A Global Estimate of the Size and Location of Informal Settlements

by Anthony Boanada-Fuchs,Monika Kufferand Jota Samper 

 Slums are a structural feature of urbanization, and shifting urbanization trends underline their significance for the cities of tomorrow. Despite their importance, data and knowledge on slums are very limited. In consideration of the current data landscape, it is not possible to answer one of the most essential questions: Where are slums located? The goal of this study is to provide a more nuanced understanding of the geography of slums and their growth trajectories. The methods rely on the combination of different datasets (city-level slum maps, world cities, global human settlements layer, Atlas of Informality). Slum data from city-level maps form the backbone of this research and are made compatible by differentiating between the municipal area, the urbanized area, and the area beyond. This study quantifies the location of slums in 30 cities, and our findings show that only half of all slums are located within the administrative borders of cities. Spatial growth has also shifted outwards. However, this phenomenon is very different in different regions of the world; the municipality captures less than half of all slums in Africa and the Middle East but almost two-thirds of all slums in cities of South Asia. These insights are used to estimate land requirements within the Sustainable Development Goals time frame. In 2015, almost one billion slum residents occupied a land area as large as twice the size of the country of Portugal. The estimated 380 million residents to be added up to 2030 will need land equivalent to the size of the country of Egypt. This land will be added to cities mainly outside their administrative borders. Insights are provided on how this land demand differs within cities and between world regions. Such novel insights are highly relevant to the policy actions needed to achieve Target 11.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals (“by 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services, and upgrade slums”) as interventions targeted at slums or informal settlements are strongly linked to political and administrative boundaries. More research is needed to draw attention to the urban expansion of cities and the role of slums and informal settlements. Keywords: informal settlements; global estimates of slums; remote sensing; land coverage; Sustainable Development Goals