Indicators for Slum Redevelopment Program

This article is in continuation to the published datasheet.  

Informal settlements represent a significant part of urban ecosystems. Due to the booming economy, growth rate of cities in developing countries is much higher than the developed countries. Almost 32% of the urban population of the world live in the cities of developing countries (UN-Habitat, 2012). The same number was responsible for 50% of the urban growth globally between 2000 and 2010 (UN-Habitat, 2014). Unprecedented demand, lack of infrastructure and facilities creates marginalised populations and inequalities, leading to development of slums. The United Nations Habitat programme uses five characteristics to define slums (UN-Habitat, n.d.):

  • Inadequate access to safe water
  • Inadequate access to sanitation and infrastructure
  • Poor structural quality of housing
  • Overcrowding
  • Insecure residential status

The interventions to upgrade conditions of the slums date back to as early as 1969 when The Kampung Improvement Programme was launched by the UN as world’s first slum upgrading programme (UN-Habitat, 2006). The aim of slum-upgrading programs is to tackle the issues mentioned above through a rather holistic approach. In India, tackling these issues can lead to improvement in the quality of life of at least 6 million households (Hindman, 2015). This article takes a comprehensive look on some of the neighbourhoods and suggests some common indicators that should be considered while designing slum redevelopment programmes. These indicators are broadly divided in three areas:

  • physical improvement
  • institutional systems
  • social policies

These indicators must comply with the context of the concerned upgrading program. Slums are organic neighbourhoods following the everchanging needs of their inhabitants. Narrow streets, hazardous locations and social frameworks must be considered while building a sustainable community that relies on the existing frameworks. Innovation is the key to create specific solutions for sustainable slum upgrading.

Physical improvement

Physical improvements visibly improve the quality of life and transforms neighbourhoods. Several programs advocate on the provision of infrastructures before solving the insecurity of tenure and other social concerns (De Soto, 2000). Some of the factors that should also be considered are as follows:

Steady Water and Energy Supply

Mostly, slums lack a formal water and energy distribution system. The primary focus on providing the infrastructure, in many informal settlements, is often constrained due to the overcrowding and difficulty in accessing the areas (Arias-Granada, Haque, Joseph, & Yanez- Pagans, 2018). However, it should also be noted that presence of a physical infrastructure alone is not enough. According to World Bank, the implementation of water and energy distribution system should follow the following steps (Arias- Granada et al., 2018):

  • Funding
  • Tenure requirements
  • Education
  • Reliability

Many households are not able to afford the implied expenses of a new water supply system. Re-development programs must include grants and subsidies to encourage the inhabitants to use the provided water and electricity supply network and the sanitation systems. For example, the Orangi Charitable Trust in Karachi launched a micro credit programme to enable families to pay for sewerage (UN-HABITAT, 2014). Simultaneously, organising awareness campaigns can highlight the advantages of legal energy access and improve user-behaviour.

Furthermore, developing trust between users and providers spawn reliability. The municipal networks must suffer no interruption, water must be clean and should be devoid of any bacterial contamination. For example, the slums of Dhaka have a water distribution system better than many slums, however, the quality of the water is not equally good, almost 57% of the dwellers still report quality issues (Arias-Granada et al., 2018).

Efficient Solid Waste Management and Sanitation System

In India, 58% of the slums do not have access to a proper drainage system (Hindman, 2015). The outdoor and indoor exposure to polluted water, in addition to open defecation, has a direct impact on inhabitants’ health (Nassar & Elsayed, 2018). Improvements should integrate the following features:

  • Dimensioning: The sanitation and waste management networks should be able to accommodate the area in influence, the amount of waste generated and the number of people responsible. Shared structures shall not exceed a limit, that can be settled at 2 households (UN-HABITAT, 2004).
  • Reliability: The sanitary services provided must be available at any time and place and under any conditions.
  • Education: Slum upgrading programs should raise awareness about waste management and hygiene behaviours.

