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Asian Coalition for Housing Rights

The Asian Coalition is a broad coalition of grassroots community organizations, NGOs, architects and engineers currently working in 215 cities across Asia. ACHR was established in 1988 in response to public evictions in South Korea before the Summer Olympics; the founders started ACHR to advocate for squatters and impoverished communities that face eviction.

In its 25 years of operation, ACHR has expanded to include a variety of supportive activities on many scales. It supports small-scale upgrades and community improvements, as well as larger city-wide initiatives.

ACHR’s philosophy is simple: decent housing is a fundamental human right. As Asian cities have seen explosive growth in the last 25 years, large populations have been forcibly moved from city centers to make room for development.

Their latest project was the Asian Coalition for Community Action Program (ACCA) which seeks to work with the urban poor in managing their own development. The program asks urban residents to take the lead in developing homegrown solutions, as opposed to providing top-down solutions. ACCA’s work was also instrumental in developing the Community Architects’ Network (CAN) in 2010. CAN connects community architects and technical professionals with community groups interested in change. In so doing, ACHR and CAN activate what they call ‘para-architects.’ Their process begins with a recognition that poor people have long been the architects of their own homes and communities and therefore possess inherent design and planning skills.

“…the work of the community architects is becoming a very important process. You’ve got to find technical professionals who can translate what the poor community groups would like to plan for themselves, and show this plan of the transformation in which people are the key essence of the process.”
-Somsook Boonyabancha

The work of ACHR details the significant challenges faced as the human population becomes increasingly urban, and our cities transform overnight into megacities.

We had an opportunity to speak with The Asian Coalition for Housing Rights about their methods and strategies on Social Design Insights. Listen to Episode 8 | Growth, Equity & Asian Cities here.