With an annual income of approximately $200 US per capita, the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has been repetitively devastated by armed conflicts and frequent large-scale natural disasters for over 50 years. Viet Nam’s population is estimated to approximately 70 million, 80% of which live in rural areas. Its two biggest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh-Ville account for 7 million of the total population. Their central wards have more than 20,000 inhabitants per square kilometre and offer precarious hygiene and housing conditions.
This book presents the research findings of four Vietnamese institutions that, in 1992, designed a joint research project on urban poverty with the financial support of Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The first objective was to identify and qualify urban poverty in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh-Ville. This found that poverty in Hanoi is widespread and not well accepted or acknowledged. On the contrary, poverty in Ho Chi Minh-Ville is concentrated on the city's canals where a "poverty culture" developed long ago. The researchers’ most significant contribution has been their capacity to highlight the phenomenon and process explaining the high speed impoverishment of social groups marginalized by Viet Nam’s current abrupt social, economic, and political transformation.
The researchers evaluated whether the government's rehabilitation projects in Hanoi's central wards or its relocation of Ho Chi Minh-Ville canals residents improved or further degraded the conditions of poor urban households.
The book also looks at the current urban housing regulations and programs in Viet Nam. It makes a series of propositions to introduce specific tools that are expected to lessen the toll of poverty on urban living conditions. These propositions are central to the new housing policy currently being developed.
René Parenteau is a professor of urban planning at the Université de Montréal specializing in urban settlements (housing and environment). René has focused on the conditions prevailing in West Africa and South-East Asia's urban squatter areas since 1980. He has been working in Viet Nam since 1989.