Informality and Formalization of Informal Settlements at the Turn of the Third Millennium: Practices and Challenges in Urban Planning

Nilva Karenina Aramburu Guevara


Over the past decades, urban growth dynamics, experiences of instability, the pressing need for housing and the seeming intricacies of political decisions and policies has made the issue of informality quite a dominating phenomenon. Though policy makers, professionals and researchers share different views on the process of formalization within urban space, it is to a large extent a shared principle that it is a process that requires an action and often viewed with a social-spatial contempt for the quality of urban space. The process and manifestation of informality varies across space and society in a way that could be described as a differentiated existence. The essence of this study was to analyze different approaches of "formalizing informality" through a case study approach to deduce successes and weaknesses from this actions as well as stipulating important hints for professionals dealing with such a growing phenomenon.

Through a desk study approach primarily based on literature and secondary data, but also an informant data collection, the study analyzes cases selected from southern Europe (Mediterranean countries), Africa and Latin America regions due to the predominance of informal developments (semi-informality, squatting informality and hybrid informality) and also documented actions on formalizing these informal activities on urban space. The findings from the study across these countries in different continents and also varying social-spatial systems revealed fragmented and isolated approaches that failed to recognize the wider and intersecting issues surrounding informality. All cases shared a fundamental principle in their approaches; that formalization still remains a work in progress, the most immediate policy option to control informal areas, responsive, convenient and a persistent tendency to policy makers and authorities. The study proposes the need for new perspectives that considered sustainable funding for addressing the issue of formalization, provision of preventive measures that deal with the emergence of informality, community participation and partnership, coalitions for economic and social development programs, and providing flexible alternatives that are responsive to the diversity of income groups.

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