This paper examines user-initiated transformations to government-built housing in Ghana and Zimbabwe. Both cases were surveyed in a DFID-sponsored research programme. The 733 dwellings (398 in Ghana and 335 in Zimbabwe) surveyed show how relatively low-income households are capable of supplying new rooms and services both to improve their own housing conditions and to supply rental rooms or accommodation for family members
living rent-free. In addition, the new construction is often of at least as good quality as the original structures and sometimes envelops the original in a new skin. Thus, transformation can be seen to be a means of renewing the housing stock at the same time as adding accommodation and services.
The research demonstrates that conventional views of housing design should be rethought with the long term users' involvement allowed for and encouraged. It also demonstrates that extensions tend to turn 'modern' bungalows into traditional compounds. Through workshops, it has had some success in changing official attitudes in Ghana and Zimbabwe. Suggested policies to encourage transformations include the provision of loan finance and
the planned colonisation of open space next to the dwellings where plots are not provided. For new housing, transformations demonstrate that designs should take account of the likely increase in housing on site over decades. This, in turn, indicates larger plots rather than smaller ones and wider ones rather than narrower.
Africa Today (2004), 51 (2). pp. 34