(Illustration courtesy of Yu Sing)

What Is Kampung Susun and Why Do Jakarta's Urban Activists Love It?


MARCH 15, 2018

Jakarta. Rights group Ciliwung Merdeka on Tuesday (13/03) urged the Jakarta administration to come good with its promise to build kampung susun – literally "stacked kampung," for residents who now live on the banks of the Ciliwung River in Bukit Duri, South Jakarta.

The word kampung, which means "a village" in Bahasa Indonesia, has long been associated with poor and sometimes illegal neighborhoods in the country's urban areas.

Sandyawan Sumardi, a former Catholic priest and activist at Ciliwung Merdeka, said the administration has promised to build a kampung susun in Bukit Duri as a pilot project and an alternative solution to the much-criticized rusunawa, the government-subsidized high-rise apartment blocks initiated by former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

Last year, the government reportedly spent at least Rp 5 trillion ($371 million) on relocating 10,000 local residents who live on the city's riverbanks – sometimes to a new place so far away that the relocated residents had to leave not just their homes but also their jobs.

"Now the majority of residents in rusunawa can't afford to pay their rent to the government, since most of them are jobless," Sandyawan told the Jakarta Globe.

Sandyawan said many studies have shown that the rusunawa program is doing a good job at ousting the urban poor, and stops at that.

"The residents used to own their own land or houses before they got evicted. Now their land is gone, and their jobs with it," said Sandyawan, who has been advocating the government to build kampung susun for many years.

He said a kampung susun allows the community to be more active. It is the "most applicable and acceptable alternative" to the lively atmosphere and environment of a real kampung.

An artist's impression of Kampung Susun. (Illustration courtesy of Yu Sing)

In a kampung susun, several rows of houses are built on top of each other with each level connected by ramps and social areas that resemble similar spaces in a real kampung.

"So, it is not as rigidly linear as living in apartments," Sandyawan said.

Sandyawan also said that residents will be able to own, not just rent, houses in a kampung susun through a friendly mortgage with their own credit union.

"That's a huge difference with the rusunawa, there the residents can only rent, in kampung susun they can can own their homes," Sandyawan said.

According to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the total kampung area in Jakarta shrank by 50 percent in just two decades, squeezing out the poor from the city.