Land title and informal settlements

The question of land title has a huge impact on the lives of the poor: without title to the land they inhabit, residents of informal or marginalized communities are in constant fear of relocation or demolition, and are prevented from benefiting from the land's productive uses. Housing tenure gives slum residents a guaranteed right to the land and their properties, and enables them to make investments that improve their living conditions.

The following articles describe four initiatives in Bogotá, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Bangalore that seek to resolve the complex issue of land title for residents of informal settlements. Read on to learn more, and then join the discussion in the comments below.

Bogotá
Rio de Janeiro
Johannesburg
Bangalore
Jorge Bela

 
Titulación de predios fiscales: un caso de éxito en Bogotá

Jorge Bela, Gestor Comunitario de Bogotá

 

Uno de los principales frenos al desarrollo de los asentamientos irregulares es la falta de títulos de propiedad por parte de sus ocupantes. En Colombia, donde los conflictos armados que se prolongan desde hace décadas han sumado un número significativo de desplazados por la violencia a los flujos migratorios observados en toda Latinoamérica, este problema tiene una especial gravedad. Para atajar este problema en el año 2005 se aprobó una ley que permitía la transferencia gratuita de predios fiscales, o de titularidad pública, que hubieran sido ocupados antes de 2001. El alcance de esta ley deja fuera del proyecto de titulación a los asentamientos edificados sobre predios de propiedad privada.

Uno de los proyectos mas exitosos dentro de este programa se está realizando en Bogotá. Se trata de un asentamiento informal extendido sobre 70 hectáreas en las localidades Álvaro Uribe Uribe y Suba, y en el que vivían más de 5.000 familias. El proyecto fue lanzado en 2008 y en la actualidad se han entregado ya 4.200 títulos. El proyecto es singular por su tamaño, es el mayor de Colombia, y por el alto porcentaje de éxito conseguido con el mismo. Alejandro Quintero, coordinador del Grupo de Titulación y Saneamiento Predial del Ministerio de Vivienda considera que el proyecto constituye un modelo a seguir en otras ciudades, y ya tienen previsto aplicarlo en a Cúcuta y Melgar.

Los terrenos eran propiedad del Estado colombiano, lo que requirió una serie de actos legales para facilitar su cesión: incluso el Presidente tuvo que emitir un acto administrativo para ceder en primera instancia la propiedad al ministerio de vivienda, quien con posterioridad lo transfirió a la Alcaldía de Bogotá. Fue la Alcaldía, a través de a Secretaría Distrital del Habitat quien se encargó del complejo proceso de entrega de títulos. A pesar de la dificultad jurídica de la operación y de la diferente orientación política de las administraciones local y nacional, la relación entre ambas ha sido fluida en este proyecto, según afirmó Alejandro Quintero.

Aunque la asignación de títulos es relativamente costosa, pues se requiere un certificado de plano predial, el avalúo del inmueble y otros gastos, gran parte de estos se cubrieron gracias a un préstamo del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, que acompañó al Ministerio de la Vivienda en este proyecto. Aunque los habitantes de los asentamientos en un principio recibieron las visitas de los funcionarios, que se acercaban a sus viviendas para recabar datos, con recelo, pronto se solventaron estos problemas de confianza. Las viviendas ubicadas en zonas de alto riesgo, como quebradas, o en el ámbito de seguridad de la cárcel de la Picota, fueron excluidas, y sus habitantes incluidos en un proceso de reubicación. Tampoco se entregaron títulos a las personas que hubieron obtenido la vivienda mediante fraude o extorsión, ni a las que excedían de un valor de 79.000.000 COP (unos 40.000US).

