Real estate

Slum Regeneration in Urban Centres

By 02/04/2021 August 12th, 2022 0 Comments

Slums can affect a city in many different ways. The unskilled youth living in slums are excluded from economic opportunities. Disabled persons suffer due to the dilapidated infrastructure found in slums whereas migrants, refugees and displaced persons can suffer from vulnerabilities worsened by financial instability. This blog will discuss how informal settlements can be integrated into urban areas to improve the living conditions of slum dwellers and provide sustainable housing solutions amid rapid urbanization.

Slums or informal settlements are often found in urban areas and are a global phenomenon. The people living in slums are usually subjected to deprivation on many different levels. These people live in extreme difficulty due to poverty, socio-spatial exclusion, and the inability of the government to provide affordable housing to the lower class. People living in slums experience discrimination and a lack of recognition in policymaking toward urban slum regeneration. They do not have access to property and housing security, while the land they live on for years is considered illegally occupied (Hussain et al., 2019). Slum-dwellers often live in dismal conditions which makes them vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural disasters, diseases, violence, crime, and many social issues such as teen pregnancies, child labour, and lack of education. (World Urban Campaign, 2020)

The Concept of Urban Slums

Urban slums are found within cities which have become overcrowded due to population growth and have inadequate housing. These settlements lack services such as water sanitation, waste collection, drainage, street lights, sidewalks as well as security. Slums, in many cities across Pakistan, have existed for over decades without any recognition or services being provided by the government.  Informal settlements are often built on land that is occupied illegally and lacks urban planning or adherence to construction or housing regulations. Slums are found in areas where there is a high crime rate, and they tend to expand when unemployment is on the rise in a country. Some slums may have better-living conditions than others. They are not the same as rural or undeveloped areas. Slum-dwellers are often a diverse group of people. Over 60 percent of the informal sector and employment comes from the population living in slums. They are home to over one billion people in the developing world which means that one in every three people living in a city, lives in a slum. (World Urban Campaign, 2020).

The Development of Urban Slums

In most cases, the slums within a city are as old as the city itself. In the early years of industrialisation, slums attracted more and more people because housing within a city was not affordable and living in slums made the city accessible. Slums developed over time due to population growth and lack of governance. Population growth is correlated with rapid urbanisation. In cities where a large number of people migrate from rural to urban areas, the people usually resort to living in slums if the housing in the city is beyond their means. (Cities Alliance, 2020). Many countries do not have the infrastructural capacity to cater to the rapid rate at which urbanisation is taking place. More people are moving to cities than the government has made plans to house and so it is physically impossible for them to live inside the city. This has resulted in the development of urban slums (UN Habitat, 2020). In some cases, the government takes a passive approach to the development of slums which results in poor living conditions, crime and environmental degradation. While in other cases, the government does take action by viewing slums as an illegal occupation of land. Destroying slums can hurt the economy of a city significantly while also resulting in the displacement of many (Cities Alliance, 2020).

Integrating Urban Slums into Cities

To integrate slums into cities, a systematic and city-wide approach must be taken. Policies must be formed that take into account the planning, financing, and regulation of the informal settlements to strengthen the existing urban structure. Slums must be operationalised in a way that the lives of the inhabitants are improved, and the formation of newer slums is prevented (World Urban Campaign, 2020). The integration of the slum population at all levels of the government will help integrate the policy-making and planning process in a way that a complete understanding of slum living is represented. This would help achieve a broader perspective on the lifestyle of the slum-dwellers and help upgrade their environment in the best way possible while also following through the development plans of the city (Kulshreshtha & Bhattacharya, 2019).

Streets could play an essential role in the incorporation of slums into formal settlements. Slum up-gradation projects in many cities have shown that through well-defined holistic strategies, informal settlements could begin to mesh with cities and help achieve urban transformation. Streets act as natural conduits in facilitating the movement of people and vehicles. Roads fall under the public domain, and when built in a way to facilitate the inclusion of slums into urban areas, they attract business activity, law and order enforcement, as well as a sense of public safety and means of communication. The link between urban and informal settlements through streets could lead to housing investments, economic activity and an overall sense of security which is crucial for the up-gradation of slums. This can be achieved through the involvement of the local government, NGOs, pirate entities and civil society (Arcila, 2008).

