Defining a low income area is difficult but several characteristics can be used to define it as listed below:

  • Often high population densities.
  • Most residents (but not all residents) have low income levels.
  • Many residents are active in the informal sector of the local economy and derive an income from small-scale businesses, trade and casual labour (piece work).
  • Many low income areas have not been constructed according to a proper layout plan.
  • Plots usually accommodate more than one.
  • Most low income areas are located on marginalised land (areas with a high water table or situated on top of hills, etc.).
  • Most low income areas have poor infrastructure (e.g. roads, drainage, hospitals) and services (e.g. solid waste collection, Public Health).
  • The areas are either planned or unplanned. Planned (formal) low income areas are mostly found on Government or Council Land.
  • Obtaining land for the construction of WSS infrastructure (such as water kiosks and public sanitation facilities) is usually a challenge.
  • Housing in informal settlements can either be permanent or temporal.
  • Landowners often lack the financial resources to construct proper houses and to invest in proper water supply and sanitation.
  • The quality of housing.

Informal settlements: These are settlements without formal or official tenure rights and/or settlements that are not in compliance with the relevant physical or land use planning requirements. The essence of ‘informal’ or ‘spontaneous’ or ‘squatter’ settlements is that it is without secure tenure and/or is unplanned (Source: Ministry of Lands, Draft National Lands Policy: 57).

Planned areas with (planned) low income housing: Planned low income areas or estates with high population densities, dilapidated water supply and sanitation systems (e.g. Council and Government housing estates).

Informal housing in planned residential areas: Informal housing in planned urban areas where plot owners have title deeds. Sometimes the plots with informal housing constitute small pockets which are surrounded by properly constructed homes or commercial properties.

Urban Sub-Centres: An urban sub-centre can be defined as a relatively small urban centre, which is situated at some distance from the main town.

Large Rural Centres with Urban Characteristics and Low Income Housing: A large rural centre can be defined as a large settlement located in a rural setting. The size of the population and the population density render urban water supply solutions (hand pumps etc. are not suitable).

Urban IDP Camps/Settlements: In some towns, there are a number of well-established internally displaced persons (IDP) settlements. These settlements are characterised by high population densities and informal housing (houses and huts constructed with branches, plastics and other available materials). Income levels in these settlements are usually very low and the WSS situation is often very poor. (Source: MajiData).

Village: An urban “village” is often a part of a larger urban informal settlement. For example “Kosovo” is just one of the villages found within the larger Mathare slum in Nairobi. In most cases “villages” have their own boundaries and social organisation. Many community-based organisations are organised at village level. (Source: MajiData).

Population, Layout, Infrastructure and Housing

  • Often high population densities.
  • Most residents (but not all residents) have low income levels.
  • Many residents are active in the informal sector of the local economy and derive an income from small-scale businesses, trade and casual labour (piece work).
  • Many low income areas have not been constructed according to a proper layout plan.
  • Plots usually accommodate more than one.
  • Most low income areas are located on marginalized land (areas with a high water table or situated on top of hills, etc.)
  • Most low income areas have poor infrastructure (e.g. roads, drainage, hospitals) and services (e.g. solid waste collection, Public Health).
  • The areas are either planned or unplanned. Planned (formal) low income areas are mostly found on Government or Council Land.
  • Obtaining land for the construction of WSS infrastructure (such as water kiosks and public sanitation facilities) is usually a challenge.
  • Housing in informal settlements can either be permanent or temporal.
  • Landowners often lack the financial resources to construct proper houses and to invest in proper water supply and sanitation.
  • The quality of housing.

Water Supply and Sanitation

  • Areas lack or have limited access to basic services such as safe water and sanitation that are regulated (physical access, quality of water, affordability, reliability, etc.)
  • The existing infrastructure is usually in poor technical condition, not user-friendly and poorly managed.
  • Where water supply and sanitation (WSS) services are available they are usually shared.
  • Residents rely on informal water service providers (water resellers).
  • The price residents have to pay for water is not regulated.
  • The quality of water fetched from sources within the area (boreholes, protected open wells (etc.)) is poor.

·         Residents lack information on many relevant issues and as a result many do not know their rights. 

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