Improving Housing for the Urban Poor in Morocco and Tunisia

Topics: Urban upgrading

Years: 1990 – 2010

Background: Since the early 1980s, Tunisia and Morocco have established programmes to reduce the number of slums, expand affordable housing opportunities and improve the provision of urban services.


ARRU in Tunisia: Tunisia has essentially eliminated all its bidonvilles (slums) through a programme managed by the public enterprise, Agence de Réhabilitation et de Rénovation Urbaine (ARRU). ARRU was established under the Ministry of Infrastructure, Housing and Land Use Planning. Its mandate is to renovate and rehabilitate urban areas and promote real estate development. Since its inception, ARRU has acted to control urban sprawl, improve conditions in the older districts, regularise substandard fringe settlements, offer loans for housing construction and improvements and provide basic services including potable water, sanitation, schools and health facilities, especially to the urban poor. From 2002 to 2009, ARRU spent over USD 72 million on urban projects that have improved living conditions for 1,140,000 people.

The success of these interventions can be attributed to ARRU’s effective coordination  of public authorities, specifically its willingness to cooperate and collaborate with local agencies. This is particularly important as decentralization has devolved functions and responsibilities to local authorities and given them a more prominent role in planning and management. ARRU has also formed partnerships with the private sector to ensure effective and efficient implementation of programs and projects.

Plans for Housing in an Al Omrane project

Al Omrane, Morroco: Morocco has initiated a forceful intervention to resettle bidonville dwellers and managed to reduce the number of slums by 65 per cent from 1990 to 2010. Al Omrane, established in 2004, is a government-owned holding company that has integrated the functions previously held by three different government agencies (Agence Nationale de Lutte Contre l’Habitat Insalubre; Attacharouk Co.; and Société Nationale d’équipement et de construction). It acts through 14 regional subsidiaries and its activities include four major programmes:

  • Social Housing production (MAD 140,000/house
  • Rehousing bidonville dwellers (Cities without Slums);
  • Construction of housing in the southern provinces;
  • Development of new towns

Through these projects, Al Omrane has rehoused families from makeshift dwellings, upgraded underserviced neighbourhoods, regularised land tenure in informal settlements and developed new towns and urban expansion zones, with a significant portion of land dedicated to affordable housing. From 2004 to 2009, Al Omrane completed 724,000 housing  units which included rehousing of 143,000 families living in shacks, increasing the number of cities and towns without slums to 38. In 2009, the holding company completed 176,843 housing units (114,459 for urban and rural upgrading activities commissioned by the national and local authorities, 9,627 produced in cooperation with the private sector and 52,757 for Al Omrane’s own production). It re-housed 18,300 families living in shacks.

In 2010, Al Omrane programmed the construction of 107,400 units, of which 33,000 are earmarked for lower income  residents (units at MAD 140,000 or USD 17,800), 37,200 for moderate-income households and 37,200 for sale at market rate. The market rate units will cross-subsidize the units allocated to the lower-income households. Al Omrane planned to rehouse 30,000 families living in shacks, adding another 24 cities and towns to the Cities without Slums list.

Financing: About 65 per cent of the funding for ARRU’s projects targeting lower income families originates from the National Solidarity Fund. Through this fund, municipalities can borrow money to complete local infrastructure projects and community facilities as well as transfer funds to ARRU to undertake projects. The remaining support comes from the Housing Fund, government departments and the private sector.

Through 2009, the cumulative cost of the Al Omrane programme was MAD 35.9 billion (USD 4.6 billion)


As quoted in UN-Habitat’s State of the Arab Cities 2012: Challenges of Urban Transition. I2UD Vice President Mona Serageldin was the lead author of the report, with support from I2UD staff.

Agence de réhabilitation et de rénovation urbaine (ARRU). (2011). UN-Habitat. (2010). State of the World’s Cities Report 2010. Nairobi: UN-Habitat. Al Omrane. (2010).