Infill Development in Lahore

Punjab, the most urbanized province of Pakistan, accommodates 37% of its population in urban areas and the majority of its concentration in large cities PSS 2047. These cities are expanding exponentially in the light of the existing development paradigm resulting in growing low-density areas, mixed with the challenges inherent to haphazard development, auto dependency, and environmental degradation. A 10-year analysis of the Punjab cities, using satellite imagery shows that the spatial extent of Punjab’s cities has been increased threefold with an 11% increase in low-density development between 2005 and 2015[1] Urban Atlas. Since the urbanization has inflated in these areas so rapidly, the cities’ administration has been struggling to deliver infrastructure services on patchy and scattered development. Even so, the research shows that no city in Punjab has been characterized by compact development, renewal policy, or zoning strategies that channel housing and job growth into urban centers to create vibrant and livable communities. To mitigate problems arising from low-density housing and overutilization of natural assets, the urban policymaker needs to develop deliberate and consistent strategies for the urban land reuse considering the disconnected and vast chunks of vacant or underutilized urban land as a potential to deliver compact and well-connected development.
International Practices to curb low-density development
Around the world, urban planning practices seek a compact urban footprint through the preservation of open spaces, infill of the existing area, and densification of new growth at the outer edge of cities[2]. In the case of Georgia, the developer utilized both center redevelopment and densification strategical approach to build 370 homes on only 45 acres of land in exchange for 30 acres reserve for natural areas. This attempt seeks to alter the outdated land use pattern and create more compact, more fully functional places that are sustainable from a cultural, economic, and environmental perspective. However, this approach reported as a loss of undeveloped natural areas on the outskirts of many Chinese cities and Europe too [3] .
On the other hand, the city of Seattle where the downtown area development grows considerably in recent years, the city administrator issues permit for a record of 6,685 housing units in 2000, double the number for 1999 in the city center. With the demolition of 789 existing units, an estimated of 5,896 units have been added to the city stock. Each of the building consists of more then 100 housing units. The strategic approach to densify the urban core includes the establishment of redevelopment authority to convert the dilapidated area into a livable place through tax increment financing, increase Floor area ratio (FAR), and land acquisition through an available regulatory framework. It is estimated that among the 209 U.S largest metropolitan areas, infill housing development contributes to about 21 percent of new housing construction. In the same way, the UN-Habitat also identifies infill, redevelopment, and densification as a critical area of focus in the urban agenda and a more feasible solution for leverage density in the urban areas [4].
Concept of Infill Development
There is no universal definition of infill development, however, the following salient features observed by worldwide practices; it occurs in the built-up areas often using vacant, underutilized, and redundant land, where infrastructure is already in place. Construction on previously developed areas, which may include the demolition and revitalization of existing structures to transform it into higher density or mixed-use also refers to the type of infill development[5].
Benefits of Infill Development
Infill development reduces development pressure on the outskirts, provides an opportunity to develop on the previously disturbed and blighted land parcel, efficient use of infrastructure and services, and improves the quality of life in the urban areas.
Infill Development in Lahore - the only Metropolitan city of Punjab
The urban center of the most populous city of Punjab has been gutted economically and socially by sprawl onto the outskirts. In other words, the dispersed development in Lahore city increases pressure on local resources resulting in the provided infrastructure services is large to its low-density population. According to Punjab Spatial strategy, the population of the city is projected to rise from 11 million in 2017 to 27 million in 2047, more than doubling the population over a span of 30 years. Similarly, the growth rate of expanding cities has also increased from 4.3% in 2005 to 7.1% in 2015. If this metropolitan area has been continuously growing at a similar growth rate, the urban extent will surge to 1305 by 2025 resulting in the city will expand horizontally bound the administrative limits which will more noticeable than an increase in population.

Urban Extent of Lahore from 1995 to 2015

By redirecting development back to the urban center and accommodate projected growth, and conserves agriculture land favor ‘infill development’. In this aspect, Redevelopment, an overlooked element of infill development in the case of Pakistan, is being initiated by the urban unit. Because of the failure to comply with the existing Master plan - city metropolitan boundaries must limit its growth, the city of Lahore has witnessed the growing number of low-density housing schemes on the outskirts. To change the existing pattern of urban development and strategically distributed building densities in the city, the urban unit focuses on identifying and delivering home on public land such as wahdat colony that contributes to the create a sense place and dense house building industry. Wahdat Colony is a government employee housing scheme located on Wahdat Road in Lahore. Established in 1955 it covers an area of 225 acres and is predominately a residential zone with a density of approximately 13,000 people per square kilometer.
Location of Wahdat Colony
It consists of 1,828 housing units, a population of approximately 11,000. The redevelopment of Wahdat Colony aims to convert the low dense row housing to a higher density mixed-use vibrant urban area which will accommodate three-fold of it's current population, with 6500 proposed housing units. A conceptual design for the existing settlement tailored to it's unique characteristics has been produced by the Urban Unit. The following zones; Social housing, high-end commercial district, Government residences, mid-range mixed range, parks, and open spaces have been proposed in the redevelopment stage which is now consisted of only row housing and institutional land use.
The barrier to Infill Development
• No special set of rules for urban regeneration, mixed-use & infill development.
• Displacement of the residents and no financial incentives to local government.
To encourage infill development, and ensure each city provides housing opportunities necessary to accommodate the population growth, cities should:
1. Accommodate the rules and regulations for flexibility in; Building regulations, FAR, Heights, Ground Coverage, Land use types, and percentage allocation of land use;
2. Assure that the cities’ regulatory framework encourages Infill development: Initiation of urban re-development on the pattern of mixed land use and revitalization of already launched low-income schemes;
3. Reduce Institutional and legal barriers to land acquisition and building regulations;
4. Revisit the design of urban containment and develop new market-based instruments to promote densification where it is most needed.
File:Policy Brief infill development in Lahore.pdf


  2. Serge Salat, M. C. (2014). Planning Energy Efficient and Livable Cities. The World Bank.
  3. Christine Haaland, C. K. (2014). Challenges and strategies for urban green-space planning in cities undergoing densification: A review. (2007). Infill Development Standard and Policy guide. U.S.
  4. Lingzhi Wang, H. O. (2019). Analysis of urban densification dynamics and future modes in southeastern Wisconsin, USA.
  5. Wiley, V. M. (2011). Infill Development: Perspectives and Evidence from Economics and Planning.