The dynamic housing situation of Jakarta from yesterday to tomorrow

The topic of housing is interesting to look at, because the people living in Indonesia, especially in the capital Jakarta, were exposed to many different influences. The way of living is influenced not only by the geographical conditions and society with its social structure from rituals and traditions. Due to the ever-present threat to the growing population, housing needs to be controlled at the political level.


Jakarta from yesterday

Jakarta, also called Jayakarta, belonged to the Hindu Kingdom of Tarumanagara and after to the Kingdom of Sunda in the 4th century, which had become a major trading port by the end of the 14th century. One of the earliest accounts of the houses of the Sundanese people came from the Portuguese explorer Tomé Pires, who refers to the places of residence in the Kingdom of Sunda as “well-built houses of the palm leaf and wood.” 

The geographic conditions determined the type of housing for the Sundanese villages, who enjoy their simple way of life and their independence. The geographic isolation led to an independent and individualistic social outlook, who love and revive their nature in spiritual ways. The conservative tendency allowed them to avoid foreign influences, in or to conserve their natural ecosystem. In tropical rainforests of Indonesian, special requirements influence the space of living. The simple construction of the traditional Sundanese house with the Julang Ngapak roof makes it possible to circulate the air under the roof, which is important in the hot and humid climate. Large roof pitches provide shade and the elevation of the house on stilts protects against flooding and insects. 


Traditional Sundanese house with Julang Ngapak roofTraditional Sundanese house with Julang Ngapak roof (1910-1940)


In the 16th century the European influence by the Portuguese and later the Islamic influence by the Sultanate of Demak started. Shortly after the end of the 16th century and beginning of the 17th century, the Dutch colonization began. Growing opportunities in Jakarta which was named Batavia, the new capital of the Dutch colony attracted Chinese and Indonesian immigrants. By 1930, Batavia had a population of more than 500,000 people. 

 2Jayakarta, before its complete destruction by the Dutch, showing earlier pre-colonial structures before Batavia was founded (1605-1608)


Simon Stevin, a Flemish mathematician, physicist and engineer, was commissioned to design a plan for the settlement in Jakarta. His response was a rectangular, walled town, bisected by the river Ciliwung which was to be channeled into a straight canal. Even though some of the original infrastructure has given way to the buildings of the 20th century, today's center of Jakarta is still based on these ancient structures. 



 Map of the Castle and the City of Batavia (1681)   


4Canal lined with the houses and buildings of the city's most prominent dutch families (1682)


There is a similarity between the traditional Sundanese house with the distinctive roof and the drawing of the houses at the Dutch colonization, even if the used materials clearly differ. Typical elements of Dutch architecture have been integrated into the new buildings, such as the typical Dutch high-sash windows with split-shutters, gable roofs, and white-coral painted walls, which had to adapt to the new location. 

As World War II ended, Batavia was renamed Jakarta, after Indonesia gained independence from the Dutch in 1946. 

Jakarta from today

After that, the economic in Indonesia grew rapidly during the period of the New Order regime. Especially the property sector, including offices, commercial buildings, new town development, and high-rise apartments and hotels were built substantially in the center of Jakarta.

Nevertheless, the growth has been accompanied by waves of internal economic migrants from rural poverty areas around the country who fled for more opportunities available in the city and brought incredible pressure to facilities in the city also led to a critical housing shortage.

 6 Commercial and office buildings are surrounded with those informal poverty settlements

As housing scarcities increased and housing price still rose with the economic development the poor started providing communities for themselves in any available space to inhabit land that no one else wants, for instance by reclaiming coastal areas or staking plots in the public space along railway, canals, rivers, roads and under bridges where clean water is scarce and diseases are disseminating. 

Meanwhile, the residential place for narrowly targeted moderate and high income families characterized the suburban area in Jakarta. In the periphery of the city, these settlements were built in automobile accessible areas equipped with high quality amenities. 


7Overpopulation causes the growth of slum where clean water is scarce and diseases are infecting 


Nowadays, in the center of Jakarta the wide paved streets contrast sharply with the maze of narrow alleys that cross them. There is a proximity of squalor and wealth, misery and vanity, poverty and riches. They live as neighbors but with an immeasurably vast difference. On the one side, children play in open drains which are clogged with household waste. On the other side, modern office buildings, huge hotel and apartment towers flank the alleys.

The slums in the city are self-constructed by people with severe resource limitations. This self-emerging, densely populated settlement is called Kampung. Either inside the house itself or the houses side by side is crowded into all available space. Furthermore, the lack to water, sanitation or electricity is a common feature. 



  Slum Areas in Jakarta

Jakarta from tomorrow

Faced with this situation the draft of Jakarta’s 2010-2030 master plan and government interventions over the years indicate a preference for public housing project. It involves demolishing slums and moving the inhabitants to high rise public housing estates equipped with running water, sanitation and electricity at low rates but further outside the city center where they lived in.They are pushed away from their workplace and centers of economic activities. However, at the same time, new expenses due to higher transportation costs and rental payments also add burdens that they may not afford.

Population Growth in Jakarta



My house was turned to debris': Jakarta's evicted write their story


"My life in the new housing is more luxurious, like in a castle. There are facilities for children and a suggestion box near the elevator – though it’s not much use. My income has fallen sharply. In the kampung, we could trade freely. There were no rules. There are so many rules here."

Iwan Setiawan 


"In our previous life, we did not have to think about rent, water or electricity – which, of course, is now more expensive. We had a simple house, but we owned it – rather than a tall and luxurious building which we rent. Now we are given a warning letter and are banned from trading in front of the house we live in. But the majority of Pulo’s citizens are traders! The lift has already broken several times. My child is four years old and is traumatized by the lift because he experienced and saw first-hand when people were stuck in it. Children need a place to play outdoors, like we had in the old home, where they can run free. Though there are playground facilities provided by the organizer, they are not maintained and protected."

Koko Wahyu


"I used to live next door to my parents but now they live downstairs. I am concerned about them: if they have an illness or asthma relapse, I am worried no one will know. I could just live with my parents, but I am already married – and this housing is not big enough for us if we want stay together. I have asked to be moved to their floor, but the manager said I cannot, even though there is an empty unit there. The selection process is like playing the lottery."



"I am a sixth-grade student, and I usually play in the kampung, either cooking games, dolls, riding bikes around with my friends. My house in Pulo didn’t leak. The house was big and we had two floors. Even though there were a lot of rats, all our stuff could fit, and we did not have to pay for water. Our apartment in this new housing leaks. It is small, there are a lot of beetles, not all our stuff can fit in and we have to pay for water."

Faradifa Ramadhani

Disappearing Jakarta 10:10
Jakarta Hidden Tour - a documentary


some information you might find interesting


also some literature

  • Housing in Southeast Asian Capital Cities von Giok Ling Ooi (2005)
  • Condemned Communities: Forced Evictions in Jakarta von Bede Sheppard,Human Rights Watch (2006)


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