Category Archives: Publications

Why should donors invest in urban areas?


Many international agencies and NGOs are reluctant to invest or intervene in the urban areas of developing countries. Their reasons vary between assuming that the poorest groups live in rural areas and that urban areas are unable to continue absorbing more people. There is also a fear that to improve urban areas will only encourage more migrants. Geoff Payne addresses these concerns in a brief note arguing the case for agencies and NGOs to become more active in addressing the issues facing urban areas and enabling them to achieve the Millennium Development Goal Targets of Poverty Reduction and Environmental Improvement. 

Access this note

Improving tenure security for existing slum residents and helping prevent the need for future slums


The role of a Land Tenure Typology and Regulatory Audits as complementary approaches to a more secure future.

Millions of people currently live without adequate security of tenure or property rights in the urban areas of developing countries. The United Nations expects the total to increase by nearly 37 million a year to 1.5 billion by 2020. In urban areas, where costs of access to legal land and housing are high and rising far faster than incomes, millions have to resort to illegal and unstable shelter. This is not just a problem for those living with insecurity on a daily basis who are unlikely to operate to their maximum potential, or invest in improving their homes and neighbourhoods. It is also a serious problem for governments seeking to harness the creative energies of their populations to achieve economic development and reduce poverty. In some countries, the proportion of people living in unauthorised settlements is already much higher than those in formal land and housing markets.

Given these high rates of urbanisation and urban growth during recent decades in developing countries, it is essential to improve the security and rights of people who are currently in the various types of unauthorised settlements. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals aim ‘to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers’ by 2020. However this target appears insignificant when compared to the 1.5 billion who are expected to be living in slums during the same period. On this basis, even achieving the MDGs will result in 1.4 billion people living in slums over and above existing numbers . It is therefore also essential to address the issue of how to reduce the need for new unauthorised settlements in the future by increasing the supply of planned, legal and affordable land on a scale equal to present and future demand.

Before making any policy decisions to address these parallel issues, it is necessary to develop a comprehensive understanding of local land tenure patterns and the frameworks which regulate urban land development and supply. The ‘Land Tenure Typology’ and ‘Regulatory Audit’ presented in this web page are two highly complementary tools developed by GPA, which will enable you to undertake your own review of the existing situation in your local area. This understanding can then inform decisions about policies to increase tenure security for existing slum populations -and even more importantly – make the need for future slums, less necessary.

Try these two techniques and let us know if they are useful!

Land Tenure Typology


Before making any policy decisions regarding land tenure or property rights, it is advisable to undertake a review of the existing situation and the implications of each tenure category. Producing a typology of locally present tenure categories and their associated property rights will help you to do this. This website posting highlights the main concerns for undertaking a typology, gives step by step instructions on how to undertake your own typology of your local area and provides a general typology which can be adapted to local contexts.

Download detailed guidelines on what to do about unauthorised settlements and to produce a Land Tenure Typology

How to undertake a Regulatory Audit


This website posting will help you find out what a regulatory audit is, the benefits and limitations of undertaking an audit, and how to undertake your own audit.

What is a regulatory audit?

A regulatory audit is a comprehensive review of regulations, standards and administrative procedures relating to urban land development. It provides a record of all the laws, byelaws, decrees and other official norms that seek to determine what developers, land-owners, communities and residents are entitled to do with and on urban land. In their entirety, these various norms constitute the regulatory framework for urban planning and building. Unless specified, they should apply equally to all those groups, organisations or individuals seeking to acquire, develop or transfer urban land.

A regulatory audit should assess the scope and nature of the regulatory framework and its impact on enabling land and housing markets to operate in ways which enable all sections of the population, especially the poor and vulnerable groups, such as women, to obtain legal land, shelter, services and credit.

Why do a regulatory audit?

Laws, regulations and other official requirements relating to urban land development are usually extremely complicated. In many cases, this is because they have been in place for many years and may even have been inherited from colonial administrations. Subsequent changes may have imposed different requirements without necessarily removing the earlier ones from the statute book. At the same time, requirements may have different levels of official status, in that some may be mandatory and others discretionary. Some may be imposed nationally by central government, and others by provincial or local authorities, many of which may not be applicable consistently.

As if these complications were not enough, the language used may be in English or another language not widely understood locally and the style of writing may be full of terms and phrases only comprehensible to professionals.

For all of these reasons, a regulatory audit can help to clarify what people are expected to do in order to meet official requirements. However, an audit serves a more useful policy objective. It enables those responsible for formulating and implementing the myriad requirements to assess the extent to which changes may be necessary in order to ensure that the regulatory framework is consistent with urban planning and management policy objectives. Requirements based on outdated assumptions or objectives, (such as protecting the earlier interests of colonial elites), or inappropriate conditions (such as high levels of economic development), can be removed or revised to reflect current realities and expectations of the population. An audit can highlight those aspects of planning regulations, standards and administrative procedures which can ensure that the regulatory framework facilitates planned development and meets the needs of all sections of the population, not just an affluent minority.

What benefits can a regulatory audit offer?

