‘Street-led city-wide slum upgrading’ – Claudio Acioly, UN-Habitat

By on 03/28/2014

mp3 icon Street-led City-wide Slum Upgrading – Claudio Acioly

Claudio Acioly


Claudio Acioly Jr. is an architect and urban planner with over 30 years of experience as practitioner, technical and policy advisor, consultant and training and capacity development expert in over 30 countries of Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean. He is currently chief Training and Capacity Development of UN-Habitat. During the period 2008-2012 he was chief Housing Policy of UN-Habitat and coordinator of the United Nations Housing Rights Programme. He was also coordinator of the Advisory Group on Forced Evictions to the Executive Director of UN-Habitat. He has published widely and lectured on housing, slum upgrading, land policies and community-based action planning. He has been keynote presenter in various international symposia and global conferences and is visiting lecturer in several international post-graduation education programmes.


This lecture proposes a fundamental shift in addressing the problems of slums, and suggests an approach that focuses on streets as the engine for urban transformation. The strategy brought forward by Claudio Acioly uses streets as the natural conduits that connect slums spatially and physically with the city and treats streets not only as physical entity for mobility and accessibility – through which water and sewerage pipes, power lines, and drainage systems are laid – but as the common good and the public domain where social, cultural and economic activities are articulated, reinforced and facilitated.

Acioly also presents an approach to slums that advocates a shift from piecemeal and project-based interventions in single slums towards a citywide approach that intervenes incrementally in multiple slums simultaneously. It is argued that this approach results in an incremental process of integration and regularization of slums into the overall city management and planning. Acioly makes a business case and draws on several case studies and practical experiences from different parts of the world that demonstrate the use of streets in slum upgrading and the role of streets in physical transformation of slums. This reveals that the proposed approach is not new, but what is new is the deliberate decision to start the slum upgrading interventions based on the streets and definition of the street network, and bring this to citywide scale. It is argued that this will gradually create the urban configuration and establish the future urban layout of the slum settlements and thus lay the basis for legalization and regularisation of land tenure.

The street-led slum upgrading approach requires the preparation of an area-based plan, with the participation of local residents, defining a spatial structure for the settlement and the basic street pattern. Such a process of planned upgrading would require opening new streets, widening existing streets and carving out public open spaces. This inexorably entails demolitions and resettlement to land ideally located within or nearby the settlement. The tradeoffs involved in this process need to be considered by the community before arriving at a decision.

Acioly’s lecture argues that streets trigger economic activity, attracting shops, services and increased residents’ identity with their place of residence, bringing an enhanced sense of security and orderly development. The introduction of public lighting and mixed use along a street’s route is likely to bring more usage and social interactions amongst residents with positive impacts on the sense of public safety. But equally important is the naming of streets and numbering of houses establishing unequivocally the physical addresses and locations, enabling residents to gain an address and postal code, the first steps in gaining citizenship rights.


UN-Habitat (2014). Streets as Tools for Urban Transformation in Slums: an approach to citywide slum upgrading.

UN-Habitat (2013). Streets as Public Spaces and Drivers of Urban Prosperity. Nairobi: UN-Habitat.

UN-Habitat (2013). The Relevance of Street Patterns and Public Space in Urban Areas.

UN-Habitat Working Paper, April 2013.

Articles & publications at Claudio Acioly’s website



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