Brisk urbanisation and inadequate planning are exacerbating inequality and vulnerability in Asian cities, and lacking shelter and services marginalises millions. For over a half-century now, John F.C. Turner’s call for user control over housing and Sherry Arnstein’s critique of participation have helped promote self-help, incremental development, and participation by poor citizens and other non-state advocates in shelter policies. The highly recommended intervention of in situ participatory slum upgrading was pioneered in Surabaya, Indonesia. For ameliorating the housing crisis, also recommended alongside is more mass housing. Decentralisation challenges and neoliberal shifts have made housing volume the overriding priority in the Global South, but affordable housing where lives and livelihoods flourish remains elusive. By discussing Surabaya’s shelter approaches, this chapter calls for resuscitating a vital aspect of good housing – design. Shelter policy has drifted far from Turner’s vision of housing as a verb – whereby good design enhances housing’s sociocultural relevance. It finds that despite decentralisation the designing of rusunawa (vertical rental housing) in Surabaya today is neither local nor participatory, which diminishes their spatial, sociocultural, and economic relevance for the occupants.