Slums are legal but substandard settlements. It is overcrowded, under-serviced settlements. Slum dwellers could be either renters of the shelter, or the land or they could be owners of the land and dwelling. Slums are normally found in the centres of cities, although it is not uncommon to find slums, where land is rented, in the urban periphery[1].

Slums are an obvious manifestation of inequitable access to physical and financial assets, to secure land tenure, and to political representation. They also reflect the failures of government to guide and facilitate the growth of low-income housing and basic services for incoming migrants through appropriate policy and planning. These communities grow through the enormous entrepreneurial energy of residents who build the city and provide its labor. With the right institutional environment they can evolve more quickly into safe, healthful, and hospitable urban neighborhoods[2].

The multiple environmental health and safety risks in urban areas are related largely to the conditions and location of settlement. Hundreds of millions of urban dwellers have few affordable options other than to live on sites (usually public lands) where development has not been approved and where residents are therefore not officially entitled to urban services or protections. Such informal neighborhoods remain in squalid condition for decades. Since the home is also a major source of income (both from rental and home-based industry) and the household’s main private asset, the social and economic burden of such physical conditions is profound[2].

Many slums are also disaster-prone sites—on hillsides or floodplains, or near factories. Monsoon flooding in Mumbai claims hundreds of victims among the illegal occupants of hazardous areas—including the canals meant to drain the excess water[2].

Slum neighborhoods typically have disproportionately high concentrations of low-income people (though not necessarily the extreme poor, such as the homeless). They may also house middle-income residents in cities where formal provision of infrastructure and housing markets are very weak. Residents of inner-city slums, typically settled for many years, generally have better availability of infrastructure (though it is often poor in quality and unreliable). They also have more established communities and less physical isolation than residents of newer settlements, usually on the outskirts. Both groups suffer from the stigma of their neighborhood that impedes their access to employment and to wider networks of social capital[2].


  1. UN-ESCAP (1998) Urban Land Policies for the Uninitiated
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 World Bank, 2003. Chapter 6, World Development Report.