The Asian Development Bank settled a system of different levels of collection in a few cities of Rajasthan (Bikaner, Jaipur and Jodhpur). Slum dwellers were hired to take care of the garbage collection and cleanliness of roads. This system is now sustainable and completely funded by the inhabitants themselves (ADB, 2002).

Streets and Public Transport

Streets and public transport networks help in creating a continuity essential to erase the rupture between formal and informal neighbourhoods. Proper streets have a great impact on social life and can serve as an outdoor extensions of living spaces; they are a vital support for commercial and cultural activities too. Thus, the transformation of the neighbourhood must preserve the community Supported framework and its social advantages. Similarly, public transport passing through a neighbourhood provides access to basic services, jobs and other opportunities in the city (UNHABITAT, 2014). As a structural component, the transportation network must be efficient. This is characterised by its:

  • Acceptability
  • Adaptability
  • Accessibility
  • Affordability

While integration of streets network with the informal settlements seems simple, however, it must be well planned. The new street network must be built around the existing network in order to build a coherent infrastructure for the area. Public transport and access for emergency vehicle should be clearly delimited (Sheth, 2009).

Figure 1 – Metrocable in Medellin, Colombia (UN-HABITAT, 2011)

Households and buildings

Dwellings in slums have specific characteristics: poor construction quality and organic disposition of the different households. Households in slums are usually located too close to each other and not well lit or ventilated. Redevelopments or relocations with proper space management requires construction of new households, following three major characteristics:

Good construction quality of the new dwellings ensures sustainability of the programme over the years. Well-constructed houses coupled with a tenure security programme, gives the citizens a sense of belonging and encourages them to stay longer (Syagga et al., 2012). This also highlights the necessity of compliance with building codes, standards and laws (UN-HABITAT, 2004). Slums households must be adaptable as per the demands of the inhabitants and the overall objectives. Several redevelopment projects construct pre-designed buildings without adapting to the context.

For example, 26% inhabitants of Serra do Mar in Sao Paulo, Brazil faced greater expenses when they were relocated to a neighbourhood not designed as per their previous livelihood (Cavalheiro & Abiko, 2015). The needs of the dwellers play an important role during the conception process. In informal economy systems, workshops and shops are often installed within the house or in public spaces directly connected with the houses. Women, children and the elderly tend to socialize a lot within these spaces. These common areas are a vital part of the social framework of slums (Sunikka-Blank, Bardhan, & Haque, 2019). Citizen’s participation is one of the best ways to identify and accommodate these specific and changing needs. For example, in Dharavi, combined housing addresses the needs of the inhabitants (Menshawy, Shafik, & khedr, 2016). After consultations and specifying their needs, the inhabitants can rent or buy the modules and then choose to extend their households later. This combined housing system provides a flexibility necessary for the families living in slums.

Figure 2 – Combined housing (Menshawy et al., 2016)


Providing proper health and education facilities help in tackling many social issues. For this, three objectives must be followed:

  • Adequate capacity: Addressing the needs of the area the facility serves, without building oversized facilities.
  • Localisation: Accessibility for the community and coherence with the environment and the public aimed.
  • Management: The role of governments, NGOs and private parties in administration and funding should be defined during the first stages of conception.

Fixing clear objectives adequate scope for such services. It has been done in the Favela Bairrio programme, by fixing quotas for healthcare and teaching equipment (Maher, 2017).

Natural hazards

Due to their irregular development without proper planning, slums are usually more vulnerable to natural disasters than conventional neighbourhoods. Although, resilient cities have started adapting to the effects of natural disasters but slums are not entirely integrated into this approach and lack protection against floods, fires and landslides (UN-HABITAT, 2014). In most cases, relocation seems like the only possible solution, the concentration however should also be on reducing the risks and hazards by (Betancur, 2007):

  • Identifying zones of high risk.
  • Installing infrastructures of stabilisation and environment control.
  • Using technologies and knowledge that reduces the risk, especially in the construction of buildings. These must follow good environmental practices.
  • Educating the local population about adapted behaviours.

