Top urban news, trends and reports curated for the world’s city leaders. Edited by David Hatch

The world’s urban housing crisis is huge — and growing

Hundreds of thousands of people live in the Kibera section of Nairobi. (Darko Vrcan /

More than a billion people worldwide live in substandard housing. By 2030, that figure could rise to three billion. These are some of the stubborn facts about the enormity of the urban housing crisis, writes Luis Triveño, an urban development specialist at the World Bank.

“Poor families want livable neighborhoods, not slums,” he observes on the World Bank’s Sustainable Communities blog. “No family ends up in a shanty or barebones concrete structure by choice.” Yet throughout Latin America, one-third of the urban population resides in squalor, he notes. In many African cities, more than 90 percent of residents are relegated to informal settlements.

Only government intervention — via subsidies, tax incentives and block grants — can begin to address the problem, Triveño writes. Without such actions, inadequate housing takes a physical and emotional toll on inhabitants. Shantytowns are often breeding grounds for disease and located in areas vulnerable to natural disaster. They also tend to be distant from economic centers.

Triveño emphasizes the importance of comprehensive housing policies that promote diversity, density and long-term growth. He also advises cities to recognize that upfront housing investments generate dividends such as increased employment and tax revenue.

World Bank

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