Vinit Mukhija is an Associate Professor of Urban Planning in the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His research focuses on informal housing and slums in developing countries and Third World-like housing conditions (including colonias, unpermitted trailer parks, and illegal garage apartments) in the United States. He is particularly interested in understanding the nature and necessity of informal housing, and strategies for upgrading and improving living conditions in unregulated housing. His work also examines how planners and urban designers in both developing and developed countries can learn from the everyday and informal city. Initially, he was known for his research in developing countries but now his work in California is also recognized.
Four research questions and objectives guide his research. First, what is the nature of informal housing, including its prevalence, characteristics, heterogeneity, determinants, rationale, advantages and disadvantages? Second, how can living conditions within slums and informal housing be improved, and what is the role of different institutional actors, including state, civil society, and market actors, within this process? Third, how should conventional planning and regulatory approaches change in response to the prevalence of informality, particularly informal housing? Fourth, how do policy ideas in housing and land development travel and spread in a globalized world? The broad objective of his work is to help identify and improve strategies for increasing access to decent housing among the urban poor as a planning pathway to social and spatial justice.
Professor Mukhija’s past major projects include research on slum upgrading and redevelopment in Mumbai (Bombay), India; research on colonias, infrastructure-poor neighborhoods, and unpermitted trailer parks in California; and an evaluation of inclusionary housing requirements in Southern California. Currently he is engaged in three major research endeavors. First, with colleagues from the Department of Architecture, he is leading an examination of legal and illegal garage apartments or “Backyard Homes” as a form of stealth and informal housing and density. Second, with Prof. Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, his “Informal City” project is a comparative study of the nature of informality in the workplace, in housing strategies, and particularly in the built environment of US cities. And finally, he continues to conduct research in Mumbai on controversial plans for redeveloping Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world, as a model of modernity and slum-free development. This project also focuses on the globalization and translation of planning and policy ideas.
Professor Mukhija trained as an urban planner (Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology), urban designer (MUD, University of Hong Kong), and architect (M.Arch., University of Texas, Austin, and B.Arch., the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi). He also has professional experience as an urban designer and physical planner in India, Hong Kong, and Kuwait with new town design proposals and projects in India, China, and the Middle East. Before coming to UCLA he worked as a post-doctoral researcher for the Fannie Mae Foundation in Washington, D.C., and developed neighborhood upgrading and renewal strategies for American cities. Some of his past projects have been funded by the Haynes Foundation, the California Policy Research Center, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the World Bank.
He is the author of several articles in top scholarly journals (including Environment and Planning A, Housing Policy Debate, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Journal of the American Planning Association, Journal of Planning Education and Research, Journal of Urban Affairs, Urban Studies, and World Development), numerous book chapters, and a book, Squatters as Developers? Slum Redevelopment in Mumbai (Ashgate, 2003). The book focuses on a single case of redevelopment – led by the well-respected Mumbai shelter NGO, Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) – over its twelve year history. The research demonstrates the mixed potential of the redevelopment strategy, and explains the institutional processes in housing redevelopment as a combination of cooperation with conflict, state power with market capital, and community participation with community corruption. The book has been widely and positively reviewed in several journals including the Journal of the American Planning Association, Urban Studies and Habitat International.
Professor Mukhija is the Vice Chair of the Department, and the Coordinator of the Design and Development (D2) area of concentration. His teaching also contributes to the Community, Economic Development and Housing (CEDH), and the Regional and International Development (RID) areas of concentration. He has won multiple awards for his teaching at UCLA (2007 and 2009), and his teaching portfolio includes courses on informality in US cities, housing policies in the majority world, land use planning institutions, and the planning studio. Recent neighborhoods for his studio have included the City of Bell (2010), East Los Angeles (2009), Pacoima (2008), and Hyde Park (2007). He has also taught a comprehensive project on increasing housing density in Los Angeles (2005) and an international and comparative workshop in Mumbai (2003).
Professor Mukhija has also advised the newly formed Indian Institute of Human Settlements, Bangalore, on course and curriculum development. His other community and public service contributions include membership on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Area Neighborhood Initiative (LANI), a non-profit focused on community-based urban revitalization strategies; service as the Co-Chair of the Global Planning Educators Interest Group (GPEIG) within the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP); and as an editorial advisory board member of the Journal of the American Planning Association.