Housing is a basic need. Improvements in infrastructure and service provision do not always lead to housing improvements in the absence of changes in other conditions, especially security of tenure. “Increased security of tenure positively and significantly affect[s] the likelihood of housing investment” (Struyk & Lynn 1983: 453). Housing accessibility can generate prosperity and social justice (De Soto 1989) through a virtuous circle of improvements (Ferguson 1996). However, a high percentage of city dwellers in developing countries (commonly known as the “South”) become marginalised from the supply of formal habitable housing. Over 90 percent of urban slum dwellings are found in the developing world (UNFPA 2007). Close to 37 percent of the urban population currently lives in slums there (UN-Habitat 2009).
If housing provision is pursued as an isolated policy (rather than as one element of an integrated housing package) it cannot bring the expected improvements (Varley 1987). Effective urban planning policies and implementation can promote social and economic justice. It is necessary to embrace initiatives that promote the provision of housing for the low and middle income populations through planning policy and practice. From this perspective, this paper focuses on the relationship between urban planning and housing, two intimately linked social activities, which are often researched on separate scholarly platforms.
In response to the affordable housing crisis, many local governments in the North are taking ‘inclusionary housing’ as an effective planning tool for creating a great deal of affordable housing. Inclusionary housing is a planning policy to provide affordable housing for low-income people in cities. Inclusionary zoning emerged in the USA during the 1970s. The mechanism is currently widely implemented in the USA where it fits into a variety of state or provincial legal and regulatory schemes. It is also extensively applied in Canada, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, India, South Africa, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, and other countries (Schwartz et al. 2012; Calavita & Mallach 2010). According to M. M. Rahman (2001) in the Philippines and Indonesia 20 to 40 percent of housing in all housing developments is provided to low-income groups. He also mentioned that the governments in Malaysia, Philippines, and Colombia sell serviced sites to the developers at subsidised prices on a condition that the developer would build non-profit affordable housing as part of their provision. V. Basolo (2011) stated that over 100 cities and countries have adopted inclusionary housing as a local policy and experienced a mixed record of success.
Several communities in the United States (US) and other developed countries have implemented different projects providing inclusionary housing. However, through a literature review on housing in developing countries, it is implicit that the cities in the South have rarely adopted an inclusionary housing policy, rather they have adopted an exclusionary policy in urban housing; and the planning system is stimulating the development of slums and squatter housing. Moreover, there is a research gap about the possibility of generating social justice and increasing affordable housing for the poor through planning instruments. The planning system in the South, which was adopted from the North, does not consider inclusiveness of the poor (Watson 2009). Therefore, it is necessary to understand the potential of an inclusionary housing policy to promote social justice and supply affordable housing for the low income bracket in cities in developing countries.
Aims and methods
The current research investigates whether it is possible to provide “inclusionary housing” as an urban planning instrument designed to ensure the provision of affordable housing and social inclusion in developing cities in the South. This is case study research, which has selected Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, as a case study city. Dhaka is a South-Asian megacity that is experiencing very rapid urban growth.
This research has adopted a mixed-method and participatory approach. Empirical data have been collected from two study areas named Bhashantek and Ayatullah Bastee (both of which are slums) in the case study city of Dhaka. The urban plans and housing policies and practices are analysed qualitatively based on in-depth semi-structured interviews with 40 stakeholders related to housing and urban planning, and representatives of the two study areas. A thematic analysis of the empirical data as well as available literature and policy papers has been performed - covering relevant data on “inclusionary housing” as well as housing and urban planning in developed and developing cities including Dhaka.
The concepts, purposes of and policy debates about inclusionary housing
According to V. Basolo (2011) inclusionary housing (also known as inclusionary zoning) is a municipal and county planning ordinance that requires a given share of new construction to be affordable for people with low to moderate incomes. Some portion of the housing project is reserved for the low income bracket using land use regulations and this portion is provided to them at an affordable price.
