Does land titling work for the poor?

Land tenure has been increasingly identified as a key issue in managing the growth of urban areas and reducing urban poverty. Many international agencies and national governments have promoted and adopted programmes of individual land titling.

It has been claimed that the allocation of land titles could unlock such ‘dead capital’ and enable the poor of developing countries to lift themselves out of poverty. In addition, they are held to: increase tenure security; encourage investment; facilitate access to formal credit; generate increased municipal revenues; and promote dynamic land and housing markets.

These ambitious claims for a single policy instrument have naturally attracted considerable interest and support. However, the empirical foundation upon which the claims were made is extremely modest. To assess the evidence, an international review of the literature, together with detailed case studies in Senegal and South Africa, has recently been completed into the social and economic impacts of land titling programmes in urban and peri-urban areas.

The study was undertaken in two stages between mid 2006 and early 2008 by Geoffrey Payne, Alain Durand-Lasserve and Carole Rakodi and was managed by Geoffrey Payne and Associates (GPA). Stage 1 involved a literature review of more than 160 documents and was funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway. A summary of the review was presented at the 2007 World Bank Urban Research Symposium and published in Brother, E. and Solberg, J-A (2007) ‘Legal empowerment – A way out of poverty’ Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thanks to additional funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sida (Sweden) and the Global Land Tool Network based in UN-Habitat, work on Stage 2 began in mid 2007 and involved detailed case studies of titled and untitled settlements in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng Province, South Africa, and Dakar, Senegal. The South African case studies were undertaken by Colin Marx and Margot Rubin of the Centre for Urban and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) at Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg and the Senegal studies were undertaken by a team led by Selle Ndiaye. Summaries of the findings, conclusions and policy implications of the studies were presented by the project team at seminars in Oslo on 09 April, 2008 and in Bergen at the Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor conference in Bergen on 11 April, 2008.

Excessive mortgage lending to low-income groups in the US and UK is presently accused of triggering a global financial crisis. The findings of the project will therefore be of major interest to policy makers, practitioners, academics and students in the fields of urban development, land management and housing policy in developing countries.

* To access the Preface and Executive Summary of the findings of this research project, click here
* To access the full Synthesis Report, click here
* To access Appendix A, the Senegal case study report, click here
* To download Appendix B, the South Africa case study report, click here

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