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Accra isn’t rush-hour-on-the-subway crowded. Accra is people-sleep-in-shifts-because-there’s-not-enough-room-for-everyone-to-lie-down-on-the-street-at-the-same-time crowded.
Such is life in the capital of one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Thanks to a population boom coupled with a housing market that favors high-income development, the average house in some of the city’s low-income neighborhoods holds 48 residents. Families sleep outside in the street, in alleys, in courtyards — basically, anywhere they can carve out a little space. A range of factors contribute to the problem, notably the government’s reluctance to get involved, a rental system that allows landlords to gouge tentants and the real estate industry’s obsession with gated communities.
There are innovative solutions being tried here and there, and seemingly just as many obstacles to block them. With its population still ballooning, can Ghana’s largest city figure out a way to house its own people? Sharon Benzoni wrestles her way through the streets of some of Accra’s most crowded areas, and finds people improvising elbow room and waiting desperately for their city to scale up.
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