employment prospects of evictees in the developing world, and may hold more widely, particularly in the rapidly growing cities of Sub-Saharan Africa.
This poses considerable practical challenges to urban planners, policy makers and movement organizers. The expectations of marginalized groups can be strongly shaped by the rhetorical and strategic focus of a mobilization effort, which alone may be insufficient to provide them with an effective means of adapting to rapid urban change. Despite the growth in civil society groups in cities in the developing world, there remains a strong need for planners to ensure that the needs of marginalized groups are considered in formal planning procedures and that efforts are made to support communities in their efforts to cope with highly disruptive events.