Regulatory audits provide urban managers with an objective basis for identifying and monitoring individual components of the regulatory framework. This can help measure their impact on facilitating planned development and reducing the need for squatting and other forms of unauthorised development. They can therefore form a key tool in the development of pro-poor urban development strategies.

What are the limitations of a regulatory audit?

As with any audit, the value of a regulatory audit depends largely on the accuracy and level of information available. Collecting information on the relevant legislation, planning and building codes is a time consuming, though not difficult task. However, assessing the extent to which a specific component represents a constraint to accessing legal shelter for the poor will depend on obtaining the views of those directly involved and this requires time, sensitivity and a degree of independence. This suggests that it is preferable for a local NGO or university to be commissioned to undertake the audit.

Download detailed guidelines for how to undertake a regulatory audit

Download a sample regulatory audit table

Once you have read our guidelines or tried your own audit please help us out with feedback, contributions, comments and ideas – we will be very happy to hear from you.

If you wish to receive more information about this and any other projects undertaken by Geoffrey Payne and Associates, please email us via our contact page and we will be pleased to include you in a mailing list of project updates.

‘The Urban Housing Manual: Making Regulatory Frameworks Work for the Poor’, (Geoffrey Payne and Michael Majale) Earthscan, 2002

urbanhousingmanualEvery day millions of people around the world spend their hard-earned income improving houses they do not officially own or legally occupy. The vast majority are poor householders in urban areas of the South, where, in some cities, more than half the population lives in various types of unauthorized housing. As land in urban areas becomes more expensive and globalization accelerates the commercialization of urban land markets, people are forced to occupy unused government land, or purchase agricultural land and build a house without permission ? activities that urban authorities are often seeking to prevent.

Red tape is a significant stumbling block to the provision of affordable shelter to the urban poor and, indeed, slums are largely the result of inappropriate regulatory frameworks. This handbook tackles the issue of regulatory frameworks for urban upgrading and new housing development, and how they impact on access to adequate, affordable shelter and other key livelihood assets, in particular for the urban poor. The book illustrates two methods for reviewing regulatory frameworks and expounds guiding principles for effecting change, informed by action research.

This practice-oriented manual, which includes a free CD-ROM of case studies, research methods and other reference material, is essential for achieving the Millennium Development Goal 7, Target 11 of significantly improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

Buy ‘The Urban Housing Manual’

Land, Rights & Innovation,
(Editor) Intermediate Technology Publications London, 2002

landrightsinnovationEvery day millions of people around the world spend their hard-earned income improving houses they do not officially own or legally occupy. The vast majority are poor householders in urban areas of the South, where, in some cities, more than half the population lives in various types of unauthorized housing. As land in urban areas becomes more expensive and globalization accelerates the commercialization of urban land markets, people are forced to occupy unused government land, or purchase agricultural land and build a house without permission ? activities that urban authorities are often seeking to prevent.

Land, Rights and Innovation examines the complex issues surrounding land tenure, and the challenges they present for urban planners in the South and in the transition economies of Eastern Europe. Based on extensive research, the book brings together a diverse range of examples from 17 countries where the authorities have evolved practical, innovative approaches to providing tenure for the urban poor. These widen the choices available for residents, encourage local investment to reduce poverty and facilitate the development of more equitable and efficient urban land markets.

The inclusion of a chapter examining the legal issues of security of tenure, as well as an introduction and a conclusion summarizing the way forward, makes this book of value to all those responsible for formulating and implementing urban land tenure policies in the rapidly changing and expanding cities in the South and transition economies.

Buy ‘Land, Rights and Innovation’



This second revised edition contains updated text and references that have brought the manual up to an appropriate standard for use as a basic development tool for urban professionals and their client communities. The manual is based on field experience in many countries, but particularly that gained in Ismailia from 1977-1980 in designing and implementing the first “sites and service” and upgrading project to be adopted formally and implemented in Egypt.

The manual closely follows the technical process employed in carrying out the project and concentrates on the approach rather than particular solutions. This allows it to be used in many situations. Geoff, Forbes, other contributors and David Allen, the director of the projects in Ismailia, Egypt, on which the Manual is based, hope you find it helpful. 

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Making Common Ground: Public/private partnerships in land for housing
(Editor) Intermediate Technology Publications (for DFID) London, 1999

making-common-ground-2This book provides a comprehensive review of experience in designing and implementing a wide range of partnerships for the efficient and equitable use of urban land.
Using examples from countries throughout the world and at all levels of economic development, the author looks at the achievements and limitations of formal partnerships. Evidence is presented to show that a range of informal partnerships, or relationships, has evolved, especially in developing countries. These are shown to have made a far greater impact on urban land development and to have been of greater benefit to lower income groups. The book therefore adopts a broad and inclusive definition of partnerships and shows that they exist within a continuum of public/private relationships.

All examples are assessed according to four criteria, the extent to which partnerships have:

1.) Increased the supply of urban land
2.) Improved the efficiency of urban land markets
3.) Improved access for low-income groups
4.) Provided the basis for a more productive relationship between public and private sectors

Recommendations are given for improving and expanding the contribution of partnerships according to varied local conditions. This book will be essential reading for urban and town planners, academics and their students.

Buy ‘Making Common Ground’