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    14 December

    | 2022 | 17:00

    Informal Housing Going Vertical – The Next Generation

    • In English
    • Online
    • In English
    • Online
    Informal Housing Going Vertical – The Next Generation

    Informal Housing Going Vertical – The Next Generation

    Intensifying of Informal Housing and the New Challenges to the Quality of Life


    Informal housing is a common phenomenon around the world, with a higher intensity in developing countries. It is estimated that about 30% of the world population is living in informal housing, familiarly in dwellings sprawling horizontally. However, in the past decade, horizontal expansion became a challenge, mainly since it is restricted by the continuous decrease in available land. Meanwhile, populations seeking affordable housing throughout dwellings in informal areas are growing rapidly. This situation is leading to the emergence of a new, specific type of informal housing, a vertical one, i.e. – Vertical Informality. This term describes the phenomenon of profit-oriented mid\high-rise apartment buildings, built on unregistered land, not complying with planning codes, without building permissions, and without formal funding or mortgages.

    In the context of East Jerusalem, it is estimated that some 120 thousand Palestinians, about a third of the 362 thousand population of Jerusalemite-Palestinians, are living under conditions of vertical informal housing in two neighborhoods, Kufr Aqeb and Shoafat Refugee Camp, which are physically separated from the rest of the city by the separation wall.

    Informal Housing Areas – Going Vertical and More Dense

    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict stands at the background of the development of the vertical informal housing in Jerusalem, but this is not a place-unique phenomenon. Research shows that two main conditions lead its emergence around the world. These are high demand for low-cost housing among a poor population and low law enforcement of regulations, either because governments are unable to regulate it or purposefully turn a blind eye. Thus, the extreme densification and vertical expansion of existing informal settlements is happening in a number of third-world countries e.g: Egypt, Kenya, Syria and Bangladesh.


    At this international lab, we discussed the question: What happens when high-rise housing is built under conditions of informality? This new dimension adds up to the challenges, dangers and problems accompanying familiar conditions of living in informal housing.

    Together with a variety of participants, academics and professionals, the aim of this lab was to look at Vertical Informal Housing from a worldwide perspective, and learn about the process and implications of its emergence.

    We wish to develop our abilities to designate policies that shall enhance the quality of daily life of the dwellers of these areas in East Jerusalem, and will help developing tools for upgrading the living conditions under circumstances of Vertical Informality around the world.

    Agenda | Dec 14th 2022

    5-7 p.m. Israel Time Zone (GMT+2)

    During Rachelle Alterman’s presentation, she explained that not all illegal acts can be justified by informality (driving on the opposite side of the road is not justifiable). As an example, we saw an illegal Vila neighborhood in Portugal built on the shoreline and populated with high-class dwellers, such as university professors, that cannot be justified in terms of fulfilling basic human rights.

    • Namrata Kapoor, Senior Consultant – Academics & Research, Indian Institute for Human Settlements – Contagious Neighbors, the Case of Tuberculosis in Slum Redevelopment Buildings in Mumbai

      We heard from Namrata Kapur about a Mumbai government construction program that rehabilitated slum dwellers and built formal alternative housing for them, but didn’t comply with the state and/or country’s building codes, resulting in crowded window-to-window housing with barely any sunlight coming through. The study shows how critical codes are, and the dangers that can be created when they are ignored. The type of construction created a very easy environment for tuberculosis to spread. Another example where codes were met better, tuberculosis spread much less (16 meter gap between one building to another, instead of the 3-4 meter gap in the other examples).

    • Maliha Zugair, Researcher, Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research – Vertical Informality – the Case of Kufr Aqeb in East Jerusalem

    We heard from Maliha Zugair about her thesis work in Kufr Aqeb, and how vertical informality has emerged there. Vertical informal housing is not a place-specific phenomenon, but it is influenced by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The emergence of this phenomenon is due to two main factors. These are high demand for low-cost housing among a poor population and low law enforcement of regulations, either because governments are unable to regulate it or purposefully turn a blind eye.

    • Prof. Alan Smart, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of CalgaryResponse and Comments

    Finally, we heard from Prof. Alan Smart who embraced the academic term coined by Maliha Zugair – “vertical informality”, regarding his work in Hong Kong.

    • Open discussion

    At the open discussion following the presentations, participated Dr Emily Silverman, Dr. Rachelle Alterman and others. Professor Oren Yiftachel raised a significant question at the end of the discussion – what is the governing scheme in the case studies – who are the official rulers and how does daily life operate without them?