Urban Planning and Poverty In Developing Countries

Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies recently reviewed and assessed the theory and practice of urban planning for poverty alleviation in developing countries. Inclusion and Sustainable Urban Development by Design argues that urban poverty must be addressed and its spatial manifestations addressed. This is crucial for national economic and social development.

The urban poor represents both a challenge and an opportunity. They account for between 28 per cent and 76 per cent of South Asia’s population. By alleviating the enormous human suffering they experience, and by supporting them, we can help unleash their entrepreneurial drive as well as their valuable contribution to the labour market.

Poverty In Developing Countries

Urban poverty is becoming more pressing due to the rapid urbanization of many parts of the globe, the uneven spatial development of urban areas and the poor living conditions of more than 800 million people who live in slums.

This study highlights key flaws in the way that developing countries plan their urban development

To plan large investments in urban infrastructure, many national governments create regional authorities or public-private partnerships to do so. However, these authorities and partnerships often fail to adequately consider the larger regional land use planning goals, community input or the needs for poor communities.

If they do exist, local land use regulations and plans are rarely followed. It is rare for plans for slums to be placed in the context of larger urban planning. Nongovernmental organizations, which do a lot of the work in improving slums, rarely coordinate their efforts. Many community-based organizations are often weak and not included in the government’s urban planning process.

These governments, authorities, partnerships, and other organizations fail to develop specific strategies to improve and redevelop slums without causing disruption to exist homes or economic activities. These deficiencies result in unplanned and uncoordinated urban development.


The report points out that there are many good planning practices around the globe

These include

  • National strategies for urban development
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Planning and governance in regional areas
  • Anticipatory planning to address urban growth and climate change
  • Planning and coordination for land use and investments
  • Spatial planning and coordination
  • Community engagement
  • Asset-building for the poor
  • Institutional transparency
  • Accountability, and
  • Participatory municipal budgeting.

This study examines the key barriers to urban poverty reduction in developing countries. It also examines how political motivations can complicate planning for slums and the weakness of regional planning and investment. The report, which draws on planning advancements and best practices, contains recommendations for how urban planning and investment can be improved to foster inclusive and sustainable urban development.

  • Encourage the creation of national urban design commissions, aided by international and intergovernmental bodies, that are responsible for developing plans for inclusive urban development
  • Regional planning funds can be created to support multi-stakeholder, participatory spatial planning initiatives at regional levels
  • Large-scale, public-private partnerships are necessary to improve and transparency planning practices
  • Increase government capacity to maximize public benefit from public land sales by granting rights for real estate development to private landowners and public-private partnerships.
  • Create a diagnostic tool that can be used to evaluate and improve urban planning governance in order to promote inclusive and sustainable urban development.
  • Identify the best practices in urban planning and invest in them.
  • Invest in community-based and intermediary support groups.
  • Instruct and nurture local entrepreneurs who are committed to serving the needs of the poor, and who will then employ them in their local businesses.
  • To test the returns and risks of “mezzol evel” lending (as opposed microcredit) to organizations that are focused on housing, community infrastructure and small business expansion in slums, create innovation and social venture capital fund.

These actions, taken together, would significantly improve urban planning and foster an international movement for sustainable and inclusive urban development. Despite the seriousness of urban poverty and the rapid urbanization in many parts of the globe, as well as the compelling reasons for fighting urban poverty and slums many people feel these issues are not being addressed on the international or national level.

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There is hope that these issues will be given the international attention they deserve. With the growing number of successful strategies to combat urban poverty, the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations, and the chorus of internationally renowned businesses like McKinsey or JP Morgan Chase calling for better urban planning and poverty alleviation strategies, there are many options.

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I am Adegboyega Tunde Temitayo. A registered Town Planner with the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) and Town Planners Registration Council (TOPREC).

I love to think differently and possibly on various Urban and Regional Planning issues to proffer solutions to Urban and Rural Environmental Problems. You can subscribe to my YouTube Channel

As the Chief Editor of Town Planners Diary, I humbly welcome you to this platform which is about enhancing Planning Education through research on various Town Planning and Environmental issues.

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