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The credibility of slums: Informal housing and urban governance in India

Zhang, Yue
Land use policy 2018 v.79 pp. 876-890
cities, governance, politics, property rights, India
A major challenge facing Indian cities is the expansion of informal housing beyond state control or regulation. In Mumbai, the financial capital of India, forty-two percent of the population lives in slums. What explains the proliferation and persistence of slums in Mumbai despite their ill-protected property rights and poor quality of living? Applying the Credibility Thesis to the study of urban informality, the paper argues that slums persist because they fulfill certain functions and, therefore, are credible. It will be ascertained that, slums in Mumbai provide alternative housing and economic opportunities for city residents as well as serving as “vote banks” in electoral politics. Slum redevelopment in Mumbai is slow and fraught with contention, largely because the government neglects the high credibility of slums. As a reflection on the function rather than merely the form of slums, this paper challenges the dichotomy between the formal and the informal, and sheds new light on the role of the state in the production and governance of urban informality.