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Urban planning and informal cities in southeast Europe

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This article explores the possible transformation of informal developments in southeast Europe into viable neighborhoods through strategic urban plans. Informal settlements grew rapidly in the 1990s, accommodating thousands of economic migrants, refugees, and internally displaced people. Although this phenomenon has reshaped post-socialist cities in the region in a profound way, there have been limited attempts to resolve the economic, social, and spatial challenges associated with legalization and integration. This article first provides an overview of the changing role of planning in post-socialist cities and presents a continuum of urban-planning styles in southeast Europe. Next, it introduces a typology of informal settlements based on their major characteristics — location, size, degree of informality, and vulnerability. Finally, it analyzes the emerging approaches to legalization, upgrading, and integration of informal settlements, emphasizing the need for strategic participatory intervention and well-targeted public assistance.
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... Demolishing informal settlements does not help to build a harmonious society. In a study of urban planning and informal cities in southeast Europe, Tsenkova (2012) found that the formalization of informal settlements in Serbia, Croatia and Albania emphasizes the integration of informal land and housing into formal economy and validation of ownership through property titles. Responses to formalization of an informal settlement vary according to local contexts, type of settlement, government's political orientations and pressure from target communities. ...
... This has the potential of making the upgrade meeting internationally acceptable standards. The agency should note that the nature of the upgrade project depends on the local contexts of the informal settlement being upgraded as reported by Tsenkova (2012). Thus, the nature of implementation of the project should be based on a case-by-case basis, which implies that it must be planned thoroughly. ...
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The upgrade paradigm has been a widely accepted solution to informal settlements. However, implementing an effective upgrade program has been challenging for governments of most developing countries. This paper reports a study which examined informal settlement residents’ preferences for infrastructure provided by an upgrade project and factors influencing their decision to live in a makeshift house. It also examined how an informal settlement upgrade project can be implemented in an effective manner. The data originated from interviews with 231 residents of informal settlements in Port Moresby and was analyzed using mixed methods approach which includes descriptive statistics, qualitative content analysis and binary logistic regression model. The results show that all the residents would support the upgrade project and would pay for service charges associated with infrastructure and services provided by the project. Piped borne water and health care facility were the most preferred. In order for the upgrade project to be successful, residents should be fully involved in planning and implementing the project. Results from the logistic model revealed that decision to live in a makeshift house is influenced by factors such as house and land ownership, frequency of crime in the area, household size, occupation, access to toilet and number of years lived in informal settlement. There is a need to develop an effective mechanism for restricting the emergence of new informal settlements. The findings contribute to urban development planning by providing guidelines for upgrading informal settlements in an effective and efficient manner. The findings will be useful for policy makers, planners and urban development managers in the informal settlement upgrade process.
... Though Serbia has a lot in common with the general dynamics of transition in post-socialist cities, it is by no means a typical case of a post-socialist country, as it was particularly heavy in societal dynamics and scope (Vujošević & Nedović-Budić, 2006); the economic crisis was deeper than elsewhere in Eastern Europe and political stability was sidetracked by a civil war, the refugee crisis, and a prolonged institutional and regulatory vacuum (Tsenkova, 2012). The current situation in Serbia, considering the overall economic and urban development, is a result of the previous condition of transition recession, accompanied by the global financial crash (Zeković, Vujošević, & Maričić, 2015b). ...
Book
The purpose of the book on integrated urban planning (IUP) is to present ongoing research from the universities involved in the project Creating the Network of Knowledge Labs for Sustainable and Resilient Environments (KLABS). Although sustainability and resilience have been largely explored in many complex social-ecological systems, they have only recently been applied in the context of cities. Both concepts are useful when seeking an integrated approach to urban planning as they help to look at the city as an interconnected, multi-dimensional system. Analysing the sustainability and the resilience of urban systems involves looking at environmental, social and economic aspects, as well as at those related to technology, culture and institutional structures. Sustainability, resilience as well as integrated urban development are all focused on process. Their objectives are typically defined around the ongoing operation of the process and they can change during the time. Therefore, building a sustainable and resilient city is a collective endeavor that is about mindsets just as much as about physical structures and their operation, where capacity to anticipate and plan for the future, to learn and to adapt are paramount. The papers published in this book show that the recent and current research in those institutions focuses on the directions of development of IUP, the processes that support sustainable and resilient use of natural resources and their application in the Western Balkan and some other European countries. Each essay aims to provide an overview of key aspects of the research topic. The division of the book into three parts - directions, resources and territories - underlines how the challenges that the contemporary city poses can be dealt with more effectively by integrating different paradigms, concepts and trends of urban development and governance; taking into account the numerous problems linked to the availability and exploitation of the main natural and non-natural resources; and looking at the city and the territory as systems in constant transformation, not reducible within rigid dichotomies such as urban/rural, dense/sprawled, formal/informal, etc.
