Quick Guide 03 – Land: A Crucial Element in Housing the Urban Poor

Publication Date: 2011 ISBN: 978-92-1-132318-4

Without land, there can be no housing. And without looking at the issue of land, there can be no meaningful discussion about how to solve the problems of housing for the poor in our cities. The inaccessibility of decent, secure, affordable land is the major reason why there are so many informal settlements in African cities and is a contributing factor to urban poverty.
This guide looks at the different forms of land tenure which operate in African cities and exam- ines some of the problems and benefits of these different land tenure systems. The guide then looks at how land is supplied, valued, financed and transferred in the formal market, how this formal market is failing to make secure, appropriate land available to their cities’ low-income populations, and why the majority of Africa’s urban poor are being forced to obtain land for their housing through informal land markets.
It may not be possible to stop the wheels of urbanization or market forces which are driving up the cost of urban land and making it inaccessible to most city-dwellers – and to the poor especially. Although local governments often have limited control over land and land processes, there are still many things that they can do to help make more land available for the poor, both now and in the future. This guide introduces some of the conventional and more innovative strategies being successfully used to do this.
This guide is not aimed at specialists, but aims to help build the capacities of national and local government officials and policy makers who need to quickly enhance their understanding of low-income housing issues.