May 25, 2021
Bring the Planners Back! Displacement-Triggered Patterns of Urbanization and City Responses
- Mona Fawaz, Mona Harb, Carla Al-Hage
About 1.5 million Syrian refugees have settled in Lebanon since 2012. Although the UNHCR estimates that more than two-thirds of these refugees live in rented units within cities, it is often assumed that refugees settle in makeshift housing arrangements such as camps or slums, and enter pre-existing urban environments. However, forms of urbanization are in fact varied and shaped by the new refugee populations. This brief maps patterns of city settlement in three mid-size localities in Lebanon: Zahle, Saida, and Halba. Three types of urban geometries that exist in each city in varying degrees are identified: Neighborhood densification, housing compounds, and tented settlements. These patterns of urbanization have predominantly been created through ad-hoc, fragmented measures adopted by an array of actors such as international organizations, municipal councils, informal service providers, and local organizations. To accommodate refugee populations in urban environments in a more efficient and effective way, urban planning is necessary to improve living conditions and mitigate the negative impacts of the influx of refugee populations on host communities. The brief concludes with recommendations on how this urban planning could take shape.