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Fragmenting a Metropolis: Sustainable Suburban Communities from Resettlement Ghettoes to Gated Utopias
Published: 31 October 2013 by MDPI in The 3rd World Sustainability Forum session Sustainable Urban Development
Abstract: The paper examines the impact of the Greater Cairo Master Plan and New Towns Policy on urban housing crisis through some case studies focusing especially on New Cairo City, to the east of downtown Cairo. The empirical research attempts to qualitatively examine the complex reasons for the failure of various policies and implementations in meeting housing needs of middle and low-income people. This has resulted in the emergence of nearly empty new towns, and the increasing fortification of the affluent nouveaux riche within exclusive desert condominiums and gated communities, a phenomenon which aggravated social injustice and housing inequality. These communities’ global architectural styles and marketing strategies are linked to neo-liberal economic policies and private entrepreneurial urban governance related to individualised rights of seclusion, privacy and consumption. Influenced by expatriates in the Gulf monarchies, these desert enclaves are located in Greater Cairo's western desert (6th October City: Dream Land, Gardenia and Beverly Hills) and in the eastern suburbs (New Cairo City: Katameya Heights, Golf City, Al Rehab City, Mirage City, Arabella). Surrounded by golf courses, recreational and commercial facilities, these luxurious residential districts tend to be exterritorial with their construction, maintenance and economies, being largely controlled by international property development firms, whilst locally underlining the ever-sharper social disparity between rich and poor. Whilst exclusive lifestyles and security measures are defining features of these desert resort communities, these gated enclaves do not exist in isolation from their geographical and cultural environments, as noted in New Cairo City. Since 2000 New Cairo City was established as a result of merging Greater Cairo Master Plan's eastern new settlements (1, 3 and 5 ), creating a large suburban community. Initially the area was inhabited by 1992 Cairo's earthquake victims officially relocated to public housing units in settlement (3), which were later regarded incompatible with the development of golf gated communities.To a certain extent, New Cairo City encapsulates most of the features and problems of Greater Cairo’s urban situation, in terms of a hybrid mixture of decayed public resettlement housing for the poor and up-market private gated resort communities for wealthy expatriate groups. New Cairo City, regarded as heterotopian spatial layers with diverse fragmented communities and as venue for new claims by global capital investment, ‘juxtaposes in a single real place different spaces and locations that are incompatible’ (Foucault 1997, p.356). The empirical study adopted a qualitative ethnographic analysis of the on-going contestation between resettled urban poor's right to the city, residents of gated communities, real estate and property speculators and official urban policy. A small area survey was administered within New Cairo City, with in-depth interviews recording narratives of both secondary stakeholder agencies (policy makers, urban planners, NGOs activists, real estate agents) and primary stakeholder groups (urban poor households within resettlement housing and affluent residents within gated communities). The study proposed a stakeholder approach to the sustainable development of new suburban communities in the context of real estate investment and urban planning policies,. Such approach would advocate public– private partnership and grass roots co-operation between home owners, relocated urban poor, land developers, housing experts and local authorities, in order to create inclusive and sustainable urban spaces.
Keywords: New Cairo City – gated communities- resettlement housing- sustainable suburban development- stakeholder approach