Land use regulations can mandate the developers of market-rate residential development to set aside a small portion of their units (usually between 10 and 20 percent) for those households who are unable to afford housing in the open market. Alternatively, the developers can choose to pay a fee or donate land in lieu of providing units (Calavita & Mallach 2010). It can be mandatory or voluntary for new housing. These programmes usually offer the developers incentives such as density bonuses, relaxation of development regulations, or a reduction or waiver of fees, and fast-tracking permits (Schwartz et al. 2012; Meda 2010). The fundamental principle of inclusionary housing is the implicit cross-subsidy, and its market-driven nature makes it distinct compared to other approaches that provide direct subsidies to increase the supply of affordable housing, regardless of local housing-market conditions (Schwartz et al. 2012; Meda 2010).
A wide range of research claims inclusionary housing is aimed at increasing affordability and encouraging social inclusion in communities. Inclusionary housing generates affordable housing for the low and middle income bracket. Inclusionary zoning enhances social inclusion, depending on the various design components of its programmes (Schwartz et al. 2012). This also ensures that segregation and the concentration of poverty are avoided, and the social mix and social cohesion are improved. Inclusionary zoning is intended to reduce economic segregation by mandating that people with a mixture of incomes reside in a housing area. Low income groups live within the neighbourhood of those in a higher economic group. As a result, they might receive assistance to improve their economic condition. Moreover, this housing policy reduces the concentration of poverty in slum areas. Thus, it increases housing accessibility for those with low incomes. It also encompasses racial and ethical integration.
Although it has sparked some controversy concerning the possibility of achieving the purposes of inclusionary housing, several pieces of research argue against this. V. Basolo (2011) mentioned that discourse around inclusionary housing is generally combative. For example, while N. Calavita & A. Mallach (2010) claimed that inclusionary zoning is not an effective approach to achieving social integration, especially when alternatives to on-site construction are applied. H. Schwartz et al. (2012: xi) contended that “since exclusionary zoning increases the likelihood that low-income households are priced out of high-income neighbourhoods, inclusionary zoning programmes could theoretically mitigate this trend”.
V. Basolo (2011: iii) stated that “Opponents typically claim that inclusionary housing increases the cost of housing in the regional market, chases away developers and depresses housing production. Advocates of inclusionary housing often claim it produces affordable units, has little impact on the production and price of single-family housing and allows developers to use expertise to give back to the communities from which they extract the profits”. He claimed that although inclusionary housing policies are not always effective (due to associated legal questions, controversies, and its effects on existing city planning), it should not eliminate an inclusionary housing policy.
H. S. Mekawy (2014) also identified the constraints and potential of inclusionary housing. He mentioned that lack of substantial public funding, an unsuitable market situation, regulatory barriers, the incompetence of local staff, opposition from market rate purchasers, and opposition from developers are potential constraints that affect the success of inclusionary housing. On the contrary, he assembled the major arguments for an inclusionary approach into two major groups based on previous studies and experience: housing production and social inclusion. He concluded that this approach has potential for housing production and social inclusion (Tab. 1). However, all of the previous studies and experience are based on the experiences from the North.
Major arguments for inclusionary housing
Source: Mekawy (2014: 1933)
|Critics’ arguments||Evidence from studies & past experience|
|1. Housing production||Affordable housing:
|2. Social inclusion||Not effective especially when alternatives to on-site construction are applied|
|Does not serve lowest income levels [only middle income]||Programmes can have means that assist in encompassing the lowest income groups explicitly built into them (e.g. Purchasing and operating units by a local public housing authority)|
Urban planning and the housing situation in Dhaka
Inclusionary housing is a planning tool to provide affordable housing to the low and middle income bracket. The application of inclusionary housing by each country depends on the variables of urban planning tradition, the regulation of property rights, and how social goals are included in the legal framework of urban planning (Meda 2010). Therefore, it is necessary to understand planning and housing practice in Dhaka to understand what possibilities exist to implement an inclusionary housing policy. This section explains urban planning, housing, and the housing market situation of the city in brief.
Dhaka is the city of primary economic and administrative importance of a least developed country, Bangladesh. After the liberation of the country in 1971, Dhaka became the economic and administrative hub of the country and attracted a large influx of migrants. The population boom outdid any expected forecast for the population of the city. This city has 10.28 million population (in 2010) with a population growth rate of approximately 4 percent.