... More than half of the population inhabits approximately one-quarter of the entire territory in the six coastal municipalities and the capital Podgorica (M€ uller and Lje skovi c, 2008). Estimates of illegally constructed buildings range from 80,000 to 100,000, suggesting that over one-third of the residents live in informal housing (Tsenkova, 2012). This level of informality is associated with the upsurge of urbanisation in the 1960s and 1970s. ...
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Informal dwellings describe makeshift lodgings made from temporary materials, such as plastic, corrugated iron, sheeting, packing cases, or wood. These units allow low-income groups to informally occupy land and create their habitable space in a phased manner. This article focuses on elements of the urban morphology, such as density, accessibility, and operating assortment of informally built areas in the southern region of Montenegro. The author examines the urban morphologies of four urban areas, whose informality is traditionally viewed as markers of decline and despair. Using observations, questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews, the investigator maps dwellings in Ulcinj, Budva, Tivat, and Herceg Novi neighbourhoods. The researcher interrogated participants about land distribution during the construction of sheds, buildings' outline and orientation toward the street, and activities performed in their dwellings, such as living, working, and accommodating relatives and guests. This methodology tests the hypothesis, formulated as a deeper understanding of urban morphology for examining the interweaving of informally built settlements with the rest of the city. A cartographic investigation is used to reframe customary rights of low-income populations to land inclusion and their place in the city. The results clearly show that the location and lifestyle are designed to obfuscate the vulnerable populations from the public view, disconnected from policymaking, and ignored by urban planning projects. However, the interviewees' destinations orientation away from the downtowns represents the possibility of reconfiguring existing urban planning practices. For creating alternative urbanisation, the orientation of less visible neighbourhoods presents a model for building regulations embedded in social forces and cultural habits of all social and ethnic groups. This study did not address the implementation of social hosing policies and the logistical limitations of realising them by the local and national governments. During firework, the author encountered dwellers outside four studied low-income neighbourhoods in the south region of Montenegro. Mapping morphological elements of these generally small clusters of informal built units are left for future research. Future studies could examine how informality is performed in Montenegro by moderate and high-income groups as an assemblage of different power relationships and urban practices. The argument is based on counter urbanism as the orientation and destination of less visible neighbourhoods for creating building regulations embedded in social forces and cultural habits of all social and ethnic groups. This study showed that the urban morphology of informality in the coastal cities of Montenegro lays the ground for alternative urban planning practices based on the different interconnection of districts. The outcome is a strong link between different social and ethical groups through self-building practices. In coastal cities of Montenegro, Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian live with other low-income groups in unsanitary settlements characterised by poor living conditions, low-quality illegally built housing, no plumbing or sewage systems, and overcrowded urban areas. Mapping morphological elements of less visible urban areas propose shifting from top-down urban planning policies to a participatory model of developing urban areas. The assemblage of informally built urban areas legitimise place in the city that goes against the housing market's dominant logic and exceeds alternative logics of building production. This article outlined the urban morphologies of four urban areas for turning the image of informality away from decline and despair to lessons of urban interconnection. By creating different maps, the author presented a diverse orientation of four case studies based on density, accessibility, and operating assortment.
... This paper presents possible models, based on which the entire system of land readjustment is developed and adjusted to Serbia, and which could also be applied in other South-East European countries, considering that the predominant conditions there are similar. Specifically, illegal construction, the lack of urban plans, and unresolved property legal relations, are a large problem in Serbia and, indeed, the whole region [21][22][23][24][25]. One of the main objectives of this study was to analyze the characteristics of Serbia that are relevant to LR, in order to deliver a model of implementation. ...
