Informal to Formal (I2F)

In 2014, 54% of the world’s population lived in urban areas. In many rapidly urbanizing areas of the world, cities are struggling to support the immense influx of people who move to cities with the hope of improving their circumstances and building a better life. However, as many cannot afford to live in formal housing, they end up settling “informally” within it or on the outskirts. Such areas are commonly referred to as slums or informal settlements.

The "informality" of slums is manifested by a lack of one or more of the following: tenure, residential zoning, utilities, and safe housing structures. Informality breeds negative externalities like social unrest and disease, leading many to regard slums as abominations.

However, at AHI, we believe there are what we call "good slums," or slums that are ripe for improvement and formalization. "Good slums" are places where private investment has outrun public infrastructure - that is, people are materially upgrading their homes and neighborhoods, by building fences, yards, new rooms, and infrastructure lines.

Formalization exists along a continuum. Incremental improvements, such as this South African woman’s garden and fence, are often pre-cursors of formality, while the house number and electricity signify formality.

Investing in "good slums" can greatly accelerate their formalization. Thus, in our research, we will study 1) what constitutes a good slum, drawing from historical and present-day examples and 2) how to invest a good slum to accelerate the process of formalization.

Community members, advocacy groups, and city government have collaborated for more than a decade in an effort to formalize this settlement in India. Starting with basic infrastructure services such as electricity and water connections and paving of roads, the residents are now on track to receive formal title and permanent housing.

The I2F research is still in development phase. If you are interested in getting involved, either as a research collaborator or a donor, please contact Vidhee Garg at