Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World

April 25, 2005, [MD]

This is a spin-off of an essay I did for envirosci about urbanization. I came across it in a reading, ordered it through interlibrary loan, and it arrived like a month later - think they had to get it from another university. Really nice and readable book, with only one section that I found not that interesting.

There might be as many as 1 bln. squatters in the world.

In some cities, they make up the majority, such as in Mumbai.

Squatters are often being cheated out of services, or have to pay many times the going rate for water, electricity etc.

Given the right circumstances, which does not have to involve legal ownership (in fact, some don’t want legal ownership), but needs a stable situation and the knowledge that you will not be kicked out in the short-run, it is amazing how squatters can contribute to their communities, slowly building up their housing standard, often one wall at a time, and extending infrastructure.

Squatting communities are often neither unhygienic or crime-infested. These are only negative stereotypes.

How succesfull a squatter community is depends a lot on the politics around - Rio and the area around Istanbul has been quite succesfull, whereas Nigeria and Mumbai have not been so succesful.

Both NGOs and the UN (HABITAT) are quite unsuccesfull in helping squatters, often they don’t even try.

How the US was founded by squatters, how they were legalized in LA and driven off the land in NYC.

Modern squatters - left-radicals. But most squatters in developing countries are more conservative.

Like Jane Jacobs says, wholesale redevelopment is almost always a disaster, what is needed is incentives and gentle support in slow and organic development.

Good book - I personally found the chapter on US historical squatter movements not that interesting, but that’s just me.

Net127 has some good insights.\ As does BoingBoing.

335 p.

Stian Håklev April 25, 2005 Toronto, Canada
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