The Role of Developers in ‘Vertical Slums’
The paper presents findings from a detailed case study including in-depth interviews with twenty developers. The case study site of Kufar Aqab includes about 80,000 residents living in high rise substandard apartment buildings of up to 15 storeys, with limited infrastructure and non-existent public services or law enforcement. The suburb lies within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem but on the Palestinian side of the separation wall, a combination which prevents Israeli enforcement of building codes, and encourages housing demand among Palestinians.
The interviews found that trust is an important factor, since there is no enforcement mechanism to ensure repayment of loans, or building quality. Developers reported surprising adaptations of plans in order to profit, including moving to mass-production, changing tenure from ownership to rental, and reducing building height. Some developers went bankrupt and others choose to quit during construction. Overall, while pursuit of profit, linked with politics, is a key force shaping this urban space into a vertical slum, it turns out that the role of trust and community organizing are also important contributing factors.