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha [RAJUK] (the Capital Development Authority) is the special development agency that retains the authorisation power and responsibilities for physical planning and development control in the Dhaka Metropolitan Area [DMA], while the municipal organisations such as City Corporations, Pourashavas (local municipal governments), and utility service-providing organisations have discretionary powers. RAJUK is responsible for urban plans preparation and the execution of urban plans within the DMA, which covers 1528 sq. km. in area. This organisation developed 13 high and middle-high income residential areas in Dhaka. The Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan [DMDP] 2016-2035 is the existing structure plan for development of the city. However, the previous and first structure plan of DMA - DMDP 1995-2015 (DMDP 1997) was not very successful in planning growth of the city.
Dhaka is growing very fast in an unplanned way with limited respect for planning rules. Settlements in Dhaka are very dense with narrow streets and very compact buildings. In addition to peripheral expansion, the central developed areas are also intensifying. The peripheral expansion of Dhaka is happening through encroachment on low-lying land, wetlands, agricultural land, and other environmentally sensitive areas (Alam & Ahmad 2010; Islam 2009). The key impediments identified during interviews relating to the planning frameworks in Dhaka are excessive delays in the preparation of detailed plans, highly centralised and exclusive institutional setup (rather than inclusiveness), lack of coordination among government departments, inadequate financial resources, legal lacunae, lack of dissemination of plans to the people, and above all, lack of political will.
The National Housing Authority [NHA] is the highest authority in Bangladesh with responsibility for housing policy preparation and provision, but it has very limited capacity. The National Housing Policy [NHP] 1993 includes a commitment to support those with low-incomes to gain access to housing. However, the NHA could not execute need-based actions to address the housing crisis of the low and middle income bracket according to the NHP 1993. The major public housing projects were without any quota for the low incomes, other than very limited low-income housing projects developed by the NHA.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (2011), the housing demand for the people of Dhaka in 2015 was approximately 3.57 million units. I. Islam (2009) mentioned that although the demand for housing in Dhaka is very high, the supply of housing is very low. The housing market of Dhaka is characterised by poorly managed public land development projects and a lack of control for access to housing for the poor. The government can meet only seven percent of housing demand in Dhaka. Most of the people in the city do not own any land in Dhaka. The ownership pattern of housing is very unequally distributed, because most of the housing properties are owned by the high and higher-middle income group in Dhaka (N. Islam 2005; I. Islam 2009). Most of the populace in the city are tenants or slum dwellers. About five million people live in slum and squatter settlements in Dhaka [estimated from the data of DMDP (1997) and Centre of Urban Studies (2005); as well as N. Islam, S. A. Shafi & M. Moniruzzaman (2009)].
Excessive housing demand due to a high population with a lack of land availability for housing, a lack of affordability for the low and middle income bracket as well as a high price of land and housing are the major reasons for a lack of housing supply. The price of housing and land in Dhaka has increased several times during the last four decades and is still increasing (Seraj 2007). This increasing trend attracts high levels of investment for those with high incomes, foreign remittances, and black money (funds earned in the black market, on which income and other taxes have not been paid), which further increases the price of housing and land in Dhaka (Alam & Ahmad 2010). Housing price inflation attracts housing investment and the supply of new housing and land for housing construction. However, the attraction of housing prices increasing could not attract investment from the low income or lower-middle income bracket, as housing inflation diminishes their capacity to gain access to housing benefits (Alam & Ahmad 2010).
Low income housing provision has never given momentum to housing policy planning in Dhaka other than for limited discrete initiatives. A negligible number of housing units have been provided for those with low incomes compared with the very high demand in Dhaka. Most of the low income housing was developed through public land allocation for low income households on a leasehold or freehold basis, and housing superstructures were developed through private or NGO initiatives. The number of low income housing initiatives implemented by NGOs and international donors is very limited. Private initiatives for those with low incomes are limited to producing slums with very limited utility connections. Private owners construct slums and small housing units at very high density and with low cost materials and very limited utility connections, and then rent them to those with low incomes as this type of construction is very profitable.
