Skip to main content

Cityscape: Volume 11 Number 1: Chapter 3


Lessons for the United States From Asian Nations

Volume 11 Number 1

Enabling the Voluntary Sector in Third World Housing

Sukumar Ganapati

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. government at large.


In addressing Third World housing problems, the voluntary sector, characterized by voluntarism and community involvement, plays a crucial role in filling the gaps left by the public and private sectors. Although the voluntary sector is more flexible than public bureaucracy and is not constrained by profit-making goals of the private sector, it suffers from voluntary failure and faces accountability issues.

In this article, I argue that enabling the voluntary sector requires building synergistic relationships among the three sectors. I propose that intersectoral and intrasectoral institutional structures are crucial in building the synergy. Two aspects of the institutional structures need to be taken into account in this respect. First, the structures should allow for voluntarism and autonomy. Second, the structures should support the voluntary sector in financial, administrative, legal, and technical issues. I illustrate these structures by drawing on cases from Thailand, India, and the United States.


image of city buildings