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Land readjustment (LR) is increasingly applied as a tool of urban policy implementation in many countries of the world. In Serbia, LR is a new tool that is being introduced into the legal system and into planning practice, from which a significant contribution to the urban development of the country is expected. Countries have different models of LR, which are adjusted to the particular conditions specific for that society. This is to be expected, having in mind the specificity of each country. This paper presents the development of land readjustment models which are adjusted to Serbia, but could also be used in the countries of South-East Europe, considering that the predominant conditions are similar. The most important item in this process is defining the key elements which determine the nature of the model: the existence and appropriateness of the urban plan and the distribution of benefits from increased land value. The paper also presents a case study of LR implementation on the basis of defined models, after which an analysis of the outcomes is presented. It is concluded that by applying the LR models presented, numerous significant issues that occurred in the past can be solved.
... Informality on land and housing, in the form of slum or illegal or adverse possession, has a long history like any other country of the Global South (and the Global North) (Roy, 2009;Tsenkova 2012;Bower 2017;Grashoff 2020). The attempt to formalisation in India was neither smooth nor exceedingly successful. ...
Research
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Increasingly inequality in property is beginning to jeopardize social relations. Some of the resultant outcomes from such strains are: inter-household / social conflicts, segregated housing arrangements, over exploitation of natural resources to gain more from limited resources, and challenges to quality of living (for e.g. health) due to dense living. Ownership based property regimes are going to deepen this. We are exploring pathways to reduce this tension. We propose Social Function of Property (SFP) based on the principle of productive use as credibility of property could the framework towards this. We reanalyze several case laws which has disputes around use of property. Our analysis is keeping in mind the principles of SFP. In addition, we also look at slum eviction cases. In these analyses we aim to understand if credibility of the property-based on functionality-is forming a basis for recognizing the property rights. Our findings indicate there is very little evidence, currently in property regimes to acknowledge functionality. Yet, we notice prospects for SFP in Indian informal settlements are huge since mutual recognition of property is often much more stronger than what the state can observe and certify.
... 3. For other types of spontaneous developments in SEE, see Tsenkova (2012). 4. Bulgaria was liberated from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, but a part of it -Eastern Rumelia, with its capital city Plovdivremained an autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire. ...
Article
This study contributes to the long but still heated debate on spontaneity in urban development. While the critics of spontaneity consider it synonymous with chaos, its proponents emphasise the benefits of spontaneous order. In this paper, we assume that spontaneous development may have both positive and negative aspects and we seek to identify what determines whether and to what extent spontaneity will produce a beneficial social/spatial order. The prevalence of advantages or disadvantages may be due to specific historical, geographical and social causes, but we emphasise one critically important factor: the presence of spontaneous social rules. To contribute to this debate, we acknowledge the institutional nature of spontaneous rules and underscore the need for rules to develop over time. We examine three spontaneous developments in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city. As these settlements are typical for spontaneous forms in Southeast Europe, we draw conclusions relevant primarily to this region, but also in wider contexts. We find that spontaneous rules’ development is what determines whether order emerges and to what degree its benefits are realised. The suitability of spontaneous rules depends on local cultures, habits and values rooted in society.
... Building legalization opens a legal, political, environmental, and social debate. The results of this process can be ambiguous, bringing positive and negative consequences [ [1], [2]. In this paper the topic will be discussed from its legislative dimension only, in light of its adoption by the Egyptian government in 2019 (Law no.17/2019 and its amendments) and the ruling building laws and regulations. ...
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The issuance of the Building Reconciliation law no.17/2019 has imposed a new reality, allowing legalization for illegal constructions which Egypt has been facing its challenges since decades. New policies require in-depth research especially with the scarcity of data concerning this topic. Therefore, this paper is an attempt to study the law issuance context and drivers from a legislative point-of-view, and comparatively-analyse them both nationally and internationally.The research starts by demonstrating the picture of the long-existing phenomenon, analyzing formerly-issued building laws together with the reconciliation law, in terms of the measures of dealing with illegal constructions using an inductive methodology. Then, conducting a comparative analysis between those laws, regarding the allowed and disallowed items for legalization. Then an analytic discussion of the law’s framework is conducted with a comparison between the Reconciliation Law and other similar international examples in terms of the process framework and mechanisms.Results show that; former building laws in Egypt had all set the mechanism for legalization within their frameworks but with varying proportions, and they all failed to contain the situation. Generally-speaking, the Law allowed for legalizing most of the building violations in a rather flexible manner than before, but multiple issues appeared throughout its analysis. Therefore, recommendations include; the necessity of making quick action plans to strengthen the rule of law, protect the rights of law-abiders, include supervision mechanisms and dealing measures with unlegalized buildings. Also, comprehensive studies should be made to find practical means of achieving better urban integration of the legalized buildings.
