Sunday, February 15, 2009


On a recent episode of PBS' Now, the Mayor of Charlotte,NC was thrust in the limelight in celebration of his successful implementation of a light-rail system that has been godsend in the last year or so. Put forward as an indication of that success, the re-development of low-income, high crime neighborhoods into thriving urban center complete with mixed zoning for residence, business and entertainment. All hail the reclamation of a "bad neighborhood", the increased mobility of taxpayers paying fares...

This has bothered me for years: universally, rising property values are heralded as indicators of thriving communities, successful public policy and sound development strategies. In those neighborhoods that have been "turned around" were residents. People who lived where they did out of economic necessity. Where do those people go? Because, you know,its not like they're being given one of those $500,000 two-bedroom condos.

Recently, I found this website. Beginning with a rundown on the global issue of poverty and urban slums, the presentation of information details the problem of urban poverty and housing.. For example, just for a start: Mumbai's population of ~19 million includes about 12 million persons living in urban slums. That city has a population density of 30 people per square METER.

Where do we go from there?


Lyman said...

What a powerful website. I can't wait to read through the entire thing.

Will US cities turn in to slums because of urban gentrification? Hard to tell. I've seen slums like this in Manilla and Cape Town before and they are nothing, NOTHING like the poor area I live, I like to think this country has more housing possibilities to offer the poor and I think so far that has been the case. Federal-assisted (HUD) communities such as the one I grew up in in Indy don't really exist in countries such as Indonesia, hopefully the gov't won't forget about the poor and keep programs like this thriving.

There currently is an "urban renewal" project happening in downtown LA that I have welcomed since the place was pretty desolate when I first moved here. I haven't heard much about displaced poor families downtown but will keep an ear out for it.

KHM said...

Given that such a huge proportion of the world's population lives in dire poverty, I wonder what it says about humanity that this huge divide is allowed to exist. How is it that mankind has not yet come together on this issue to guarantee some minimum standard of living?

I think whether or not we embrace the matter as "our business" ultimately transcends the constructs of government and market. When over 1 billion people live in slums, you can't convince me that the problem can be solved by making more of opportunities, working harder, learning more. In fact, you'll have a very hard time convincing me that the situation isn't created systematically, and perhaps by design. Given that the UN predicts that the one particular Mumbai slum featured on that website will be "renewed" in the next decade, how can anyone think that displacing millions of those residents isn't a problem of global magnitude?

And really...did you look at those conditions? London's streets were cleaner in the 1800's...the days of pneumonic plague, cholera...


Special K said...

Wow - thanks for the link to that site - very interesting. I also want to explore it some more. I wonder if we will see slums like those here one day - in Chicago, "gentrification" is also a huge problem for displaced communities - I think generally people just end up moving further and further from the city, but most likely they work *in* the city, so poor people get burdened with really ridiculous commutes, and worse and worse school districts.