Guidelines for the Formalization of Informal Constructions

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This publication is a brief, practical and easy-to-read guide, explaining how to structure a programme for the formalization of informal constructions. It shows how to do this in an affordable, reliable, inclusive and timely manner so that governments can meet the Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and implement the New Urban Agenda. The focus is on the formalization process itself, but there are also descriptions of the preparatory work needed to analyze problem magnitude, as well as how to find political acceptance, identify post-formalization factors, and identify the root problems that cause future informality. The causes of informal development include rapid urbanization, lack of affordable housing, poverty, internal migration, conflicts, marginalization, natural disasters, cumbersome authorization processes, serious weaknesses in the private sector, and corruption. Sometimes society’s most vulnerable groups use it “move-up” from poverty, sometimes people desiring better housing use extra-legal processes to avoid flaws in existing land-market legal systems. These factors often lead to more inspections, bureaucracy, penalties, fees and sometimes even imprisonment. When the causes are systemic, these measures are more likely to exacerbate than resolve the problem. This guide will assist in all aspects of the informal construction formalization process, to the benefit of inhabitants, governments and stake holders.




Worldwide, there are an estimated one billion urban dwellers living in informal settlements – compared with three- quarters of a billion in 1996. These settlements have been built outside the formal system of laws and regulations that ensure tenure, legal ownership and safe, resilient structures. Informal development is not a new issue for the UNECE region. However, over the last 30 years, informal development has become an increasingly urgent matter. In 2007, it was estimated that more than 50 million people lived in informal settlements in 20 member-states of the UNECE region. Europe has experienced a rise of urban dwellers who cannot afford to pay rent, with housing costs rising particularly rapidly in the more prosperous large cities. This is especially the case for the Southern and Eastern parts of the region, while Western European countries are said to have more than six per cent of their urban dwellers living in insecure housing conditions.


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