Some Myths and Realities About Slum Upgrading

Myths about Slum Upgrading Realities about Slum Upgrading
  • The poor are better off in rural areas than in slums, so their migration to urban areas can and should be stopped.
  • Rural to urban migration is a natural, inevitable and irreversible process. Many governments have tried to slow it down, divert it or stop it – all have failed. The rural poor move to urban areas primarily to improve their economic and social opportunities. With good policies, urban growth is essential to reducing rural poverty.
  • Slums should be demolished to stop their formation.
  • Slum demolitions fail. Governments that use mass, forced evictions and demolition only made matters worse and, in every case, do not stop new slums from forming.
  • Relocating slum residents to housing projects on the outskirts of the city solves the slum “problem.” 
  • Resettling slum residents far from their original homes, even if they are to apartment blocks, is not usually viable. The economic and social disruption costs are too high.
  • Apartment buildings provide a better urban solution. Apartments house more families on less land so they are also cheaper.
  • Studies demonstrate that the residential densities of high- and mid-rise apartments are equal to, or not much greater than that of typical low-income settlements.
  • Valuable land in the city centre should not be for existing slum dwellers - it should be developed for high-value, high-density housing and businesses.
  • Slumdwellers in city centres are typically long-time residents and, with good policies and good planning, can often be successfully integrated.
  • The poor cannot and will not pay for housing and services.
  • The opposite is true. The poor are able to, and will pay what they can afford, if it is what they need and if it is reliable. In reality, when they are not serviced by their local government, most poor people are exploited and are forced to pay more and buy urban services informally or illegally.
  • The poor cause slums.
  • Government neglect or indifference is one of the main reason slums are the only options for the poor. Moreover, policies that fix unrealistically high development standards and inappropriately costly building codes also create slums.
  • Upgrading slums will attract more migrants and squatters; giving slum residents secure tenure will encourage even more to move to cities.
  • The poor do not move to cities because there are programmes to improve slums - migrants go to cities even if they have to live in deplorable, insecure conditions. Moreover, natural population growth (about 60% on average) is the main reason urban areas are growing, making efforts to stem migration irrelevant.