The housing of different quality has been identified in various terms in writing when dealing with urban housing, Such terms include squatter settlements or shanty town, urban blight, and slums. The term slum is regularly used with reference to a social group as much as to a particular section of the city by Northam in 1975, where he described slum as where disordered family life, prostitution, social pathologies of alcoholism, and the likes are a common experience. Another scholar said slum is the product of human ways of life that developed into certain kind of activities.
The word slum was first used in England in 1820s during the industrial revolutions which were originated from the English old proclaimed word “Slump” which literally means “Wet Wire”. During that period, slums were said to start by the working class accommodations which were developed next to the factories located by the canals. Basically, there appear to be differences between slum and urban blight;
The slum has both physical and social connotation which can be regarded as a particular social group occupying a discrete housing setting while urban blight majorly concerned with the functional depreciation of the real properties of the area involved. This can be extended beyond residential to the non-residential area as both areas are experiencing a reduction of functional attributes and value.
Problems of Slums to Developing Countries
Slums can be described both in physical and social connotations. The physical terms of the slums area are characterized by overcrowding, congested housing, and deficient physical amenities. A slum is quoted by Weitz in 1973 to consist dwellings of extremely flimsy construction that are lacking basic urban services like potable water supply and sewers without the benefits of legal land tenure.
1n 1977, Mabogunje also characterized slum as an area of squalid environment, crammed up houses, severe shortage of water, non-availability of drainage channels, inadequate stormwater discharged facilities. The surrounding area of slums is identified to be suffering from a high density of population and lack open space where access to normal community facilities such as health and education are difficult to access.
The economic situation of a slum environment has been described by various researchers especially in developing countries as to where the majority of the inhabitants are suffering from abject poverty. Slum environments have been identified as places of abode for urban poor. Crime has been identified as major problems of slum areas in developing countries like murder, grievous harm, assault, raping, and robbery. Slums are places where girls and women are frequently reduced to prostitution which leads to having illegitimate children.
Unemployment has also been described as one of the major constituting factors to the problem in the slum areas. The slum dwellers have been described as poor people who migrated from other town and villages into an urban environment. Another argument is that the majority of unemployed immigrants mostly live in the slum by squatting and looking for a job in the urban area where it is too difficult to secure employment. As a result of unemployment of the slum area, the incomes of the inhabitants are as low and unstable that they are beyond the reach of conventional institutional assistance mechanisms such as public assisted low-cost housing, financial and credit mechanism.
We cannot conclude that poverty of the slum area alone produces the problem such as crime and social maladjustment, as economically deprived people cannot necessarily steal, rather, the norms permitting and sanctioning such behaviour must be found in the immediate environment and incorporated into the individuals’ life organization. The implication of all these is that slum may not be a slum, and what is not slum may be a slum. This depends on the way of life, social behaviour, and attitude of people residing in a particular area. The way of life of people would dictate their urban environment situation.