Tag Archives: South Africa

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

For further information, or to exchange information on land titling programmes, please visit our contact page.

Land titling project completed

The research project assessing the social and economic impacts of land titling programmes in the urban and peri-urban areas of developing countries, is now complete. Presentations on the desk review of literature and the outputs of the two case studies, in Senegal and South Africa, were presented at two conferences in Norway between 09-12 April, 2008.

Both events were organised and financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Mapping and Cadastre Authority, one of the funders of the project (with SIDA and the Global Land Tool Network at UN-Habitat). Following an introductory presentation by Geoffrey Payne, Professor Carole Rakodi made a presentation on methodological issues and Alain Durand-Lasserve presented key issues on cultural aspects of undertaking comparative research. Colin Marx and Margot Rubin then presented the findings and policy implications of the South African case study and Alain Durand-Lasserve then presented the findings and policy implications of the Senegal case study on behalf of Selle Ndiaye. There was a good discussion of the project findings and implications for the general international debate on land tenure issues and policy options.

Following the Oslo workshop, Geoff Payne, Alain Durand-Lasserve, Margot Rubin and Tania Payne, proceeded to Bergen for the conference organised by the Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor held between 10-11 April. A presentation was made by Geoff Payne on behalf of the project team and Alain Durand-Lasserve also contributed some key points.

Copies of selected PowerPoint presentations from both the Oslo and Bergen meetings are available on request.

New Regulatory Guidelines Project Outputs Online


Why do so many people in the urban areas of developing countries live in housing which is classified as illegal? Is it because they are inherently defiant or delinquent? Are they intent on challenging the authority of the state and undermining respect for law and order? In Manila, you are currently encouraged to put a blue ribbon on you car aerial if you support the plans of the MMDA Director to remove illegal settlements and street traders and the campaign is winning considerable support. In Delhi and many other cities, similar campaigns are being launched by determined officials to “clean up” their cities and ensure the rule of law.

But what if you are too poor to afford a car to put a ribbon on? What if you cannot afford the cost of conforming to the numerous rules, regulations and administrative procedures required by many urban authorities before they will grant planning and building permission? If ten percent of the population do not conform to legal requirements, it might be reasonably assumed that they are at fault. However, if 90 percent of the population do not conform, is it not equally reasonable to assume that the law itself is at fault, – or more accurately those who framed the laws?

The fact is that urban planning regulations, standards and administrative procedures by which authorities seek to manage the processes of urban development, are not value free or politically neutral. They inevitable express the world view of political elites and professionals who seek a form of urban development conditioned by the world they are familiar with, or seek to emulate or aspire to. This puts them at odds with the mass of largely poor people already in the urban areas and those who join them daily from even less developed rural areas – people who want a better life for themselves and particularly their children, but do not have the wherewithal to satisfy the norms of a wealthy minority.

In most developing countries, the proportion of urban populations living in settlements considered illegal or unplanned is large and increasing. Efforts to stem migration from rural areas have proved futile as the funds needed to boost rural incomes are invariably generated from the urban areas where jobs – and therefore opportunities – are concentrated. Similarly, programmes to demolish illegal settlements simply move the problem somewhere else. Both approaches deal with symptoms rather than causes. The central cause is a fundamentally narrow economic base in which an urban elite has the lion’s share of what wealth exists and finds it impossible – or unacceptable – to adapt its norms to those of a poor majority. The situation is compounded by the increasing impact of market forces which increase the commercial value of land and accord rising prices to even marginal sites. As land loses its historically based use value, (as exemplified in the customary land tenure systems of sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world), and is regarded increasingly as an economic asset to be traded and exploited like any other, the cost of conforming to official norms becomes daily more unaffordable. The result is that the cost of getting on the bottom rung of the legal ladder has been raised too high – and is getting higher.

It is impractical to deny the penetration of market forces in land when they are permeating all other sectors of the global economy and being forced on developing countries by strictures from the IMF and WTO. Land and property prices are conditioned by the same demand and supply forces which condition all other transactions and the ever growing demand for land in growing urban areas is not being met by planned development. Increasing the supply of planned land would certainly help contain land price increases, though sites need to be developed in conjunction with employment opportunities and services to be effective.

If market forces cannot be stopped, what can be done to increase access to legal and officially acceptable shelter? One major option is to review the regulatory framework of planning standards, regulations and administrative procedures which together impose a range of access costs and to see where changes can be made.

In early 2001, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) approved funding for a regulatory review, or audit, of urban planning regulations, standards and administrative practices for new urban land and shelter developments in five countries in different parts of the world and at different levels of economic development and with different legal and political systems. Since then, a sixth country has been added to the project. The countries are Bolivia, India, Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania and Turkey. The project is being directed by Geoffrey Payne and Associates in close collaboration with local professionals and is scheduled for completion by March 2004. The project is being carried out in conjunction with a parallel project being undertaken by a team at the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) which is reviewing regulatory frameworks for upgrading existing urban settlements.

The project is being carried out in three phases. Phase 1, which was carried out between September and December 2000, involved the collection of information on planning regulations, standards and administrative procedures in all selected countries except Bolivia which joined the project in mid 2002. Phase 2 started in January 2001 and involved a regulatory audit to assess the imputed costs of access to legal shelter and was completed in March 2002. Following this, work started in Phase 3 to negotiate options for initial implementation. This posting contains the executive summaries of each national audit and includes the work carried out in Phase 2.

Download executive summaries for;

South Africa: P1P2P3P4P5
India: P1P2P3P4
Lesotho: P1
Tanzania: P1P2P3
Turkey: P1 – P2P3

These papers can be downloaded; however any reference to any part of these works must be properly acknowledged and the papers cannot under any circumstances be modified and then re-distributed.

If you wish to receive more information about the project, please email us and we will be pleased to include you in a mailing list of project updates.