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High-density housing that works for all

Opinion paper, 2 pages
17079IIED
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In an urbanising world, the way people fit into cities is vastly important – socially, economically, environmentally, even psychologically. So density, or the number of people living in a given area, is central to urban design and planning.

Both governments and markets tend to get density wrong, leading to overcrowding, urban sprawl or often both. A case in point are the high-rise buildings springing up throughout urban Asia – perceived as key features of that widely touted concept, the ‘world-class city’.

While some may offer a viable solution to land pressures and density requirements, many built to house evicted or resettled ‘slum’ dwellers are a social and economic nightmare – inconveniently sited, overcrowded and costly.

New evidence from Karachi, Pakistan, reveals a real alternative. Poor people can create liveable high-density settlements as long as community control, the right technical assistance and flexible designs are in place. A city is surely ‘world-class’ only when it is cosmopolitan – built to serve all, including the poorest.

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17079IIED