Development Zones

2 weeks
Toolbox Themes
  • Socio-spatial inclusionReduce socio-spatial inequalities by promoting the even distribution of basic urban services, quality public spaces, affordable housing, and livelihood opportunities.

Identify development zones according to the vocational function of diverse sectors of the city

  • A map of te development/functional zones

  • Definition of strategic densities for different sectors of the city


Building on the urban development structure, this activity focuses as a first step on identifying key development zones for the city. This the first approach to a land-use proposal, but starts by mapping what is the vocational function of each larger sector of the city. Development zones can also be called functional zones and the categorization will depend on the context of the city. These can include: 

  • Economic-productive zone
  • Urban / social zone
  • Cultural zone
  • Environmental zone

The zones should be distributed within the territory considering the existing assets and dynamics of the city, as well as potentialities that will guide future sustainable development. Some key questions might include: Are there new areas for residential and mixed-uses? Any new potential economic and commercial centers? Any areas for green and blue infrastructure recreational use? Are any areas that need consolidation as rural and productive zones? The identification of zones should take into account the areas for transformation, consolidation and conservation, which define how the territory should be reshaped or developed. On top of those, the development zones indicate what type of use should be assigned.

As a second step, strategic densities should be determined for the different sectors of the city (high, medium, and low, according to the local context). UN-Habitat promotes an average of 15,000 inhabit/km2 / 150 p/ha for sustainable urbanisation and a compact city. The definition of high, medium, and low-density changes drastically depending on the context. While too-low densities do not promote sustainable urbanisation, too-high densities disrupt the existing urban landscape and bring a critical demand for infrastructure and basic services.

The technical team assigns different density levels to sub-zones or neighbourhoods of the city, according to the population growth scenarios, the cultural context, the trends and vulnerability to climate change, the availability of land, the specific nature of the land, the land market value, and the technical capacities and requirements. Particularly, density distributions follow the urban structure of the city, the hierarchy of roads, and the main urban form. The promotion of Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in the strategic development plan is crucial to ensure a strategic and effective use of resources and valuable land.

This activity is carried out by the technical team but can also be developed as a workshop in collaboration with the advisory committee. Otherwise, the results must be revised and validated by them.


1. Review the structure of the city and the strategic areas identified in the previous activity.

2. Identify the vocational function of different sectors of the city according to the current and potential uses and dynamics to define the development/functional zones (T29 Development Zones Guide).

3. Conduct a validation meeting with the advisory committee.