Slum upgrading in informal settlements is key to make cities more inclusive, resilient and liveable. With nearly a billion slum dwellers worldwide and growing urban centres, Informal becomes the New Normal.




The two main features of urban informality are the informal settlements that provide shelter, and the informal sector that provides most employment. Informal settlements arise for a variety of reasons, including rapid urban growth, underresourced local governments, weak governance, and poor urban policies. While different regions have different challenges, overall the outcomes are similar: spatially inefficient cities, high levels of socio-economic inequality, arising from limited access to land, housing, and basic municipal infrastructure and services.

Similarly, the informal economy arises from a lack of employment opportunities in the formal sector, prejudice and social exclusion and a misalignment between workforce skills and opportunities. Informality is a key contributor to successful emerging economies while on the other hand, it drives socio-spatial inequality. Understanding and addressing the dynamics of informality is therefore strategic.


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Slum upgrading through programmes, projects, and policies is key to addressing informality from a land and labour perspective.


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Slum upgrading contributes significantly to gender empowerment and equality. Security of tenure, safety, housing and mobility are stability factors for girls and women.


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Slum upgrading cannot work without a segmented housing policy. Expanding the supply of affordable housing through improvements, densification, or participatory and agreed relocation is a key dimension of slum upgrading.


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Using adequate mobility systems that integrate slums into the city’s formal economic, social and cultural spheres is key if we want all citizens to have an equal Right to the City.




Slum upgrading requires addressing each aspect of a complex ecosystem in order to bring about real change in the community.


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Slum upgrading is much more than a set of physical interventions in infrastructure, housing and land regularisation. Unplanned, dilapidated settlements are a physical manifestation of problems involving land, poverty, policy, law and society.


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Graphics produced for Cities Alliance by Global CAD
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