Shanty towns are units of irregular low-cost and self-constructed housing built on terrain seized and occupied illegally -- usually on lands belonging to third parties, most often located in the urban periphery of the cities. These dwellings are often assembled in a patch-work fashion from pieces of plywood, corrugated metal, sheets of plastic, and any other material that will provide cover.
Residences are built without license, with poor or no sanitation. Shanty towns pose a fire hazard and are remarked by their near total absence of numbered streets, sanitation networks, electricity, telephones, or plumbing. Shanty towns are mostly found in third world countries with an unequal distribution of wealth, such as South Africa, Philippines, Argentina and Brazil (where shanty towns are known as Favelas). In some extreme cases, shanty towns can have populations approaching that of a city.
During the Great Depression of the 1930's (caused by the stock market crash of 1929), shanty towns appeared in cities across the United States because of the massive unemployment. Some were nicknamed "Hoovervilles" because the residents blamed the economic conditions on then-President Hoover. These conditions were blamed on Hoover since he did not believe in government interference in an attempt to end the depression.
The first recorded use of the word shanty, as meaning a crude dwelling, occurred in Ohio in 1820. It may have been derived from the French word chantier, meaning a storage place. Alternatively, it could have been derived from the Irish sean tig, meaning "old house".