Chapter
Urban processes over the last century, conditioned by factors like rapid industrialization, rural to urban migration and post-war internal displacement influenced the large-scale emergence of informal settlements on the slopes of Sarajevo, BiH creating pressure on economy, infrastructure, environment, and the necessity to mitigate geomorphological hazards. In the absence of consistent urban planning strategy, with an instated legislation that is based on legalization of illegal construction, it is highly important to conduct evidence-based urban analyses of all affected areas to steer the course of development towards a sustainable urban trajectory. This research relies on Space Syntax analyses as a tool in elucidating the layout characteristics and spatial relations within selected study area of three settlements on the slopes of Sarajevo. A comparison is conducted between the Space Syntax analysis of existing conditions with the same analysis of planned conditions drafted in the official regulatory plans, to determine the level of change in terms of connectivity and urban integration. Central node areas within the layouts are identified with a 15-min distance walkability potential. The conducted spatial evaluation of selected area in this research provides basis for analyses of other settlements of the same character in and around Sarajevo. Furthermore, the level of urban intervention in the settlements can be determined and tailored to improve long-term sustainable urban development.
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This paper documents performance of cast-in-place reinforced concrete (RC) buildings in the Durrës municipality during Albania earthquake of November 26, 2019 (MW 6.4). Both mid- and high-rise RC buildings were affected by the earthquake, experiencing structural and/or non-structural damage and even collapse in some cases. The authors performed a reconnaissance study after the earthquake and were involved in seismic assessment of buildings in the affected area. Besides the observations related to physical damage of RC buildings, the paper also presents results of a statistical analysis of damaged RC buildings in the Durrës municipality. The discussion in the paper is focused on damage patterns and failure mechanisms that are relevant for the seismic response of RC structures. Most common damage pattern observed after the earthquakes was related to masonry infill walls, which experienced damage and failure in some cases, and affected the performance of adjacent RC columns due to the infill/frame interaction. Taller RC framed buildings (10 storeys and higher) were expected to have RC shear walls; however, these walls were reportedly absent in the damaged buildings of this type. In some cases, masonry infill walls (instead of RC shear walls) were used in the elevator shaft areas, which resulted in inadequate seismic performance. A case study has been presented to illustrate seismic behaviour of mid-rise and high-rise cast-in-place RC buildings in the November 2019 earthquake, and is based on post-earthquake field observations and a detailed seismic assessment of two earthquake-damaged buildings. Finally, relevant lessons and recommendations are presented in light of the observed performance of RC buildings.
Book
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Tirana city and metropolitan area nearby is a typical and complex example of a city in transition, which is continuous, and incorporates mixed structures and historical events. Tirana is a symbol of urban culture between the sea and the mountain, preserving Illyrian, Roman, Byzantine cultures in a Oriental atmosphere;... between European elements and those typical Mediterranean' and Balkans' ones; surviving from the most authoritarian urban planning discipline of fascism and communism to the most anarchist chaos of medieval and modern times of 21-st century... In short, Tirana is actually one of the most dynamic cities in Europe and obviously represents a city of a typical and prolonged transition, which remains still the main and most dramatic challenge of the present days. Starting from 1920, Tirana city has been always subject to studies and works to improve its architectural and urban development. Several studies are carried out recently also since 1994 and today, the most significant to be are "The Strategic Plans for the Greater Tirana and Kamza Municipality", which constitute a full set of documents including the complexity of the numerous social-economical issues, land use principles as well as future activities, infrastructure needed for normal development, what represents so far, the most recent urban research work for Tirana and Albania. In the eve of the new millennium Municipality of Tirana initiated important urban operations that are completely changing the image of the Albanian capital. Tirana Municipality's goal is to prepare a vision of development that is flexible and adaptable to the rapid changes of the city. This necessarily requires the complete reformation of the town planning legislation as a process that should go side by side with the development of the city. The new urban regulation of Tirana can serve as good starting point for the new package of laws on Town Planning, which the country needs desperately. The drafting of this new regulatory plan as a process and in partnership with many specialized institutions and other interested groups and communities, regardless of the differences that might exist, is likely to be efficient and not prone to raise contestations or create obstructions and urban chaos as it's been the case so far. Let us hope for a positive change in the future. It bears stressing also that authorities of Tirana Municipality have realized that developing a new urban development plan should