Informal Settlements in the Balkans

Squatters’ Magic Realism Vs. Planners’ Modernist Fantasy Vs. Governments’ Tolerance and Opportunism

Authored by: Dorina Pojani

The Routledge Handbook on Informal Urbanization

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138183889
eBook ISBN: 9781315645544
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter discusses informal settlements in five capital cities in the Balkans: Belgrade (Serbia), Pristina (Kosovo), Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Skopje (Macedonia), and Tirana (Albania). Here informal settlements contain mostly housing construction of good quality, sometimes on legally owned land. The illegal nature of these developments is associated with the lack of formal urban plans and/or building permits. Drawing on interviews with local experts, the chapter aims to provide a better understanding of the mutual relationships, perceptions, and perhaps stereotyping between informal settlement dwellers and planning experts and governments in the Balkan post-socialist context. It elucidates the divisions in the views of planning experts, government officials, and members of the public on the informal settlement issue. While legalization is a contested policy, critiques are advanced rather peacefully and few demolitions have taken place. In none of these countries has housing legalization led to major antagonism or political friction. Tolerance prevails in the Balkans.

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