Al tiempo que se entregaban los títulos, se realizó un proyecto de regulación urbanística y otro de mejoramiento de viviendas. Para Alejandro Quintero los efectos de todas estas intervenciones han sido rotundos: los habitantes de los 14 barrios que resultaron tienen una mayor calidad de vida, gozan de una mayor seguridad jurídica, quedan más lejos de la pobreza al tener un patrimonio que les permite respaldar actividades económicas, y generan ingresos fiscales nuevos para Bogotá. Para el 15 de noviembre han organizado un Foro Internacional de Titulación en el que esperan intercambiar experiencias con otros países de la región.

 

Comments

Hi Jorge thanks for covering this successful experience from Bogota. I was wondering if you can further explain why you think this model hasn’t really expanded throughout other Colombian cities and what are the main challenges ahead to make it a reality. I also would like to know: at the end, whose responsibility is it to provide titles, the central government or the city government. Is this clear in policy and in practice?

Jorge Bela's picture

Hi Cata. It is a national program, and it has been successful in other cities, particularly in Medellin. What is unique of the Bogotá program is its scale and the fact that the national and local governments had to cooperate. In Medellin, for instance, the experiences were in much smaller lots, and mostly on land owned by the local government. It takes a lot of time and effort for a city to prepare to undertake a single very large project like the one discussed in the article, and it was in fact a big challenge for Bogotá. Now this experience can be applied elsewhere in Colombia.

Interestingly the green corridor in Cali is also owned by the national government, which poses unique legal and administrative challenges. It is a huge, very complex project. I will be writing about it in November.

Thanks for this clarification and for highlighting the relevance of the joint collaboration between the national and the city governments in the titling process; although the process is led by the national level, cities do have a role and it is pivotal that both teams work in a coherent and coordinated way.

Carlin Carr's picture

Catalina, there are so many great things happening in Rio in this area. I'm wondering if there is any criteria for eligibility to participate in these programs. Are there significant groups being left out, perhaps those that don't have enough to buy a house. What are the loan programs that are linked to these. In Mumbai, for example, the slum rehap programs have made eligible those who can prove they were living there pre-1995. Those people will be eligible for a new house and be given the title to it. Obviously, though, that leaves out a many others who have been settled for a long time, but not since 1995.

Hi Carlin, I think you raised a couple of key issues. I hope I clarify your questions in the lines ahead:

Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV) Program has established a very clear eligibility criteria: Families living in urban areas that have a monthly family income of R$1600 (approximately US$800) or less. The only pre-requisite is that families need to register in the Cadastro Unico, which is the national social program registry system. Currently, the program has a waiting list and priority is given to those with greater need. And that is where we touch a sensitive issue, as “priority criteria” isn’t that clearly defined. Although the program is well conceived and is implementing adequately, I think that greater clarity on who gets priority is essential.

I also think that some other families might get excluded from the program for not knowing about it or for not presenting a formal request to be considered. This generates the need to ensure greater assistance and information to the most vulnerable populations on how they can apply for the program.

Interesting post. I kept thinking of Lagos (and Nigeria), where similarly complicated land ownership and use arrangements exist. The government in Lagos and the government at the Federal level belong to opposing parties, and Lagos has regularly suffered, in the last fourteen years, from the unwillingness of the Federal Government to step in and assist where it should.

I've recently written a feature for Al Jazeera, on the latest in a series of forced evictions/demolitions by the state government, in the Badia slum settlement. It's available to read here: THE DAY THE BULLDOZERS CAME

The residents of Badia have lived there for forty years, but with no possibilities of ever getting land titles or rights. Their move to Badia in 1973 was because of they were evicted by the military government from their old settlement — the government needed land to build a new National Theatre, which today lies disused and crumbling. Without doing something about this matter of land titles and property rights for the less privileged / informal residents, cities like Lagos will continue to spawn refugees on a large scale. Which would be a huge shame.

I'm not saying there are any quick-fixes — there's a very unhelpful Land Use Act dating back to the 1970s, that needs to be reformed — but at least the government should be seen to be trying. Thanks for highlighting this crucial issue.

