A defining factor in slum and squatter neighbourhoods is that the homes of residents are outside the protection of law. Lack of secure housing tenure means vulnerability to forced evictions, corrupt ‘landlords’ and corrupt ‘rental’ systems in general. It also means unrecognised capital in residents’ homes. Klong Toey neighbourhoods have experienced numerous forced evictions including the eviction of Lock 7-9 neighbourhoods in 2003, where over three hundred families were evicted using army personnel, police and bulldozers.This vulnerability to eviction and corruption undermines people’s wellbeing; the ongoing, angry and sometimes violent conflicts between those who claim ownership of homes and tenants are an immediate danger too. These conflicts occur in part because there is no legally valid place for either ‘landlord’ or ‘tenant’ to go to have disputes settled. Further, and unlike regular home owners, squatters can’t use their investment in property as collateral.
Economist Hernando de Soto argues that squatters in the developing world would own trillions of dollars in assets and capital if their properties were recognised. Specifically, De Soto’s research calculated that if squatters gained access to a deed for their property (in the same way the first squatters did in many Western countries as they entered their country’s capitalist modern era), they would be US$9.3 trillion better off. De Soto voices concern about residents’ long-term investment in slum homes which are ‘dead’ capital.In Klong Toey, the longing to find secure housing is a need we often see expressed by our church members. Housing security, then, is a central and intrinsic challenge to those living in slum and squatter neighbourhoods.