In Medellin, Colombia, most informal settlements were located on the hills and were subject to landslides and other geological risks. The PRIMED redevelopment project resulted in the recovery and stabilisation of 70% of high risk areas (Betancur, 2007).

Institutional Systems


Owners and tenants, civil society organisation, the private sector and national and local governments have different interests and visions for the neighbourhood they live in. The institutional systems must have:

  • A clear administrative structure: Coexistence of different organisations must be organised within the project to enable collaboration and avoid the concentration of powers.
  • Clear objectives: A commonly defined focus brings the actors together to negotiate and set basis for efficient partnerships.
  • Defined approach and methodology: Strategies of the program must be clearly defined; it must avoid favouring and rely on partnerships with the existing social forces.
  • Transparency: Helps the inhabitants in understanding the role of each stakeholders and the organisation, and simultaneously in preventing corruption. In Kenya, the KENSUP programme created a local authority called Settlement Executive Committee to avoid conflicts between their stakeholders (UNH, 2011). At the same time, local governments must also commit to provide infrastructure and state authorities should facilitate the implementation of policies (Cities Alliance, 2013).
Tenure Regularisation

Slum residents have varying tenure security and are under constant risk of eviction. In Africa in 2007, more than 2,70,000 people in Africa and around 8,73,000 in Asia and Pacific suffered forced eviction (COHRE, 2009). This risk is a barrier to access credit and improve the quality of the house (Menshawy et al., 2016; Syagga et al., 2012). Security of tenure also supports the effective implementation of legal water and energy access. The process can be monitored by a national or local government, even if community organisations and international development agencies can have a role to play (Fernandes, 2011). In Venezuela, Comites de Tierras Urbanas (Urban Land Committees) were created to regroup 150 families in average and enable them to dialogue with the State and the Technical Office for Urban Land Tenancy and Regularisation (OTNRTTU) in order to become owners of their homes (Holland, 2006). There are currently 5212 of these organisations across the country. The Global Land Tool Network proposes the following Indicators to ensure a sustainable property rights regularisation (Global Land Tool Network, 2018):

  • Tenure type must be engineered regarding the social context. Registered freehold may not be the ultimate objective.
  • Customary land tenure processes can be promoted when they don’t discriminate vulnerable social groups as poor and women.
  • A participatory enumeration, a form of community participation, must be advocated to collect more precise data.
  • A recording of land transactions must be carried out, over the long term, thanks to tools implemented in the short term to simplify procedures.
Enabling affordability of households

Slums are the result of the housing markets failure to provide affordable housing (El-hadj, Faye, & Geh, 2018). Without strong policies, dwellers might have financial difficulties to stay in their new settlements. In Dharavi, one of the methods implemented considered the choice of the inhabitants to either stay or relocate to a different locality (Menshawy et al., 2016). Several examples can be a starting point for the definition of a housing policy in a slum upgrading program (El-hadj et al., 2018), like:

  • Incremental housing development: encouraging micro finance is more adapted to unstable income and fosters self-construction from the inhabitants. The government and NGOs have a major role to play in encouraging skill development.
  • Sites and services programs: operate a shift from a total public provision of housing to public assistance in private construction.
  • Rental housing: this scheme provides flexibility in budget and location for the dwellers. The role of the private sector is predominant here, but the government should provide a legislative environment and incentives.
  • Social housing: it corresponds to prices adapted to lower incomes of inhabitants. It can be provided by governments and NGOs and requires financial, human and technical resources.
  • Housing cooperatives: these corporations owned by members through equity shares is adapted to the slum context because it enables the inhabitants to pool resources. The optimal size of a cooperative agency is one of the issues faced.
Monitoring and Evaluation

Evaluating the impact of the implemented policies can improve the methods used. Today, there is a lack of this kind of systematic and complete evaluation of every slum upgrading programme (Goytia & Dorna, 2019). The key principles of a programme evaluation can be summarised through the logical framework structure keeping in mind:

  • The Inputs: The policies implemented that operate within the various topics related in this article.
  • Outputs: can be an increase in the dwellers’ income, a better literacy rate or a drop in crime rates for example. To analyse these results, a strong database is advocated.

