Man standing in residential neighborhood

What Large Metropolises Can Learn From Ghettos and Granny Flats

Urban planning professor Vinit Mukhija is known around the globe for his shrewd insights into what shantytowns and other self-built neighborhoods can teach large metropolises about smart urban planning. With its shortage of affordable housing, Los Angeles can benefit from the pragmatism and ingenuity emanating from these “informal” developments, Mukhija told UCLA Magazine. “I wanted to make better cities, where people are better to each other. And this means taking the best of what economically disadvantaged people build for themselves — slums or ghettos or, as in L.A., unpermitted developments within existing homes,” Mukhija said. His research suggests that, of the more than half-million single-family houses in the city of Los Angeles, at least 50,000 of them have some kind of accessory dwelling unit, many unpermitted. “Instead of trying to wipe them out, we should be bringing them into the mainstream,” he said. In the magazine profile, Mukhija also speaks of planners around the globe who think about the design of a community rather than a single dazzling building. And he offers guidance to governments grappling with the dearth of affordable housing: Provide property owners with grants and loans to upgrade their informal units to safe levels in return for a guarantee that they will not increase rents on any tenants for several years. Also needed: the construction of social housing, as “we cannot expect cities to become inclusive, magically, by themselves.”

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