not be over estimated, for this plan cannot resolve automatically all the complicated problems of Tirana, except for it will raise transparency and will guide better the municipal administration in the process of outlining a clear vision for the city's development by considering improving the logic of development in the hope that distortions similar to those we have witnessed so far will be minimized and prevented. Following the lessons learned from the urban planning in the past, taking into consideration the current urban phenomena, as well as the new proposed urban plans for Tirana Region (what is described in this Guide), the future of Tirana is a challenge that depends on the contribution of its citizens, the role of communities, private business and the leadership of the public administration. Tirana is in with a good chance of becoming a competitive city in the Balkans, creating opportunities for domestic and foreign business, and providing better services for inhabitants and visitors. Such chance must not be missed. This book routes since early 90-s, thanks to the individual and separated initiatives from both authors. Over time the idea for doing something about the history of the city and its development, become stronger, as somehow authors found each other on the way of their researches. They belong to a generation of architectural and urban planning subjects. It is not fair that the new generations suffer the same. This fact probably encouraged both authors to write a book. The dramatic changes of 90-s in Tirana and Albania, especially in terms of urban developments is also another strong inspiring factor. This book might be followed in the future by other books. For the moment this is a good start. The main target of the publication of this Guide of History of Architecture and Urban Planning of Tirana City is to incite the decision makers and civil society to take advantages of the current hope to assure its citizens and the whole Albania that "this country will make it", despite the very difficult times in the past. In the Annexes of the Guide there are included also several interesting chapters related to Archaeological Evidence around Tirana city, a short History of Tirana, Cultural Traditions, Cultural Life, Fine Arts and Tourism resorts, in order to present a complete panorama of cultural and natural resources of Tirana city and the metropolitan region. As a conclusion, the authors of this Guide are confident that Tirana will work it our if many hands, hearts and heads will work together, so we are pleased to receive any comment to the ideas expressed, and discuss them in the form of an open and civic forum to the benefit of our beloved city, Tirana.
Book
The book explores urban dynamics in post-socialist Europe 15 years after the fall of communism. The ‘urban mosaic’ metaphor expresses the complexity, diversity and uniqueness of the processes and spatial outcomes in post-socialist cities. The book examines the urban development and the policy and planning processes that have resulted from the socio-economic, political, and institutional transformations characterizing the move to markets and democracy. The emerging urban phenomena are illustrated with in-depth case studies, sensitive to historical themes, cultural issues and the socialist legacy. Cities featured in the book include: Kazan, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Warsaw, Prague, Komarno, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, Sofia and Tirana. The edited volume is organized around the following four themes: the driving forces of post-socialist change; urban processes and spatial change; housing and retail sector transformation; and urban planning and policy responses. "This volume provides an impressive overview of the dramatic transformations in the urban fabric and housing systems of post-socialist Europe". Larry S. Bourne, Professor of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto "This text is a brave attempt to bring together a range of understandings of how urban systems are developing in post-socialist Europe, using both comparative data across countries and case studies of individual cities." Christine Whitehead, Professor of Economics, London School of Economics
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Recent planning experiences in post-socialist cities indicate a growing interest in strategic spatial planning. In their search for new planning paradigms, municipalities in transition countries have embraced strategic planning as a way to involve the business community and the broader constituency in defining a vision for the future of cities. More importantly, this more proactive approach has created an opportunity for mobilization of funds and political support for urban development thus bridging the resource gap under a regime of fiscal austerity. Drawing on the recent experience of Sofia with strategic spatial planning, the paper outlines the essential characteristics of the process (plan-making) and the product (strategic plan). The research establishes clear links between the process of strategy development, its institutional framework and the hierarchical structure of goals, objectives and actions. It is argued that strategic spatial planning is an efficient tool to manage post-socialist cities.
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The transition of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe from communism to post‐communism raises many questions about how the process is to be understood. The applicability of democratization theory to Eastern Europe and the international context of transition are discussed. A preliminary sketch of the impact of transition on spatial planning and urban development indicates that the results of transition are likely to be very uneven.