For many low-income households in cities of the developing world, 'self-help' or informal housing provides not only their shelter, but also functions as a vital productive asset. The land accessible to the urban poor for informal housing, however, is often remotely located in the urban periphery. While providing access to shelter, such peripheral locations may undermine the potential of shelter to serve as a productive asset, especially for women whose mobility is constrained by their dual roles as care-givers and wage-earners. This research explores how location influences the potential of housing to serve as a productive asset in two informally settled communities in different parts of Mexico City. The paper argues that the 'right to shelter' associated with informal housing needs to be 'scaled-up' to include the 'right to the city' through closer consideration of the linkages among shelter, location, and livelihoods. Such a policy focus necessarily situates housing in a broader socio-spatial context and would serve to complement the prevailing emphasis on community or place-specific upgrading activities in informal or low-income settlements. Finally, the paper raises questions about the role of planning in improving the livelihood opportunities of lower-income households.