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.
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.
Titling on public land: a success story in Bogotá
Jorge Bela, Bogotá Community Manager
Lack of property titles is one of the most significant barriers to development and poverty reduction in informal settlements. This problem is particularly serious in Colombia, where people displaced by several decades of armed conflict have joined the large number of immigrants for economic reasons in creating the largest number of informal settlements in Latin America. A law enacted in 2005 sought to tackle, at least partially, this problem by allowing for free transfer of property to informal residents. The scope of the law was limited to settlements established on public land before 2001, thus excluding all settlements on private land.
One of the most successful programs undertaken under this law is in its final stages of implementation in Bogotá. It covered a huge informal settlement, 70 hectares in total, over the Usme and Álvaro Uribe wards, with over 5,000 families living there. The project was launched in 2008, and 4,200 property titles have been issued so far. The project is unique because of its size and the high rate of success. Alejandro Quintero, coordinator of the group in charge of the project in the Ministerio de la Vivienda, believes it can serve as a model for other cities, and Ministerio is in the process of launching similar ones in Cúcuta and Melgar.
The settlement's land was owned by the central Colombian Government, which presented unique legal challenges. A Presidential decree was necessary first to transfer the property to the Ministerio de la Vivienda, which in turn transferred it to the City of Bogotá. The City, through its Secretaría Distrital del Habitat was then in charge of the complex process of issuing individual titles to settlers. Despite the legal difficulties and the fact that the city and national governments were controlled by opposing political parties, the cooperation between them has been mostly smooth, according to Mr. Quintero.
Even if the land is transferred for free, there are significant expenses associated with the process, which can be prohibitive for settlers. It is necessary, for example, to issue certificates of land registry, and to make price appraisals for each house. The Inter American Development Bank gave a loan to the Ministerio de la Vivienda to cover these costs, thus further facilitating the process. Although the residents were initially reluctant to provide the exhaustive information necessary to obtain the titles, soon a trusting relationship was established between then and the authorities. Houses located in high-risk areas, such as riverbanks, or too close to the Picota jail — the largest in Bogotá — were demolished, and the affected families where included in a relocation program. People who had obtained their houses through violence or fraud, as well as houses worth over 79,000,000 COP (about $40,000), were also excluded from the process.
At the same time that the titles were being issued, urban planning and housing improvement projects were implemented. Alejandro Quintero believes that the result of all these initiatives has been clear: the inhabitants of the 14 neighborhoods resulting from the mass regularization of the informal settlements enjoy higher living standards, have stronger legal protection, are further away from poverty as they now have assets they can use to back economic activities, and generate new fiscal income for the city. On November 15th, the Ministerio de Vivienda will hold a seminar in order to share this experience with other countries in the region.
Avanços na titulação de terras no Rio de Janeiro
Catalina Gomez, Coordenadora da Rede em Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro está avançando na expansão efetiva da titulação de terras e beneficiando a sua população mais vulnerável. Esta direção positiva é o resultado da implementação do programa habitacional Minha Casa Minha Vida e do programa de melhoramento de bairros Morar Carioca.
Minha Casa Minha Vida está focado em apoiar famílias de baixa renda na aquisição de moradia nova e na provisão do seu título de posse. O programa foi criado em 2009 e conta com a liderança e financiamento do Ministério das Cidades. Este ministério tem construído mais de um milhão de unidades habitacionais no Brasil e tem previsão de entregar mais dois milhões até 2014. Especificamente no Rio, Minha Casa Minha Vida é liderado em parceria pelas secretarias de habitação dos governos estadual e municipal; até hoje já fizeram entrega de mais de 60 mil moradias novas construídas em espaços regularizados, garantindo condições legais, habitacionais e ambientais adequadas.
Morar Carioca complementa estes esforços focando-se no apoio da população que mora em assentamentos irregulares por médio de intervenções de melhoramento de bairros, expansão de serviços sociais e a promoção da regularização fundiária e a entrega de títulos de posse. O programa que foi lançado a partir de 2010 é liderado pela Secretaria Municipal de Habitação em coordenação com outras instituições.
Especificamente sobre os processos de regularização e titulação realizados pelo Morar Carioca, vale ressaltar a complexidade daqueles processos; eles envolvem vários procedimentos burocráticos que levam meses em concluir, tais como: (i) registro das terras e seu uso; (ii) pesquisa e registro socioeconômico dos beneficiários; (iii) preparação da documentação legal e delimitação; e (iv) autorização dos títulos de posse. Todos estes trâmites são feitos com um número limitado de pessoal especializado, o que ressalta a necessidade de fortalecer os recursos humanos nesta área.
