Howard S Chitengi

Deriving lessons for urban planning from the resilience of informal housing markets for enhanced delivery of affordable housing in Zambia


howard-200_6500.JPGThe delivery of adequate and affordable housing (understood as housing that is available at a cost low enough for people to afford, determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices) in urban Zambia is one of the challenges confronting policy makers. Since 1964 when Zambia attained political independence, the problem has been moving from a crisis to a paralysis considerably so in Lusaka which is mirrored in an urban housing informality of 70%. In view of this, in common with several other global south countries, Zambia’s policy responses have oscillated from, public rental housing, site and service schemes and squatter upgrading which have very rarely satisfied demand for legal and affordable housing.  Moreover in spite of these housing policy strategies which it has been hoped would make the informal housing sector to wither, it has instead proved astoundingly resilient, adaptable and dominant over the formal delivery system. This resilience and adaptation opens up new horizons for harnessing the production and supply mechanism in the informal sector that appear to assuage the housing needs of the common people.

The research project is centred on how planning practice in Zambia can constructively engage the housing sector to deliver sufficient and affordable legal housing.  To devise effective planning policies and strategies that unravel the housing crisis call for understanding of how the informal housing market alternative operates and what drives its relative attractiveness. That is, the resilience inherent in the informal housing processes where low income households plan, finance, and build their housing outside the formal regulatory system suggests that some lessons could be drawn for planning policy to enhance the capacity of the planning system to deliver housing.

From this understanding, the question which the research seeks to answer is:  What lessons can be drawn from the resilience of the informal housing markets for enhancing the capacity of urban planning system to deliver affordable housing in Zambia?  In an attempt to answer this question, the study is guided by the following objectives:

  • To review the practice of planning in terms of regulations, standards and administrative procedures in facilitating the delivery of housing in urbanZambia;
  • To investigate how the urban informal housing markets functions in Zambia pertaining to the way land is acquired; housing is financed, constructed and transacted;
  • To explore how planning can facilitate the housing sector to operate more effectively and sustainably in the delivery of housing that is affordable.


I work as a Planning Officer in the Zambian Ministry of Local Government and Housing. I received a Bachelor of Arts with Education Degree majoring in Geography from the University of Zambia in 1998 and an MSc in Spatial Planning from the Royal Institute of Technology- KTH, Sweden in 2003.  Some notable planning research and professional work related activities include an MSc dissertation focusing on refugee settlement sustainability entitled:  Participatory Planning as a Tool for Attaining Sustainable Refugee Settlements, the Case of Mayukwayukwa, Zambia.

From 2007 to 2009 I was seconded to the Revision of Legislation Related to Spatial Planning in Zambia as a Project Officer.  The project activities involved the review of the Town & Country Planning Act Chapter 283 and the Housing (Statutory & Improvement Areas) Act Chapter 194 of the Laws of Zambia.  The project’s main objective was to update and harmonize the two pieces of legislation so as to make them adequately responsive to current urban and regional planning challenges inZambia.  From 2006 to 2010 as Principal Planner (Forward Planning) I was responsible for national coordination and guidance of Integrated Development Plans preparations. Currently I am at the University of Dundee studying for a PhD in Town and Regional Planning.


Dr Dumiso Moyo and