Slum areas of Naples are geographically divided into:
residential periphery: this consists of publichousing
workers’ quarters on the then rural areas bordering industrial
plants of the early 1900s that have since closed. The older buildings
are in a dilapidated state, while recent construction is of poor
public city: this comprises two zones that were planned
during the 1960s for dormitory-style public housing, now housing
large numbers of residents with low socio-economic status in areas
rife with organized crime activities.
city: this is made up of areas of unauthorized construction
from the 1970s and 1980s on agricultural lands (no construction
permits and violating zoning; illegal but not informal expansion
or construction of single-family homes). Quite a few urban areas
saw this spontaneous type of development. There may be a scarcity
or lack of services; but these areas, nevertheless, constitute a
rich urban landscape.
central pockets: this comprises some areas of the historic
centre with high levels of decay, in terms of housing and social
indicators, that have, at the same time, a solid and rich urban
In Naples, the concept of ghetto (a completely decayed and impoverished
neighbourhood with a homogeneous social makeup in terms of income
and profession) is not an appropriate one to describe the identified
slum areas. In each of such areas the relationship between exclusion
and poverty and relative wealth varies. Some are being renewed and
there are residents who are decidedly not low income. Deep poverty
can even be found in areas that are not included among the slums,
although such cases do not comprise the majority.
There is no official definition of slums, or of specific decaying
areas, even if the debate over this question has been raging for
the past century in Naples. However, as in most European cities,
the term ‘slum’ can be used in Naples to describe a
habitat where housing maintenance is poor, where social city services
(health, education, social and cultural facilities) are lacking,
where incomes are low and where social indicators are clearly below
the city average.
Except for a few gypsy camps on the edge of the city, there are
no cases of informal housing built with precarious materials, nor
are there areas with significant numbers of dwellings without public
services. Most of the illegal structures are actually associated
with middle-class neighbourhoods. Perhaps the best candidate for
a slum label is the basso, a ground-floor dwelling with a door onto
the street that serves as the only source of light and ventilation.
Usually it is just one room divided to create a kitchen and bathroom.
There is insufficient data on slum tenure, although there are indications
that in the slum areas only one third are owner occupiers.
Population is more or less stable, a result of negative natural
growth compensated by a positive migratory balance. Population movements
are no longer to the urban periphery but, rather, to towns in the
province. The areas of Scampia and Ponticelli (recent public city-type
areas) are slowly growing.
There is no data on the income of slum inhabitants, while there
are fairly reliable figures for the social, employment and crime
situation. The sectoral nature of policies that support the vulnerable
social segments, largely implemented by national structures through
various ministries, does not allow for data to be compared even
for the same zone. The increase in the number of interventions conducted
by NGOs has led to greater knowledge of the situation; but there
has been no centralization that might help to share data.
The population decline in Naples between 1981 and 1991 was sharp,
especially in the historic centre areas (particularly, Pendino,
Porto and Vicaria), with the exception of the Scampia, S. Pietro,
Pianura, Chiaiano and Ponticelli neighbourhoods. Within the former
central areas, the decay of the ancient housing stock has allowed
low-income classes to stay in private homes, while those with the
means to leave preferred to go elsewhere. In the latter case, the
smaller drop in population can be explained by the low income of
the residents of these quarters. In fact, the exodus from the city
mostly involved young middle-class white-collar families and stably
employed blue-collar families, and was most evident in middle-class,
central and hilltop residential neighbourhoods.
The main policies for urban slum areas are national programmes that
support employment and entrepreneurship. The late 1990s saw the
launch of the Urban Renewal and Local Sustainable Development Programme
(PRUSST). This funds the planning of projects with the support of
local owners and private capital for
p romoting the recovery and improvement of urban aspects of the
cities; promoting social services offered in city slum areas; the
creation of services and infrastructure; and renovation and renewal,
taking advantage of the existing urban landscape and construction
The Naples City Social Plan is trying to create a shift from government,
which is the exclusive province of the state, to local governance.
With a long history of highly permissive urban governance forms,
Naples had become a haven of illegal (not informal) construction
that flaunted construction permit systems, land zoning and building
regulations. This is hardly surprising: during the three decades
to 1993, the city had 26 different city councils that were characterized
by serious governance discontinuity.
Rises in unemployment were particularly sharp during the 1970s,
in the wake of the closing down of major industrial plants, and
during the mid 1990s, when central government interventions ceased,
demonstrating how almost the entire southern Italian economy had
become overdependent upon public funds. Insufficient growth of the
service sector could not make up for the job losses. Combined with
the prolific presence of organized crime, it is little wonder that
the city is in a somewhat precarious position.
It is premature to evaluate the results of the Naples City Social
Plan. Overall, changes taking place in Naples show how deep social
and urban decay remains. Considering that these conditions are the
result of countless inter-playing factors, urban renewal can only
take place with a comprehensive plan of social, urban and environmental
reorganization, matched by measures aimed at increasing and improving
the services needed to attract economic activity and to integrate
those segments of the population, who currently face increasing
marginalization, within the social and economic fabric of the city.
Naples needs to develop a city-wide holistic plan that simultaneously
places its urban economy within the national economy, while developing
an overall urban strategy to help address urban and socio-economic
has been extracted from:
UN-Habitat (2003) Global Report on Human Settlements 2003, The Challenge
of Slums, Earthscan, London; Part IV: 'Summary of City Case Studies',