First, here’s a few facts that all mean the same thing: Up to 35% of urban dwellers in Third World cities are squatters, the UN estimates that 1 out of every 7 people now lives in a slum, and one billion people live in slums/squatter cities.
The term “squatter city”, “slum”, or “shanty town”, notoriously bring to mind visions of lawless, smelly, disease-infested, impoverished neighbourhoods. These assumptions may not be entirely false – except for lawless… that’s pretty false. Most slums – like the Mtumba slum in Nairobi – have their own modes of governance. They are definitely smelly though. However, squatter cities, as the future of urban living, may have more to offer than we think.
According to Stuart Brand, “the magic of squatter cities is that they are improved steadily and gradually by their residents.” The people who live there, rather than relying on a city council, have a real invested interest in their community, and develop it themselves. Brand explains that these cities are surprisingly environmentally friendly, organically organized rather than chaotic, and could be the new face of “urban farming.” In fact, Brand’s argument is so interesting, if I were you, I’d read it here.