Frequently, slum dwellers are regarded as criminal or illegal occupiers, giving false legitimacy for governments to raze neighborhoods with little advance warning.  Oftentimes, land owners knowingly and passively allow squatters to settle, or charge exorbinant rents and provide nothing in services.  With no rights, residents either put-up or shut-up.  


Evictions not only destroy vulnerable people's homes, but also dismantle social and enterprise networks.  Residents resettle and start-over with no financial cushion to push through these disruptions. Many have compared forced evictions to using a leaf blower to sweep the floor.


International law requires pre-requisites including impact assessments, citizen engagement, compensation packages, and resettlement alternatives before evictions can be carried out.  In the absence of comprehensive, inclusive land laws, the few cases that are brought to court are rarely ruled in favor of slum dwellers.

How are Slums Being Addressed?




Modeled after top down social housing programs in Europe and the U.S. during the 1960s and 1970s, direct housing delivery has seen some success, but relative to the scale of demand, the results have been so meager that the approach itself is called into question.


In this example of Nairobi's Kibera Soweto East housing project, 822 units were constructed by the Kenyan government and UN Habitat over a period of 12-years. The cost of the project amounted to over 2.9B Ksh ($28m USD), or $34,000 per unit.   The Kenyan government has increased it's housing budget to $77.8m in 2015/16, yet despite these efforts, the housing deficit remains at around 82,000 units per year- meaning this project satisfied just 1% of the yearly demand.


Furthermore, as we've seen in the previous page, housing unit construction is but one component in the overall housing value chain.  Therefore efforts that only focus on the supply of units without strengthening other 'soft infrastructure' provisions (such as job training, education, local management, access to markets, and social links), doesn't automatically produce stronger, self-sustaining communities.


Increasingly, governments are realizing that effective housing policy involves a wider set of inclusive frameworks and support-based approaches.  




Sometimes resettlement to outlying areas is the only option, particularly when people must be relocated out of unsafe locations, such as flood zones or steep slopes.


Oftentimes, however, resettled residents are separated from work opportunities by great distance or lack of affordable transport.  Despite having durable housing, many resettled residents return to slums where they can re-connect with social networks and income opportunities.


Resettlement is also input intensive requiring strong management and organizational capacity- with mixed effectiveness to date.

Nancy Kwak, “Manila’s “Danger Areas”,” Places Journal, February 2015. Accessed 23 Jan 2016. <https://placesjournal.org/article/manilas-danger-areas/>




In this approach, basic infrastructure amenities such as plot layouts, streets, water and sanitation are provided to various degrees.  Sometimes shell buildings, utility cores, or even starter loans are included.  


People themselves incrementally improve their homes according to their means.


These well-intentioned efforts fail if the locations are disconnected from work opportunities, if the interior layouts restrict in-home economic activity, or if the homeowner cannot afford the transition process.




Upgrading from within is increasing as a viable solution at scale.  Frustrated by a lack of recognition from local governments, many communities are unifying into Community Based Organizations, or CBOs.  


Oftentimes, slum dwellers actively re-organize, or reblock, their neighborhoods, incrementally redistributing areas for open public areas, infrastructure and utility services.


Although the process can be slow, advantages involve full consensus of the community, greater maintenance and sustained management, and most of all, a strengthening of the soft infrastructure and social systems already embedded in slum communities.  


By far the least disruptive approach, low-income and poor residents remain close to income opportunities, and maintain their vital role in the local economy.  


When local governments align and contribute to these efforts, the results can incite greater public engagement and long-term sustainable growth.




Although lesser known this program has proved successful in Casablanca, where the national government initiated the 'Villes sans Bidonvilles' (Cities without Slums) program reducing the number of residents in slums by 40% over 10 years.  


The crux of the program activates third-party, small-scale private sector investors.  Slum dwellers are given a modest plot, or equity.  If they are not able to afford the construction of a home, which is the majority of people, they can partner with a private investor to finance the construction of new home, usually a multi-family unit of three to four levels.  The lower floor(s) are granted to the slum dweller(s), and the upper two floors are capitalized either as rental income or as the residence for the investor.  

This program improves urban land use through density, provides durable housing for the urban poor, yet without relying purely on housing delivery schemes.  


More importantly, it diffuses the risks involved with housing projects, expands the housing rental stock in the cities, particularly for the middle class- segments which also lack access to affordable housing in many growing cities.  The results are mixed-income neighborhoods instead of concentrations of only poor residents.


The local government was instrumental in establishing the legal and policy conditions for this program to thrive, and the program is replicating successfully throughout Morroco.  


For more info, click here.

© Hatem Chakroun (l'Agence Française de Développement)