Empowerment and Organization of Informal Settlements of Abhar City

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant professor of geography, Department of Geography, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

2 MA in Urban Design, Farhangian University of Zanjan, Zanjan, Iran

3 PhD candidate in Urban Planning, Islamic Art University of Tabriz, Tabriz, Iran


During recent decades, increasing growth of urban areas and the changes occurred in economic, social and political sections caused many problems. Some of the problems are formation of informal residential areas or slum dwelling around the cities. The problems are dependent upon the condition of the residential areas. Informal settlement or slum dwelling is a specific way of occupancy with diverse problems resulted from rapid urbanization along with exceeded needs and expectations of existing facilities and capacities in a society. This phenomenon, in its applied form, developed from inside or neighborhood of major cities (mainly megalopolises, capital cities and growing cities), particularly, in such areas where they have poor control and supervision to deal with management and formal planning. Today, informal settlements in most cities of developing countries are one of the major problems. Informal settlement is a growing phenomenon. In fact, it is a certain lifestyle, which changes the face of many cities. Abhar City also shows the same signs of this phenomenon. In Abhar and its Hossein Abad district, tendency to live in the city and urbanism is different depending on income rate and social, cultural and economic status of the people. The social ecology of Abhar and its physical and socio-economic characteristics are accompanied with a focus on the problems resulting from poverty in Hossein Abad. All of these issues caused unsustainable development pattern in their spatial district organization. One physical aspect of this situation is the formation of informal, spontaneous, automotive, unplanned, illegal, or disorganized settlements, and finally so-called slum dwelling in Hossein Abad district.
The main purpose of this paper is to empower spontaneous (informal) settlements in Hossein Abad district of Abhar city. To achieve this goal, we should identify, evaluate, and analyze the structure and form of the informal settlements in Abhar to improve the organization of the settlements and create sustainability of urban areas. Furthermore, we should identify and examine the latest strategies dealing with the issue and study the feasibility of using the most appropriate strategies, keeping in mind the conditions of this city and the region in the country. The second objective of the present paper is to provide a general picture of the formation and growth processes of the informal settlements as well as to identify the radical factors with a focus on Iran and particularly on Abhar city as case study. To do so, we studied the feasibility of applying the most successful methods used in organizing, empowering and laying out the settlements according to their economic, social, political and physical limits. Therefore, we tried to identify and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the current situation of these settlements, in order to indicate appropriate approaches and strategies to improve environmental conditions of the settlements. To achieve this, it is required to forecast informal settlements for housing planning, particularly for low-income groups who are in need of house and lacking affordable housing in urban areas. The method used in this study was correlation survey method and its range was small scale of depth oriented.
Analysis of the data needed to empower and organize the informal settlements of Hossein Abad district in Abhar city was carried out using a mixed model of SWOT-AHP (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats-Analytical Hierarchy Process). For this purpose, the model was used in four phases in a hierarchy manner:
1. Assessing internal and external strategic factors of the neighborhood.
2. Performing a pairwise comparison of the groups.
3. Developing strategies for the SWOT model.
4. Prioritizing the strategies by using matrix QSPM (Quantitative Strategic Planning matrix).
The main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats dealing with rating were analyzed in separate groups based on SWOT model and specified situation of Hossein Abad district in Abhar.
Results and Discussion
The results of this study showed that the main weakness, in the weakness groups, was the lack of motivation to improve self-initiated housing process because of high informality concerning the settlements. The major strength was the appropriate access to the related roads in the city, which had a final high rate in the strength groups. The most important threat, in the threat groups, was the high rate of upward trend to social abnormalities across the districts of the city. The most important opportunity was the refurbishment of deteriorated buildings by the Organization of Housing and Urbanization of Iran with a final high rate in the opportunity groups.
The results from pairwise comparison groups of SWOT in relation with empowerment of informal settlements in Hossein Abad in Abhar city show that among the internal factors, whole points of weakness (0.435) are higher than the points of strength (0.156). This, in turn, shows the superiority and dominance of the strengths. However, in external factors, the opportunity groups have better status with overall score (0.308) in comparison with that of threat groups (0.101). In fact, what the residents of informal settlements need is to have the chance to improve their life conditions and playing a more important role in the affairs of their own cities. The resources spent to improve the marginalized areas are the investments that yield returns in the urban economy and social conditions. Research findings indicated a very high affinity in different age and gender groups of the inhabitant population to participate fully in organization of Hossein Abad neighborhood in Abhar. Therefore, in this study, the spontaneous settlements in Abhar were selected as informal settlements with unusual living conditions to analyze the internal and external factors causing the above mentioned issues. Finally, we tried to identify and provide solutions for empowering these kinds of places and to develop an appropriate model for community empowerment of Hossein Abad in Abhar city.


Main Subjects

  • Receive Date: 09 May 2012
  • Revise Date: 06 September 2015
  • Accept Date: 17 August 2013
  • First Publish Date: 22 June 2015