Housing the urban poor in the mega-cities of the developing world

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2001

14 Pages, Grade: 1,0 (A)


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. General problems with the housing of the urban poor
2.1. Migration to cities
2.2. Social differences
2.3. The urban land market
2.4. The urban housing market
2.5. Different nations, different names for the same problem
2.6. United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT)

3. The squatter-settlements of Third World countries
3.1. What are squatter-settlements?
3.2. Common characteristics of squatters and squatter areas all over the world
3.3. The advantages of squatter-settlements
3.4. The organisation of squatter areas
3.5. Why governments do not like squatter-settlements
3.6. Possible solutions to the problems of urban squatter areas

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Cities have a long tradition; they exist since thousands of years. They have always had attractive power to mankind. 200 years ago just a small proportion of men was living in cities. Today nearly three billions of people live in urban areas – this is the half of the total world population – and it is estimated by international institutions like UN or World Bank, that this number will go on growing. With an increasing number of people living in cities several problems do come up. One very – maybe the most – important problem is housing the urban poor in the mega-cities of the developing world.

Tipple/Willis (1991: 1) argue that

“Housing the poor in the developing world is one of the major challenges facing mankind in the last decade of the twentieth century”.

In my opinion, this challenge does still exist in the twenty-first century. And this challenge does not only exist in the developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America but also in the industrialised world, like the USA or the European countries, although the problems in these countries are by far not so tremendous and apparent. Who does not know Harlem in New York? Everybody knows that there are bad living conditions. But what are the problems of the people living in Harlem compared with the problems of the inhabitants of slums and squatter areas in the developing world.

To cite Tipple/Willis (1991: 1) once more:

“The major housing problem is the shortage of affordable accommodation for the urban poor; the low-income majority”.

There have been many official housing programs to provide more housing possibilities or to improve the existing housings – especially in the countries of the Third World –, but none of them have been successful at all. All these programs were unable to provide enough dwellings; the history of housing construction programs has shown that all measures need substantial resources, cities often do not have.

This paper wants to show the problems concerning housing the urban poor in the developing world and why these problems arise. After this more general introduction I will concentrate upon squatter-settlements in the Third World. Within this part I will point out some of the housing programs, which were used to solve the immense problems with housing the poor in the mega-cities.

2. General problems with the housing of the urban poor

Housing is one of the basic needs of mankind like nutrition, health or education. Everybody needs shelter from wind, rain and weather and, what is also very important, to have his or her own privacy. All these requirements guarantee a life in man’s dignity. But they are often missing in the mega-cities of the developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America: Millions of people in the Third World live in slums and squatter-settlements for their whole life. And with the years the number of these people increases.

The reasons why the urban population increases are various; the most important reason is natural growth caused by a decrease in death rates while birth rates remain high as many young families live in cities. Further, there is a massive migration from the urban hinterland to the cities, the so-called rural exodus.

2.1. Migration to cities

Migration to cities is determined by pull factors and push factors:

Rural to urban migration is happening on a massive scale due to population pressure and lack of resources in rural areas. Besides these push factors there are some pull factors, too. Often people living in rural areas believe that the standard of living will be much better in urban areas. There are few schools in rural areas, but many in the cities. As the parents want their children to have a better life than they had, they move to the cities. While national governments do not spend enough money to build up a health system in the villages of the hinterland, they spend most of their money to improve the health system in the cities. In the cities there are many doctors and hospitals. So cities are very attractive in social terms. Furthermore they provide a range of job opportunities. People also hope for well paid jobs in the casual or informal sector. And not seldom they bring their whole family with them.

All these newcomers are looking for jobs and housing. As formal housing is both scarce and expensive relative to wage levels and most of the newcomers are poor, they need cheap alternatives like renting single rooms in central city for their families, building houses illegally in squatter settlements, renting houses in squatter-settlements, sleeping under bridges or on pavements (Tipple/Willis 1991: 1-2). So their first – and often their last – step into their new life is a step into a slum or a squatter-settlement. Many of them are living (far) below the subsistence level.


Excerpt out of 14 pages


Housing the urban poor in the mega-cities of the developing world
University of Constance  (Faculty for Management Science)
Mega-cities worldwide and theit administration
1,0 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
445 KB
Housing, Mega-cities
Quote paper
Marc Landherr (Author), 2001, Housing the urban poor in the mega-cities of the developing world, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/6400


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