Embora a regularização fundiária e a titulação sejam processos complexos e longos, Morar Carioca tem conseguido avançar na entrega de resultados com mais de 50 mil famílias beneficiadas com títulos de posse. Parte do sucesso do processo é a criação de varias unidades de informação nas comunidades beneficiarias que providenciam assistência e apoio para as famílias durante o ciclo de regularização e titulação.
Ainda com os resultados bem sucedidos destes programas, existem dois desafios principais. O primeiro destaca a necessidade de reduzir os tempos de regularização e titulação para que sejam mais efetivos e menos burocráticos. O segundo, ainda mais complexo é a necessidade de fortalecer os direitos dos cidadãos que não tem documentação legal de propriedade suas terras e estão sendo expulsas para dar espaço às obras relacionadas com a Copa e as Olimpíadas.
Foto: Secretaria de Estado de Habitação de Rio de Janeiro
Expanding land titling in Rio
Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager
Rio de Janeiro is actively moving forward with the expansion of effective land titling for its most vulnerable citizens. This positive trend is the result of the implementation of programs such as Minha Casa Minha Vida, the national housing program, and Morar Carioca, the city's urban upgrading program.
Minha Casa Minha Vida (My House My Life) supports low-income, first-time home buyers with the provision of affordable and flexible home-buying schemes, as well as though the provision of land titles upon the receipt of their new homes. The program, which was launched in 2009, is funded by the Ministry of the Cities; since then it has delivered more than one million houses throughout Brazil, and is expected to deliver two million more by 2014. In Rio, Minha Casa Minha Vida is implemented in partnership between the state and municipal housing secretariats. To date, these institutions have delivered more than 60,000 new units (and have announced 40,000 more for next year), all which have been constructed in formal spaces, with adequate legal, urban, and environmental conditions.
Morar Carioca complements these efforts by supporting residents of informal settlements. The program works to upgrade neighborhood conditions, expand social services, and conduct regularization and titling services. Morar Carioca has been in place since 2010 and is led by the city's Secretariat of Housing, in coordination with other local government bodies.
With regard to the land regularization procedures and title provisions provided by Morar Carioca, it is worth noting that these processes aren't as straightforward as many would think; they involve various bureaucratic procedures that sometimes take months to complete. These steps include (i) registering land extension and use; (ii) carrying out socio-economic profiles and registry of beneficiaries; (iii) preparing legal paperwork for land delimitation; and (iv) authorizing and issuing proper land titles. All of these tasks are carried out by a limited number of officers, demonstrating the need to strengthen related human and technical capacities in this field.
Although land regularization and titling are complex and time-consuming processes, Morar Carioca is moving forward with the delivery of land titles and legal tenure services. As of June 2013, there have been around 50,000 families who have benefited from land regularization and legal tenure services. Pivotal to the program's successful land regularization process has been the establishment of information desks in each beneficiary neighborhood, so that residents can receive guidance on the regularization procedures and further completion of the titling process.
Although these two programs are well established and have been effective in delivering successful results, there are two main challenges ahead. The first is the need to make land regularization procedures more effective and less bureaucratic. The second is the need to properly address the rights of residents, including those without legal documentation. This is particularly relevant in a context of reported displacements of low-income families without proper land tenure in order to make room for World Cup and Olympic Games facilities.
Photo: Secretaria de Estado de Habitação de Rio de Janeiro
Making more with less: an incremental approach to upgrading informal settlements and increasing tenure security
Tariq Toffa, Johannesburg Community Manager
In South Africa, the government's response to the characteristically peri-urban poverty of informal settlement (between 1.7 million and 2.5 million households) has occurred within the paradigm of individual title (subsidised housing), the conventional route for informal settlement upgrading in the country. Despite well-intentioned policies, however, this ownership model is far removed from lived realities; where many households are condemned to either waiting patiently for state-subsidised housing or to land occupation, while others cannot access the state subsidy, such as foreign nationals and the poor-but-not-poor-enough-to-qualify. In the longer term, the model could even be said to lock poor people into marginal locations.
Reflecting global trends over the last decade, however, a more flexible approach is also emerging, as represented by the Urban LandMark (Urban Land Markets Programme Southern Africa) programme, which advocates for opening up more officially recognised channels of land supply as a primary means for improving the pro-poor access to and functioning of urban land markets, and the benefits that flow from it. Based in Pretoria, the programme was set up in 2006 with funding from the UK's Department for International Development (UKaid), and is now hosted at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa.
