Valle Borghesiana is located on Rome’s eastern municipal border and encompasses an area of 150 ha. with approximately 10,000 residents. Following the end of the WWII, a chronic lack of social housing in Rome combined with rampant building speculation to reduce the availability of affordable housing. This eventually drove people to find alternative, and often illegal, building solutions in areas such as Valle Borghesiana, which grew haphazardly during the 1970s and 1980s.
In Valle Borghesiana, as in other city areas, large land holdings were illegally divided into parcels and sold in small allotments. The new owners built their homes themselves with the help of family and friends. Living conditions were very difficult for the new settlers due to the lack of basic infrastructure such as sewers, electricity, etc. Thus they organised themselves in order to improve their mutual living situation.
In 1985, Italy passed the condono edilizio law, which eased sanctions against illegal dwellings and allowed their owners to register them. Since then, a series of planning proceedings have taken place in the effort to recover these illegal areas, and Rome officially acknowledged the right of citizens to organise themselves into autonomous consortia for the purpose of developing the needed infrastructure. In Valle Borghesiana during the period from 1998 to 2009, these Consorzi di Autorecupero, or “autonomous renewal consortia,” finally managed to install the sewer system, public lighting, and roads.
Today Valle Borghesiana has been designated as one of the toponimi, or illegally-built areas slated for renewal in Rome’s planning process. Because of the positive experience with the autonomous renewal consortia, the official planning process assigns to them the responsibility for preparing the recovery and renewal plans for their own area.
The resulting renewal plans for the toponimi, being based on principles of self-planning, are considered to be examples of innovative legislation that promotes citizens’ participation; however, they also underline a tendency in the field of urban planning towards broad delegation and piecemeal solutions that end up favouring compartmentalized development as opposed to holistic city planning.