Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

Amit Patel

Second Advisor

Michael P. Johnson

Third Advisor

Jeffrey M. Keisler


Multiple developmental approaches have been implemented by the Government of India (GoI) to improve the quality of housing and access to basic services for a large proportion of India’s urban population living in slums. However, these programs have not complemented the needs of slum communities mainly because they are designed based on perceived needs that are different from the actual needs of beneficiaries. This mismatch between government provision and what is actually needed, forces poor communities to take tough decisions and to rely on informal means to meet these needs. Taking the case study of four slum communities, two in a mid-sized city and one each in two small towns in the Indian state of Odisha, this dissertation uses a mixed-methods approach to understand how housing programs and policies could better reflect the needs of slum-dwellers. Such programs and policies could then address residents’ housing and basic services’ needs without disrespecting their basic rights, including the right to be treated with dignity. The study first assesses the mismatch between the services provided to slum-dwellers by housing programs and the actual housing needs of these communities. The dissertation offers an alternative approach that assesses the slum dwellers' housing preferences by documenting and analyzing the decisions in prioritizing their basic needs to address the gap between the slum dwellers needs and government actions. Using theories of government failure and Right to the City, the dissertation establishes itself in the framework of subaltern studies highlighting the need to recognize the spaces of slums and patterns of urbanization in smaller cities of India. The dissertation uses Community Based Operations Research (CBOR) as a framework which accommodates multiple analytical methods to highlight the voices of vulnerable populations such as slum dwellers, and identify solutions to optimize their efficiency and social equity. The study uses critical and transformative epistemologies to understand the struggles of slum communities, and highlight their voices using methods in CBOR that focus on their narratives to provide avenues for understanding alternate explanations of existing problems. The findings of the dissertation aim to provide support to the greater need of including community voices and participation in the design and implementation of welfare policies for the urban poor through a bottom-up approach that provides importance to the voices of the slum communities.


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