Tolu, I really liked your report. Thanks for sharing and for bringing up the case of Badia, which exemplifies the reality of many settlements throughout the world. If you can, please let us know more about the role of the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC), which according to your note has played a key role in denouncing the evictions and in working together with communities. Could you let us know who is part of SERAC? And how does it work together with the various levels of government? Does it bridges communication between government and communities as well?

Tariq Toffa's picture

The gap between high-level policy frameworks & the lived realities of informal settlements is a question.

Carlin’s point from India in this regard is a critical one, that “there are few, if any, institutional mechanisms in place to ensure the participatory process.” To this we could add the time & finances made available for such mechanisms, as well as the expertise of those who would manage them.

Legal innovations have to be assisted by other processes that deal with the social & the spatial in light of the long term. Without these other dimensions, & the stakeholders which provide the expertise, how do we gauge to what extent policies entrench or transform the situation except quantitatively?

SA, like many other places it seems, is embarking on this new interim-focused path; but if other expertise (community or professional) is excluded from the process it is uncertain what this approach will create in the long term. In SA, a quantitative approach to housing was undertaken post-1994, but it excluded the spatial disciplines; and although physically providing many houses, has also created enormous problems. New approaches are required. They need to not only be effective in the short term, but also ensure the proper involvement of all key stakeholders, to mitigate lost opportunities or the creation of new problems.

Carlin Carr's picture

Tariq, it seems to me that, in India, at least, "participatory development" has become more of a buzz word than a reality. This is a discussion I hope we can have in more depth on urb.im--sharing examples of true participatory planning--what works and what doesn't. What's most worrisome here in India is that despite RAY and other policy rhetoric acknowledging this need to include all stakeholders, it doesn't seem to be happening in practice. In fact, just last week, the papers were saying that the Supreme Court in Mumbai were considering doing away with the 70% agreement needed from slumdwellers on any redevelopment schemes. The argument is that hardly any schemes are taking place because they can't get the consensus needed, so instead of working through that, steps are being taken to take away the consensus altogether. This is very scary to me.

Chris Baulman's picture

With titling arrangements like the ones described, it's easy to see how some lives are improved - lives of those who can afford the process and see it through to the end of a lengthy loan. The opportunity for ownership of your own home, rather than the insecurity of renting or squatting, has been a very effective way to get people to commit long term to the service of business interests. While this can hardly be said to be a free and fair choice to have to make, many can only dream of having the opportunity.

However I am particularly concerned about the impact of this system upon those who will never have secure employment or land title. Every time a patch of land is removed from the commonwealth, their poverty becomes deeper. Then, every time a title goes onto the market, the bidding for it begins, the price is escalated, the poor are totally excluded and the land passes to richer and richer people over time. Titling does not serve the poor.

Jorge Bela's picture

Hi Chris,

I do not believe the Bogotá titling program has a negative impact on those who do not benefit from it. From my viewpoint, once the public lands are occupied by informal settlers they are de facto removed from the public commonwealth. What titlign does is give legal recognition to that fact, and thus give the settlers all the benefits you mention in your comment.

Furthermore, the titling did not come as an isolated action. Public urban renewal plans were implemented, and multilateral financing ease the process. You say some lives are improved, I wonder if you are refering to the over 4.000 families that have already benefited from the project. I am not sure how them or any of the other poor in Bogotá would be better off without this program

But you are quite right in pointing out to the fact that urban renewal does bring along the risk that the poor might be eventually excluded. This is is an issue that should be kept in mind in any urban plan. But I am sure we will be covering this topic more extensively in future discussions.

Carlin Carr's picture

Chris, the titling process in Mumbai, at least, does not necessarily translate into the poor having to take out a loan. In the Slum Redevelopment Scheme, where the poor who have been on the land pre-1995 are awarded a house and a title to that house, there is no loan involved. Some of the controversy around this form of titling is opposite of what you are saying, I think. The poor are accused of selling the newly titled homes to make money off them in the open market, which is within their rights to do. In this sense, the "bidding" you speak of does, in fact, benefit the poor.

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