This paper describes the different kinds of community organizations and NGOs working in urban areas in Pakistan which are seeking to improve poorer groups housing and living conditions, and the provision of basic services such as education and health care. It is based on a study of five cities in Pakistan, including Karachi, one of Asias largest cities. Section two outlines the scale and nature of housing problems in urban areas while section three describes the governments failure to address them. Section four describes the large, informal private sector which has become lower-income groups main source of land for housing and of water supply, education and health care, and the often exploitative nature of the enterprises. Section five describes the community action groups formed by residents in low-income areas which seek to tackle common problems, and provide cheaper and more effective basic services than the private sector. Section six outlines the many different kinds of NGOs working in urban housing and services. A concluding section discusses how, and in what form, governments and aid agencies might support and expand the effectiveness and impact of the community action groups and the NGOs which help them with technical and managerial support.