In English 100, we looked at different housing problems that lower class has to face. This essay reflects on the issues addressed in “This is Not a Slum” article by Matias Echanove and based on the text, I  wrote an essay on the topic of weather home-grown communities should be introduced in big cities or not.

In-Class Essay Revision

In the article “This is Not a Slum” 2016, Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava assert that even if home-grown communities, such as in Dharavi, are not fully modern, they should not be labelled and associated with negative names us “slums”. The authors indicate that 1 million residents of Dharavi are constantly improving their city in aspects of housing, safety, and educational access along with job opportunities (5). In fact, people in those home-grown communities learned to save up their money by living and working at the same place. The authors also report that the real estate industry’s plan for modernizing such cities would take away affordable housing and jobs of many people. I’m of two minds about Echanove’s and Srivastava’s claim that Dharavi’s density, efficiency, and community integration should be viewed as a legitimate model of a “home-grown neighbourhood” that cities worldwide would be wise to make space for. I believe that some aspects as working and living in the same building make housing more affordable in home-grown communities and would be useful to introduce in big cities but not to the full extent for the benefit of poorer class people that could gain access to modern civilization and improve their living conditions at least to the lowest standards of big cities.  

When it comes to the topic of introducing “slums” in modern countries, most of us will readily agree that the authors are trying to present home-grown communities positively to us, describing such communities as valuable and affordable places to live in for the poorer class or new immigrants. The authors quote, “when the poor migrate to Mumbai from various states in India, they feel that in Dharavi, they will find shelter, some work, and food to get by. This is why Dharavi is like a mini India” (Korde qtd. in Echanove’s and Srivastava’s, 2). In other words, both authors believe that such models of neighbourhoods provide great opportunities for housing and work which is all some people wish for. Such communities have their own advanced system of education, safety, and even tiny factories that would also benefit big cities that meet high standards of living at a current time.

I’m of two minds about the author’s claim that the model that shelters poor people, allowing them to live in the lower standard environment of a “slum” should be introduced in big cities. On one hand, I’m not sure if this affordable shelter model would fit well in modern society due to sanitary requirements and different housing values of home-grown communities and modern cities. On the other hand I agree that some aspects as working and living at the same building could be learned from cities as Dharavi and introduced elsewhere.

I agree that the existing home-grown neighbourhoods profit the lives of many people and allow them to experience life with the capabilities and materials they have, a point that needs emphasizing since so many people still believe that such places shall not exist and that they should be modernized, which would profit the poor better and improve their lives.  The authors of the article have looked at such possibilities and have realized that modern apartment buildings would be too expensive for the home-grown community members to afford, which would force them to move elsewhere or even end up homeless and jobless. Such modernization would only profit the real estate lobby that would introduce private buildings to occupy land and sell the rest at market value (4). There are other profits and advantages in the home-grown communities besides affordable housing. Residents constantly improve their city which could be seen in the example of improving shelters made of cloth or cardboard into brick and concrete homes. The authors quote Remesh Misra who writes “We have always improved Dharavi by ourselves. All we want is permission and support to keep doing it” (Misra qtd. In Echanove’s and Srivastava’s 5). Misra’s statement indicates that modernization isn’t the only way to improve such communities. Looking at other aspects such as safety provided by people knowing each other is something that could be learned from a place like Dharavi.

Even though there are multiple profits and improvements that home-grown neighbourhoods could offer to big cities, there are also disadvantages that would be brought in as well. By forcing housing affordability for the poor, authors overlook the deeper problem of sanitation and younger generation future preferences. Those preferences include the need for higher level education in order for people to have a choice of moving to big city if wanted. The education provided in “slums” limits future choices for the future generation, brining living space down only to home-grown communities. What I mean by this is that the level of education provided in home-grown communities does not meet the required education standards of big cities and is not enough to get a job there. Due to this, young generation is forced to work where they grew up, in home-grown communities. Such models that lack higher class living standards would also be hard and almost impossible to fully integrate into modern city plans. Home-grown communities do watch over their living space so it is reasonably clean, but even the fact of living far from the hospitals and lack of medical help presence allow disease to travel rapidly, potentially striking everyone in small home-grown communities. The education limitation of the younger generation previously mentioned makes it impossible to find a job in a bigger city with high standards, making a smaller profit of living closer to modern big cities. Existing home-grown communities known as slums could make use of outside involvement and improvement without the need to be fully reconstructed. For example, such outside improvements could include a better transportation providing faster hospital reach. Another solution could be introducing schools and hospitals in home-grown communities rather than rebuilding them in the middle of the modern city. On the other hand, living and working close by or even the same place could be implemented in big cities, allowing people to save money on things as transportation. This could happen in the city apartments where the first few floors would be a workplace with remaining floors above as living space for the workers.

Due to reasons mentioned, my feelings on the issue are mixed. I do support Echanove’s and Srivastava’s position that some of the key elements should be viewed and introduced in big cities, but I still find that introducing fully developed home-grown communities would bring just as many new issues as profit, if not more. Such “slums” would be a way of giving homes to homeless people and could exist nearby the city for medical assistance, for example. Some elements could also be introduced in big popular areas and in fact it is already happening. Looking at the example of the Brentwood mall, which was torn down to be reconstructed into a more profitable mall along with housing shows the introduction of home-grown community aspect of living and working at the same place. Of course it is still made for higher level living standards which are different from Dharavi, but the fact that our big cities look at aspects of living and working at the same place already indicates the thought of other principles used that differ from standard malls. Metrotown mall has also started thinking of following Brentwood’s methods of binding homes along with the mall. This brings us to a conclusion that even if fully introducing a home-grown community in big cities would not be sufficient and would cause problems in the future, some principles of such communities could be learned from and incorporated in our modern society lives, which would profit poorer as much as middle and richer classes.