Improving tenure security for the urban poor in Cambodia

Geoffrey Payne visited Phnom Penh, Cambodia between 05-18 September as part of the ongoing project funded by Cities Alliance, GTZ and UN-Habitat to improve security of tenure and property rights for the urban poor.

The visit was mainly intended to attend a workshop being organised jointly by UN-Habitat and GPA on preparations for a national housing policy and the tenure project. The visit also enabled meetings to be held with His Excellency Im Chhun Lim, Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and His Excellency Kep Chuk Tema, ,Governor of Phnom Penh, together with many senior officials, leaders of NGOs and CBOs, academics, and representatives of donor agencies.

Cambodia is a country on the move. When our project started, residents of informal settlements were routinely being evicted at short notice and relocated to plots well outside the city. This not only disrupted their lives, but also increased poverty since they had to spend long times and increased costs travelling to places where they could earn a livelihood. Since early 2003, however, there has been a fundamental change of direction. The Prime Minister has announced a programme to upgrade 100 informal settlements a year for five years and only relocate existing settlements in cases where the land was needed for urgent public purposes or people were living in environmentally sensitive locations.

Our project is contributing land tenure options for these upgrading settlements, together with pilot projects on land sharing and new affordable developments. We are considering options for communal leases in order to minimise the burden on the municipality and provide residents with long term security in ways which discourage higher income groups from buying up plots. We also hope to liaise with local NGOs and the Asian Coalition of Housing Rights which are developing major initiatives on community led development projects in which tenure issues are important. Developments are anticipated later this year on the tenure front. GPA will also contribute a section on tenure to the draft housing policy.

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