Introduction Introduction Chapter 5 Chapter 5
Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Chapter 6 Chapter 6
Chapter 2 Chapter 2 Notes for Indicators Notes
Chapter 3 Chapter 3 Notes for boxes Notes for boxes
Chapter 4 Chapter 4 Indicators Indicators
CHAPTER 3 Printer Friendly printer friendly version
Chapter 1 Rethinking Policy on Urban Poverty

Wrong Way Streets and New Avenues

Trying to Keep the Masses Out: A Failed Strategy

Addressing the Shelter Needs of the Poor

A Quantum Leap: Meeting a New Scenario for Shelter

Regulating Urban Land Markets: Mission Impossible?

Advocacy, Votes and Action: The Need for Leadership

Adding a Dose of Realism

Preparing for the Future

Preparing for the Future

Slum formation is neither inevitable nor acceptable.(27)

Most of the world’s population growth in the foreseeable future will be in the urban centres of low- and middle-income nations. Success in reducing poverty, gender inequality and meeting other MDGs will depend on good urban policies and practices.

Recent initiatives encourage prospects for a more proactive approach to urban growth, and especially to the needs of the urban poor.  For instance, the World Bank recently commissioned a study of the dynamics of global urban expansion in order to help the governments of developing countries prepare for upcoming and massive urban population growth.(28)This work did not focus specifically on the land-use needs of the poor but on urban expansion in general, emphasizing the need to make realistic plans for inevitable growth.(29)A practical application of this approach is shown in Box 17.



A World Bank project aimed at improving living conditions for the urban poor in Ecuador focused attention on meeting future housing needs in five intermediate cities. All five are expected to double in population in the next 15-30 years and to triple or more than triple their urban areas. Surprisingly, most planners have not really considered the implications of projected population growth. To absorb the projected growth will require the official conversion of land on the periphery of cities from rural to urban use, then expanding the official limits of the urban area to accommodate the projected increase in the built-up area.

There is no shortage of affordable plots for the urban poor in these cities. Most residential plots are supplied by private landowners or developers who subdivide and sell minimally serviced land; others are occupied by land invasions. Preventing speculative price increases and ensuring that residential land remains affordable for the urban poor calls for a continuing supply of accessible urban land. To meet this challenge, municipalities must actively prepare for urban expansion by: (a) expanding their city limits; (b) planning for road grids in the areas of expansion; (c) locating the required 25- to 30-metre-wide right-of-way for the infrastructure grid on the ground; and (d) obtaining the land rights for the right-of-way by eminent domain, exchanging land among landowners where necessary and utilizing World Bank loans for land acquisition of road right-of-way (at the declared market value of their land for tax purposes) where required.

This chapter has argued that taking such proactive stances will require a change in mentality as well as in approach. Rather than debating how fast urban centres ought to grow, urban governments (and others) should plan to accommodate expected growth as efficiently and equitably as possible. Rather than setting standards to reflect what ought to be, they should negotiate standards with local residents that reflect what can be achieved. Rather than devising land-use regulations to curb urban growth, they should use regulations to help secure locations suitable for low-income housing.

Urban and national planners cannot achieve any of this alone. They need to be aware of the needs, open to the possibilities and support locally driven efforts to meet them. Development banks and international organizations such as UNFPA and UN-Habitat can help move this agenda forward with technical knowledge, advocacy and policy dialogue.

The international community and the general public tend to focus on the spectacular mega-cities and urban conurbations. However, small and intermediate cities will experience the bulk of urban growth. They tend to be under-resourced and under-serviced but, on the whole, have easier access to land. A lot more could be done with a lot less to help smaller cities generate and utilize information and other forms of support. This would make the urban transition more effective in promoting the global aim of reducing poverty.