Cape Verde has shown substantial economic growth over the past years, largely as a result of increased touristic and residential development. This increase, although substantial in quantity, has been less so in terms of quality. The touristic and urban growth pattern of Cape Verde is based on the European Mediterranean costal development model. Once at it’s peak, but now in decline, it was characterized by abrupt and unsustainable growth, low quality construction and poor urban planning. Mass tourism and over development is increasing and, with little or no regulation, it has impacted the local heritage. Whilst this increase in development has encouraged people to migrate to the larger cities, it has also created a greater urban imbalance between developed city centres with new infrastructures and the areas more poorly developed with their associated social and economic inequalities.
The Cape Verde cities of Praia and Mindelo are the two main cities with greater shortage of housing. The high cost of construction, inflation in the cost of property and land, in conjunction with the growing rate of unemployment, make purchasing or renting a home difficult for most Cape Verdians. The construction of illegal shelters has therefore spread and is often the only option for poor families who have no housing alternatives or means.
Is this illegality a crime?
The fringes of the cities are populated with illegal constructions which have spread through self build, creating new (sub)urban areas without any form of planning or rationalization. The lack of infrastructures, utilities, sanitation or other services and the basic construction of the shelters make these areas marginalized, unsafe and unsuitable as housing. As the areas of illegal shelters expand, the problems are aggravated and the degradation of the spaces and conditions worsens. What to begin with was already unfit for purpose will soon become even more deteriorated.
The economy and the increase in population have stimulated a natural growth of these urban areas emphasizing the disparity between social classes in countries with a housing shortage such as Cabe Verde.
Access to suitable housing and to sustainable urban planning is therefore fundamental to avoid or reduce poverty and social exclusion.