The Bangladesh House Building Finance Corporation [BHBFC], which has traditionally dominated the housing finance sector, is now a declining player because of decreasing government support and operational ineffectiveness (Rahman 2008). The BHBFC provides credit facilities for the construction, repair, and the remodelling of dwelling houses and apartments in cities, towns, and other urban areas. In general, priority is given to civil servants with 15-20 year mortgage finance. Moreover, two private housing finance companies have been registered as public limited companies: Delta-BRAC Housing Finance Corporation Ltd. [DBH] and National Housing Finance and Investment Ltd. [NHFIL]. Moreover, RAJUK, NHA, and the Public Works Department [PWD] are involved in the financing and development of housing in Dhaka. However, mortgage lending was never considered very profitable for commercial banks and public banks in Dhaka. Therefore, they imposed serious restrictions on their mortgage business. Housing loans from the banking sector amounted to only four percent of their assets, though the recovery rate of housing sector loans in the banking sector averages approximately 70 percent (Rahman 2008).
Constraints and potential of inclusionary housing in Dhaka
Though there are several challenges, inclusionary housing can be a potential housing policy for creating affordable housing and social inclusion in Dhaka. This section explains the constraints of inclusionary housing in Dhaka based on the opinions of the stakeholders interviewed. Though there are challenges for inclusionary housing, it does not signify that this policy is impractical to implement. This paper claims these constraints can create opportunities to confront the challenges.
Legal and organisational issues
One of the most serious limitations is that the creation of affordable housing units depends on the policy concerning local housing-market conditions (Schwartz et al. 2012). The legal sector is not able to provide land and other inputs for low income housing development with the existing legal environment in Dhaka. There is a lack of clarity with regard to the responsible authority and institutional framework for the initiation of inclusionary housing in the city. As already mentioned in this paper, different government organisations are responsible for housing, planning, and housing finance with a lack of coordination and limited capacity.
Inclusionary housing is associated with the principles and mechanisms operating in relation to land and property rights. Such policies are highly contested in the fast growing city due to their interference with the property rights attached to the very expensive and scarce land that is found in Dhaka. The discrepancy between urban land and house prices and the incomes of below median income bracket has made it difficult to devise sustainable housing solutions for this income group (Alam & Ahmad 2010; Islam 2005). Moreover, planning and housing policy is inadequate to supply a sufficient quantity of land for housing provision for the low income bracket.
Inclusionary housing has a lack of the political support and willingness needed to take the necessary steps and make the choices to address low income housing as a part of sustainable development policies (UN-Habitat 2008). There is a very limited quota for the low income bracket in RAJUK’s public housing projects and very limited provision by the NHA (e.g. in Bhashantek). M. M. Rahman (2001) mentioned a similar project proposed in the DND area in Panchabati, Bangladesh in 1992. However, the proposed project faced stiff resistance from vested interests which RAJUK was unable to overcome. The government could not initiate any strategy for mandating an element of affordable low income housing in privately developed housing projects. The success of inclusionary housing is challenged by the lack of appropriate urban planning, the organisational inefficiency, and finally, corruption of government (in relation to the distribution system).
The interview revealed that low income housing units are almost unobtainable for low income residents and slum dwellers, because most of the time this housing is grabbed by the middle and high income bracket through lobbying and the unethical distribution system (e.g. the Bhashantek low income housing project). The political power of the high income bracket and the lack of any financial capacity of the poor to acquire bank loans or credit facilities means that these projects did not reach the target group in Dhaka.
A major factor in providing inclusionary housing is the provision of land for inclusionary housing, which is cost intensive. Moreover, each stage of the provision of inclusionary housing, such as project planning, inception, implementation, monitoring, and effective distribution, requires effective financial mechanisms.
V. Basolo (2011) expressed concerns about reducing profits for the developers due to inclusionary housing in the US (which is also a major concern in Dhaka). He claimed that inclusionary housing increases the cost of housing in the regional market, chases away developers and depresses housing production. However, J. Schuetz, R. Meltzer and V. Been (2007) found that inclusionary housing had no effect on single-family housing prices or production levels in the San Francisco Bay region.
The lack of housing budgets/funds and the financial capacity of the government are the major reasons behind the negligible number of low income housing schemes in Dhaka. Allocation for the housing sector is approximately five to six percent of the Annual Development Programme budget (Rahman 2008). Moreover, the lack of affordable and accessible housing finance schemes is the most important hurdle to the success of inclusionary housing.
