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Cityscape: Volume 18 Number 1 | Article 4


The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Contesting the Streets

Volume 18, Number 1

Mark D. Shroder

Michelle P. Matuga

Return to the Streets

John Taylor
Yayasan Kota Kita

Lily Song
University College London


In recent years, several Indonesian cities have relocated street vendors through engagement and participation and with limited confrontation, in turn reducing the volume of itinerant vendors, carving out better work and business environments, and improving public spaces. Despite such celebrated successes, however, many vendors have returned to the streets over time for reasons that remain little examined and understood. Undertaking a comparative case study of three Indonesian cities hailed for recent street vendor relocation policies, this article investigates the potential factors and conditions underlying the return of informal vendors after “successful” relocation and upgrading policies and distills lessons for policy and planning improvements. It finds that vendors return to the streets because relocation efforts fail to look beyond aesthetic improvements, relocation processes fail to prepare vendors for the competitiveness of the free market, and longer-term relocation planning and management fail to consider the emerging needs of vendors. In turn, the discussion of policy and planning implications focuses on mechanisms for enhancing the sustainability of relocation programs and on economic empowerment of the urban poor and their rights to urban space, accessibility, and mobility.

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