Vinit Mukhija


Associate Professor of Urban Planning, Vice Chair of Urban Planning Department
Vice Chair, Urban Planning Department
Faculty Cluster Leader, Global Urbanization and Regional Development

Home Department: Urban Planning

Areas of Interest

Low-income/affordable housing, politics, poverty, urban design, urban development.




Vinit Mukhija is an Associate Professor of Urban Planning in the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His research focuses on informal housing and slums in developing countries and Third World-like housing conditions (including colonias, unpermitted trailer parks, and illegal garage apartments) in the United States. He is particularly interested in understanding the nature and necessity of informal housing, and strategies for upgrading and improving living conditions in unregulated housing. His work also examines how planners and urban designers in both developing and developed countries can learn from the everyday and informal city. Initially, he was known for his research in developing countries but now his work in California is also recognized. Four research questions and objectives guide his research. First, what is the nature of informal housing, including its prevalence, characteristics, heterogeneity, determinants, rationale, advantages and disadvantages? Second, how can living conditions within slums and informal housing be improved, and what is the role of different institutional actors, including state, civil society, and market actors, within this process? Third, how should conventional planning and regulatory approaches change in response to the prevalence of informality, particularly informal housing? Fourth, how do policy ideas in housing and land development travel and spread in a globalized world? The broad objective of his work is to help identify and improve strategies for increasing access to decent housing among the urban poor as a planning pathway to social and spatial justice. Professor Mukhija’s past major projects include research on slum upgrading and redevelopment in Mumbai (Bombay), India; research on colonias, infrastructure-poor neighborhoods, and unpermitted trailer parks in California; and an evaluation of inclusionary housing requirements in Southern California. Currently he is engaged in three major research endeavors. First, with colleagues from the Department of Architecture, he is leading an examination of legal and illegal garage apartments or “Backyard Homes” as a form of stealth and informal housing and density. Second, with Prof. Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, his “Informal City” project is a comparative study of the nature of informality in the workplace, in housing strategies, and particularly in the built environment of US cities. And finally, he continues to conduct research in Mumbai on controversial plans for redeveloping Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world, as a model of modernity and slum-free development. This project also focuses on the globalization and translation of planning and policy ideas. Professor Mukhija is the Vice Chair of the Department, and the Coordinator of the Design and Development (D2) area of concentration. His teaching also contributes to the Community, Economic Development and Housing (CEDH), and the Regional and International Development (RID) areas of concentration. He has won multiple awards for his teaching at UCLA (2007 and 2009), and his teaching portfolio includes courses on informality in US cities, housing policies in the majority world, land use planning institutions, and the planning studio. Recent neighborhoods for his studio have included the City of Bell (2010), East Los Angeles (2009), Pacoima (2008), and Hyde Park (2007). He has also taught a comprehensive project on increasing housing density in Los Angeles (2005) and an international and comparative workshop in Mumbai (2003).

Selected Research