The direct public subsidy for the production of affordable housing is the main approach to the provision of inclusionary housing (Basolo 2011) that is practiced in European countries (Calavita & Mallach 2010). Housing investment and the option of a subsidy for public housing sector initiatives for the low income bracket were negligible in comparison with the growing low income population in Dhaka. The NHA developed plots and flats were subsidised. Therefore, this ignited competition and a show of power in order to get hold of the units. The rental of housing owned by public organisations in Dhaka - seven percent according to N. Islam (2005) - is subsidised and only used for renting to government employees. Subsidy schemes may be viable in well-off countries. However, it may reduce the replicability of public housing projects and reduce the capability of public and private agencies to take on new projects in Dhaka.
Knowledge and information issues
While housing policy in the North has taken up inclusionary housing, the cities in the South have rarely adopted this policy for housing provision. The cities of the North have experienced the pros and cons of this housing policy, and made it possible to improve the policy success. However, there is a knowledge gap about the policy and the practical implications of inclusionary housing in the context of the fast growing cities in the South. Moreover, the agencies responsible are not properly trained to implement this housing policy through integrating urban planning projects.
Enabling an environment for inclusionary housing in Dhaka
This section describes the implementation tools of the potential options/actions so that one can judge the potential for developing inclusionary housing in Dhaka. The research revealed the potential for an enabling environment for inclusionary housing in Dhaka through a thematic analysis of literature and expert opinions. An enabling environment for inclusionary housing can reduce its constraints and can increase housing affordability and housing inclusion through: the revision of housing policy, the legal and institutional frameworks, the financial mechanisms, and the knowledge base. This paper claimed that momentum might be given to the provision of inclusionary housing in Dhaka by a combination of the following proposals.
Amendment of housing policy, and the legal and institutional framework
The planning framework in Dhaka is not very well-established. Therefore, there is an opportunity to adopt a new policy and strengthen the organisational framework by adapting it to a new policy in the city. The success of inclusionary housing depends on its coordination with national, regional and local urban planning policies, and plans for housing (Meda 2010). Planning legislation can promote mechanisms to promote new urban development and renewal, as well as providing guided land development to create sufficient land for inclusionary housing. An adequate legal framework to validate the responsibilities and mandates of the urban and planning agencies are crucial for the initiation of inclusionary housing. A legal mandate to include a quota system for low income households for further public and private housing projects will promote social inclusion.
V. Basolo (2011) mentioned that density bonuses and the payment of in-lieu fees (cash paid by a developer to the locality to use for affordable housing activities) can provide flexibility to developers. Inclusionary obligations such as the relaxation of development regulations, or the reduction or waiver of fees and fast-tracking of permits might be possible if there is sufficient institutional framework including legal support. An effective legal and institutional framework can make it possible to achieve greater transparency and fairness in Dhaka.
Support for property issues
Government intervention could be stronger and more supportive of the acquisition and provision of suitable land for housing. RAJUK can take strategic actions like low-rent high-rise projects, block housing, land readjustment and guided land development, and a Community Mortgage Programme [CMP] (according to DMDP) to increase land supply for inclusionary housing. It will be necessary for these initiatives to allow a social mix to create social inclusion. The DMDP has adopted a policy of ‘affordable housing provision for all’. Meanwhile, RAJUK has adopted a policy that it is expected will create a platform for the initiation of inclusionary housing in Dhaka through an integration of housing policy with urban planning policy. It requires capacity building by RAJUK to implement the planning rules, policies and strategies in Dhaka.
Interviewees strongly expressed the opinion that the initiation and management of inclusionary housing might be possible in Dhaka if there is a political commitment. The stakeholders expressed the view that for each of the stages of inclusionary housing like initiation, land supply, project execution, selection and distribution of the beneficiaries; legal, institutional and financial support is possible if the government have the will. The government could take the necessary policy initiatives to control land and housing prices as well as house rentals in Dhaka to reduce the financial burden on inclusionary housing.
The stakeholders interviewed have given priority to transparency with regard to low income housing projects, especially with regard to distributing the benefits to the target group. Strong governance of inclusionary projects could be possible with political support.
Improved financial mechanisms
The funds for public housing mostly come from foreign aid and to a lesser extent from national revenues. Therefore, the government can support and empower the NGOs, private sector, private banks, and cooperatives to mobilise financing for low income housing. The cost recovery of a housing project is very important for increasing the capacity of these organisations to take further housing initiatives. At the same time, it is important to increase the affordability of housing for the low income brackets (Kamruzzaman & Ogura 2012). V. R. Milligan, F. M. Dieleman and R. van Kempen (2006) suggested the need to initiate strategies for capturing the capital gains achieved by owners due to house price inflation, such as through increasing holding taxes to increase the revenue of the government in order to initiate new housing.