The world is changing at a fast pace, and with informal settlements continuing to rise at alarming levels in cities and urban areas, evictions and reconstruction of these settlements are increasingly becoming unpopular and inefficient. The traditional model of slum upgradation involves building high rises to accommodate a large number of residents. Still, this model does not stop the emergence of new slums in other areas. According to Hart & King (2019), Indonesia adopted an inclusive approach to its urban housing problem. Participatory upgrading puts residents at the heart of decision-making, and the most critical needs are identified and prioritised accordingly. On top of that, residents were also encouraged to take part in the planning process, and communities also contributed to one-third of the upgradation costs. India has also followed the same model in Mumbai to eradicate its informal settlements. This model allows for the people, as stakeholders, to have a greater say and share in the development of their communities and therefore, are less prone to abandon their homes later on.

Partnering with NGOs and academic institutions, prioritising on-site incremental upgrades, ensuring vulnerable groups have a voice, avoiding displacement of residents, and improving access to services are the essential steps that need to be taken for sustainable upgradation and management of informal settlements. The focus should be made on the security of tenure, affordability of housing, and social security along with the provision of water, sanitation, health, and education facilities. Beneficiaries should also be involved as active stakeholders in urban upgradation programs. Dwellers of informal settlements often prefer living in slums over rural areas but at the same time, attach great importance to education for their younger generation and social security. Therefore, inclusive involvement of communities in planning and upgrading their environment is essential to the rehabilitation and acceptance of informal settlements.


Many city planners and policymakers consider slums to be a sign of backwardness in the social structure which results in crime and economic instability. Slums are often viewed as a threat to the sustainability of a city. Yet, to achieve sustainable development, there is no practical solution besides formally incorporating slums into the city’s master plan. Keeping in mind the rapid urbanisation that is taking place, it is too expensive for the government to meet the soaring demand for housing by providing mass public housing. The government must also keep in mind that efficient transport integration, waste management and water and energy services must be provided alongside an effective plan for public housing. Accelerating urbanisation could lead to the destruction of productive land, congestion, and air and water pollution. All in all, viable alternatives are required to achieve slum up-gradation as they must be integrated into the existing urban structure. The problem of informal settlements cannot be solved if they are not accepted and integrated. The informal settlements must be transformed to make them livable for the lower-income groups to achieve social cohesion and to achieve economic resilience in the face of the mass urbanisation crisis.


Arcila, C., 2008. Learning From Slum Upgrading And Participation A Case Study Of Participatory Slum Upgrading In The Emergence Of New Governance In The City Of Medellín–Colombia. [online] KTH Architecture and the Built Environment. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 December 2020].

Cairns, S., 2019. What Slums Can Teach Us About Building The Cities Of The Future. [online] World Economic Forum. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 December 2020].

Cities Alliance, 2020. Slum Upgrading | Cities Alliance. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 9 December 2020].

Humphrey, M., & Hossain, S.  (2018, January 11). Expanding Urban Slums. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies. Retrieved 9 Dec. 2020, from

Hussain, T., Abbas, J., Wei, Z. and Nurunnabi, M., 2019. The Effect of Sustainable Urban Planning and Slum Disamenity on The Value of Neighboring Residential Property: Application of The Hedonic Pricing Model in Rent Price Appraisal. Development Advocate Pakistan, [online] 5(4). Available at: <http://file:///C:/Users/momina.arif/Downloads/sustainability-11-01144.pdf> [Accessed 9 December 2020].

Kulshreshtha, S. and Bhattacharya, L., 2019. Has Urban Planning Improved Living Condition In Slums? Evidence From Million Plus Cities In India. [online] Conference: CAS Young Scholars’ Seminar 2018At: Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 December 2020].

UN Habitat, 2020. Streets As Tools For Urban Transformation In Slums: A STREET-LED APPROACH TO CITYWIDE SLUM UPGRADING. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 9 December 2020].

World Urban Campaign, 2020. Integrating Slums To Their Cities And Towns | World Urban Campaign. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 9 December 2020].

Research Questions

  1. What is the concept of urban slums?

  2. How do urban slums develop?

  3. How to prevent the abrupt growth of urban slums?

  4. What are some of the ways to integrate urban slums into cities?

Key Takeaways

  1. Slums or informal settlements are found within cities which have become overcrowded and where there is inadequate housing.

  2. The government must create a plan for urban growth and land allocation, which would determine where formal urban settlements will be and what kind of services the government can provide.

  3. Slums must be operationalised in a way that the lives of the inhabitants are improved, and the formation of newer slums is prevented.

  4. Streets could play an important role in the integration of slums into formal settlements. They fall under the public domain and can be built in a way to facilitate the inclusion of slums into urban areas.

  5. The link between urban and informal settlements through streets could lead to housing investments, economic activity and an overall sense of security which is crucial for the up-gradation of slums.

  6. The informal settlements must be transformed to make them livable for the lower-income groups to achieve social cohesion and to achieve economic resilience in the face of the mass urbanisation crisis.

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