The programme Favela Bairrio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil evaluated the impacts of the upgrading project on the quality of life of the inhabitants. They compared the initial objectives to the effective benefits, using data from the beginning of the project and data collected 10 years after through surveys. The subjects covered are the residents’ satisfaction, the benefits accrued to the population, and the level of infrastructure and services (Fiori, Riley, & Ramirez, 2000).

Social Policies

Community Participation

Top down actions and resources from higher institutions usually fail to generate local engagement and acceptance (Meredith & MacDonald, 2017). When relocating, building the project together with the inhabitants can help it correspond to their needs and avoid the failure experienced by several projects (Cavalheiro & Abiko, 2015)S. Patel, Sliuzas, & Mathur, 2015). Project managers can assess the level of community integration through the ladder of citizen participation. It characterises the degrees of popular integration in the decision making process (Arnstein, 2007). Few indicators used to ensure a proper community participation can be (Betancur, 2007):

  • Identifying leaders to facilitate the communication
  • Enforcing the links with NGOs and community organisations
  • Developing small community programs to negotiate on different topics, like, community legalisation of tenure, home relocations, etc.
  • Involve the community in project development, sub-contracting, administration and evaluation
  • Fostering citizen awareness and implication

The Kenyan program KENSUP also promotes subsidiarity. This principle focuses the decision making process at the lowest level possible. As an example, in Pamoja trust in Kenya, survey responses from the citizens living inside the area provide a more accurate source of information. Inhabitants know their neighbourhood well and can reflect reality on the ground (Global Land Tool Network, 2010). Decisions thus correspond to reality.

Figure 3 – Community participation in the Favela Bairro Program (UN-HABITAT, 2011)

Gender Sensitivity

In comparison with men, women tend to spend more time in their living neighbourhood and hence are more affected by a redevelopment program (Sunikka-Blank et al., 2019). An active participation of women in the decision-making process at all levels of conception makes the neighbourhood more inclusive. Property rights control should not primarily consider men as the default choice. In 2009, women were head of onethird of all Venezuelan households (Fernandes, 2011). In the Peru-vian programme of Commission for the Formalization of Informal Property, land titles were given jointly to wives and husbands (Fernandes, 2011).

Figure 4 – An open air market (Entsie, 2017)


In the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, 63% of residents feel unsafe in their neighbourhood, whereas 30% of them rate safety as a basic need (UN-HABITAT, 2011). As the major issue of safety requires much attention, in Papua New Guinea, the Yumi Lukautim Mosbi project tackles it through four pillars (UN-HABITAT, 2011):

  • Promotion of sport and youth engagement
  • Skill development and employment creation
  • Spread of urban safety feeling through stories and media
  • Community engagement
Access to Jobs and Economic Integration

The first point is to provide accessibility to the livelihood of the inhabitants. For example, one of the major objectives of the PRIMED programme in Medellin, Colombia, is to integrate the subnormal neighbourhoods to the rest of the city and give them access to the labour market. After its implementation, 91% of the residents stated they were better linked to the city (Betancur, 2007).

Similarly, another point is to promote economic life inside the slum neighbourhood. The Kojokrom market project in Ghana chose to build 8 sheds for the local market to improve working conditions of the vendors, thereby increasing their income. They negotiated with the banks to make the interest rates for the construction affordable for locals (UN-HABITAT, 2009). Kamna Patel underlines the importance of keeping informal continuities in the slum upgrading process (K. Patel, 2013).

Governments and NGOs are also major actors to foster skill development and capacity building within the slum population. This measure can have strong links with policies of households and infrastructure building and with community participation.