Most slum dwellers (on both public and private lands) use to pay house rental (those who are tenants) or subscriptions (those who are occupiers normally pay to local gangs to occupy public land illegally) (e.g. in Ayatullah Bastee). This research found the rental for slums is not lower than that of formal housing. Interviews revealed that slum dwellers pay the bills for utilities. This suggests that the poor slum and squatter dwellers are able to pay for accommodation. If the government can mobilise these resources through appropriate strategies, cost recovery from housing provision is possible through various forms of inclusionary housing- like urban renewal, the upgrading of slums and squatter settlements. All of the slum dwellers interviewed also showed interest in long term mortgage finance, or rental-purchase of housing (obtaining housing ownership by paying rentals over long periods).
Housing subsidies (for house prices and house rental) and housing mortgage finance are powerful tools for gaining access to housing. In some developed countries low income bracket can access affordable mortgage finance under a regulated and subsidised housing finance system. However, the provision of a subsidy is not feasible in Dhaka because of the large number of poor people and the limited financial capacity of the government.
Cross-subsidies can be an alternative potential option for cost recovery in inclusionary housing projects (Schwartz et al. 2012; Meda 2010) in Dhaka. The government could fix slightly higher prices from the high income bracket as well as commercial and industrial areas. This will allow cost recovery for housing projects, so that one can provide favourable prices even with a subsidy to the low income bracket. This will also increase affordability for the low income bracket as well as social inclusion due to their access to housing areas with a social mix. To introduce this financial strategy needs a clear government commitment, transparency, and strong legal and organisational reform.
Moreover, the government could initiate low income housing finance systems using different strategies to recover the expenses incurred in housing projects. As low income housing investment from the government is constrained by capacity, the Public Private Partnership (e.g. Bhashantek housing project) could be a potential financial policy for housing. Moreover, the NGOs can be empowered to arrange housing micro-finance in Dhaka. Furthermore, the government could test CMP with a pilot project as slum dwellers have shown interest.
Developing a knowledge base and training
There is a very significant need for rigorous studies on the current and future needs for affordable housing, inclusionary housing strategies integrating urban planning practice and mechanisms for the inception of projects; financial, legal and organisational mechanisms, and so on. Appropriate training for all of the actors involved – especially local government staff, town planners, policy makers, and property developers in Dhaka– is essential for the proper application and development of these policies.
Housing affordability and social inclusion are important needs of society. This paper aimed to determine the possibility of implementing ‘inclusionary housing’ as an urban planning instrument for ensuring the provision of affordable housing and social inclusion in the South – using the context of Dhaka. Data have been collected from both primary sources (site surveys and in-depth semi-structured interviews) and secondary sources. While many cities in the North are taking ‘inclusionary housing’ as an effective planning tool for creating a great deal of affordable housing; housing provision in the cities in the South is still inadequate, discrete, unaffordable, and exclusionary. The case study city, Dhaka, is growing very rapidly with a limited increase in housing facilities for the poor. The organisations responsible for housing, planning and financial resources have failed to provide low income housing in the city.
This paper revealed that inclusionary housing policies have both strengths and weaknesses to implement in Dhaka. This policy is restricted in its ability to be implemented in this city due to the lack of financial and organisational capacity. Inclusionary housing policies are not an effective approach in the present legal, political, financial, and institutional environment in Dhaka. However, this paper claimed that an enabling environment could make it possible to initiate inclusionary housing in the city through an amended urban plan and housing policy, legal and institutional framework, and political and financial support. A combination of housing policies with urban planning and fiscal policy can increase the housing affordability and the social inclusion of the low income bracket in Dhaka.
The research is limited in its ability to evaluate the practical implication of inclusionary housing-related policies in detail, but it attempts rather to determine whether the policies are possible to implement in Dhaka and whether they have the potential to deliver better results. It is worth adding that further research is needed to improve our knowledge and the efficacy and efficiency of inclusionary housing instruments in Dhaka.
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