Also known as favela, kampong, bidonville, or tugurio, the term ‘slum’ refers a contiguous human settlement where the inhabitants are characterized as having inadequate housing and basic services. A slum is often not recognized and addressed by the public authorities as an integral or equal part of the city and includes any combination of the following elements:
- § Insecure residential status;
- § Inadequate access to safe water;
- § Inadequate access to sanitation and other infrastructure;
- § Poor structural quality of housing;
- § Overcrowding.
These settlements can “range from high density, squalid central city tenements to spontaneous squatter settlements without legal recognition or rights, sprawling at the edge of cities.” The informal nature of many of these settlements also means that many slum-dwellers lack security of tenure, making them vulnerable to forced evictions(link to def on forced eviction) and displacement.
Many of these settlements lie on the outskirts of cities however this is not always the case as many times informal settlements will be formed in city centers and near major rivers (which is the case for some settlements in Cairo, Port Harcourt, Rio de Janeiro, and others); these areas are even more vulnerable as they are prime location for investment and urban renewal, all under the catch-all term of ‘urban development’.
This term is almost exclusively associated with the third world. As more and more persons have moved into urban areas, infrastructure and urban planning have not progressed as quickly. For much of the urban poor in these countries, slums or informal areas are the only option for affordable housing, and despite the lack of basic facilities, is the best alternative, as the only other option is homelessness. According to UN-Habitat, there are approximately 1 billion persons living in slums, over 930 million of which are in third world countries.
“Defining Slums and Secure Tenure,” Expert Group Meeting, Nairobi, November 2002.
Cities Alliance, “Cities without Slums.”
 UN-HABITAT, “The Right to Adequate Housing,” Fact Sheet No. 21 (Rev. 1).