Return to the UEM Homepage

Urban Squatters and Slums
Slums and Squatter Settlements:
What is the difference?

  • no land ownership
  • lack of water and sanitation provision
  • no electricity or other energy services
  • high density, low-rise settlements
  • poor sewerage and sanitation facilities
  • absence of welfare and community services
  • low quality of life and living conditions
  • poor health and environmental conditions
  • location of informal enterprises
  • "owner-built" with local/waste materials
  • built on marginal lands
  • "Slums" refer to urban settlements that are highly congested urban areas marked by deteriorated, unsanitary buildings, poverty, and social disorganization.

    "Squatter settlements" refer to communities where residents settle on land (especially public or unoccupied land), without permission from the land owner - without rights or title. Squatters may include those who settle on public land under regulation by the local government [1], in order to potentially get a title to it in the future.

    While the two terms tend to be used interchangeably, simply put, the definition of slums focus on their environmental and quality of life (QoL) aspects , while that of squatter settlements focus on the legality of the land ownership and other infrastructure provisions.

    Both terms refer to informal urban settlements predominantly used by low-income households that have little or no urban services such as water, sanitation or electricity.

    Slums and squatter settlements are known by different local names in different countries. For example, they are called Ranchos in Venezuela and Callampas or Campamentos in Chile, Favelas in Brazil. It is also known as Barriadas in Peru, Villas Misarias in Argentina and Colonias Letarias in Mexico. In the Asia-Pacific, such informal settlements are known as Barong-Barong in the Philippines, Kevettits in Myanmar and Bastee or Juggi-johmpri in India.

    [1] For example, in India, this process is called "Declaring a Slum" which essentially means that the residents will not be evicted from their current location, giving them a "perceived" sense of tenure and inducing them to invest in their homes and improving their surroundings.
    Return to Slums and Squatters
    Adopting a Rational Approach