Changing Slums Into Multistory Kampung

Improving the lives of those who live in Jakarta’s slums is a top priority for the new administration, which is considering building multi-story developments called kampung susun, or elevated villages.

However, changing urban development patterns that have persisted for decades cannot be done quickly, especially if it involves changing a popular and long-standing aversion to living in taller buildings.

One plan under discussion by officials and local leaders involves relocating squatters along the banks of Ciliwung River in Bukit Duri, South Jakarta.

“We have gathered once a week for months to discuss the plan on how to make a more proper living environment, Sandyawan Sumardi, the leader of the Sanggar Ciliwung Merdeka community organization in Bukit Duri, said. “I tell you, it’s not easy to convince people about the idea of kampung susun.”


Sandyawan attributed the squatters’ hesitance to prejudice against multistory housing and a fear of losing their current accommodations and livelihoods.

“From a total of 871 households living in eight RT [neighborhood units] in Bukit Duri, only 281 households living in three RT have agreed to the kampung susun plan,” Sandyawan said. “I hope the others will follow suit after more talks in the near future.”

The kampung susun are inexpensive multistory apartment complexes with dedicated public and commerical spaces.

Community leaders previously met with Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to set up a blueprint for implementing development of a kampung susun for those on the riverbank. To assuage the squatters, Jokowi agreed to waive spatial planning regulations that require all accommodations be located at least 50 meters from the river.

The governor agreed to widen the river from its current 20 meters to 35 meters, and to move the settlement back from the riverbank at least by 6 meters, Sandyawan said.

The result would be an area that was “roomy enough to build a road to allow fire trucks to pass 4 meters from the riverbank, plus a 2-meter settlement demarcation that can be used as green space.”

Each building in the kampung susun compound would be used by residents from one neighborhood unit. On the buildings’ lower levels, space will be allocated for residents who own their own businesses.

Most residents of Bukit Duri work in the informal sector of the economy, selling food or operating small grocery stores or slaughterhouses.

Public spaces will also be provided to encourage residents to interact, Sandyawan said. “We are still calculating the total investment needed to make all this happen. But I hope there will also be private entities that want to be involved in this project.”

Although several parties have expressed interest in developing kampung susun, Sandyawan said it was difficult to find other funding outside the administration.

“I’ve got an architect and someone from the REI [Real Estate Indonesia] association who have agreed to help. Hopefully, they can use their networks to attract more investors to help this,” Sandyawan said.

Since his inauguration on Oct. 15, Jokowi has visited slums throughout the city to assess plans to revamp those areas.

More of the slums that Jokowi visited were located in flood-prone areas, such as riverbanks. Not every slum is slated for conversion, however. Much will depend on land ownership and as well as geological considerations.

Jakarta Housing and Building Agency chief Novizal said that the agency was still collecting information on which locations were the best candidates for kampung susun.

“We have to make sure that the plans do not violate the city’s spatial plan and other regulations,” Novizal said. “We also have to reach a deal with the residents first on this, solving problems in the community. That’s what we’re focusing on right now,” Novizal said.

He said that there would be no evictions as the city developed kampung susun, claiming that affected residents would be offered interim accommodations by the administration.

Once the kampung susun were finished, residents would be free to occupy their new homes.

“There are still many things that need further planning, including the budget. But we expect to start the construction next year,” he said.

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