David Satterthwaite – Some notes about the housing sub-markets used by those with limited incomes in urban areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America


Event Date 22 – 23 May 2012
Royal Holloway University of London
11 Bedford Sq
London WC1E 6DP

The Department of Geography at Royal Holloway University of London presents:

Speculating on Slums



This two day workshop in May 2012 in Bedford Square, London will examine the role played by global financial investments in land markets and globalised networks of capital in slums of developing countries. It questions some of the underlying assumptions through which informal housing in the global South has been understood, gives insights into new emerging forms of marginality, highlights contradictory, complex tensions that emerge for donors, governments, and NGOs in relation to the urban poor. The workshop draws together interdisciplinary intellectual debates, key conceptual, political and policy lessons which will enable a new research agenda for work in informal housing in the global South. Leading academic scholars working on informal housing issues and NGO practitioners will be the main selective participants in the workshop.

David Satterthwaite (International Institute for Environment and Development IIED)
Some notes about the housing sub-markets used by those with limited incomes in urban areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America

To encourage a more in-depth understanding of where and in what kind of housing those with limited incomes live – instead of what is still common today, saying that they live in “slums” (linked to UN Habitat’s notoriously inappropriate and inaccurate index) or in informal settlements.  From this should come a better understanding of what constrains individuals or households in buying, building or renting better quality accommodation. It also brings out the complex trade-offs that different individuals or households make when they choose where to live and what to live in. it also allows some understanding of whether or not they live in housing sub-markets that are commercialized (as they so often are).

It also allows a consideration of what needs to change if they would prioritize in situ improvements, without displacing the population – for instance the need to take account of the often very large differences in the relationships between residents and other actors (including local government departments, utility companies and land-owners) in different settlements within each city. (It would also be possible to develop a typology of informal settlements on such a basis).  Of course there are also the obvious political complications as local politicians influence how some informal settlements are viewed and whether they get some public services provision or avoid eviction. There are also so many important factors that may be particular to that city and a particular point in time – for instance, where and when land invasions are possible (if at all), roles of landowners (even examples of landowners encouraging illegal occupation of their land because they could get more in compensation from government than the land was worth) and role of politicians in brokering (and making money from) illegal land developments.  It is also interesting to track over time how all these change – for instance as in the insights on developments in Dharavi and the airport ‘slums’ in Mumbai over time.





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