While an emphasis on individual ownership rights represents one approach to tenure; a second approach emphasises the administrative and legal mechanisms to tenure security as a first step towards official recognition. The Urban LandMark model, in seeking to realistically provide increasing levels of security during the period between informal settlement of an area and the delivery of ownership (through the housing subsidy), incorporates elements of both views. This incremental approach is probably the most distinctive feature of the model.
A second and integral aspect of this approach is context specificity. By recognising existing local practices in land management (how land is accessed, held, traded, etc.), more appropriate responses that enhance community agency are built. Co-funded by the Cities Alliance Catalytic Fund with UKaid, Urban LandMark researched little-understood, local practices in six poorer urban areas in Southern Africa in order to provide guidance on incrementally securing different routes to tenure in informal settlement upgrading (or "regularisation"). In Johannesburg, from 2009 the City worked closely with Urban LandMark in the City's Regularisation programme. Tenure security was provided to informal settlements through legalising the land use, allowing them to be upgraded in situ in an incremental way until they can be formally developed. This legal innovation entailed an amendment to the zoning scheme, and resulted in some 23 settlements being declared as transitional areas in 2009.
A third important — though not emphasised — aspect of the incremental approach is the potential role accorded to space; for recognising local practices also means engaging the socio-spatial relationships that underpin them. Since municipal registers of informal settlement occupants have already been found to play a role in the land market, by linking it to the actual spaces through which practice occurs (e.g. layout plans), they may become an important hybrid resource for tenure security, and economic and social functions.
Although the delivery of ownership will likely remain a national objective for some time, given the magnitude of informal settlements, alternative approaches remain crucial. However, land use and allocation in Southern Africa remains a highly political issue. It remains to be seen how perceptions of interim-focused models will fare in the long term, against the evidence of past provisions and current expectations of formal housing.
Fig. 1: Different routes to greater tenure security. Fig. 2: Street and shack numbering: one mechanism for incrementally securing tenure. Both photos by Urban LandMark.
How RAY put housing rights into policy
Carlin Carr, Bangalore Community Manager
Housing tenure can have a transformative impact on the lives of the poor. The security of ownership rights opens pathways for slum dwellers themselves to upgrade their living environments without fear of relocation or demolition. Beyond improved structural environments, tenure security also leads to improved health conditions, education levels and income levels. In this sense, housing tenure's ripple effects make it one of the single most important aspects of improving the lives of slum dwellers.
Yet housing tenure is a complicated issue. India's most recent policy to tackle urban poverty and create "slum-free cities," Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), recognizes the importance of tenure in creating inclusive cities, but has run into obstacles. RAY's main tenet is "the security of tenure through entitlement." In order to enforce this, the policy states that no Central Government support will be given to states which do not give legal entitlement to slum dwellers. The progressive mandate, however, has been less than well received from local governments, leaving RAY in a state of stagnation. "Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) has failed to take off, with states expressing reluctance to comply with mandatory provisions for availing central funds under the scheme such as according property rights to slum dwellers and earmarking 25% of the municipal budget for spending in colonies and slums where the urban poor live," says a 2012 article in the Hindustan Times. Policymakers have had to revisit the strict mandates to encourage movement with the scheme.
At meeting of over 100 policymakers, academics and practitioners at the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology in Ahmedabad, the participants broke down into working groups and devised strategies and recommendations for providing land tenure in RAY's policy on slum-free cities. Here are a few key recommendations:
- Review land ownership patterns: It's essential to start from a point of identification in the land tenure process. Many tenure issues arise from slums being on private lands or on public lands designated for other uses. It's important to advocate for bringing all parties — owners and residents — together to negotiate the process and devise mechanisms and strategies for residents to gain rights to tenure.
- Provide tenure at the slum level: Giving land tenure at the slum level rather than the individual level reduces the likelihood that the tenure will be misused.
- Ensure basic services are available: Whether the slum has tenure rights or not, basic services should be extended to all the slums. There was a consensus by the group that there should be universal coverage of basic services in all the slums.
- Involve the community in the process: While "community participation" has become a great buzzword around urban poverty policies and interventions, there are few, if any, institutional mechanisms in place to ensure the participatory process. The CEPT working group suggests that the community must be involved from data collection to the design of the scheme — be it tenure rights or otherwise — to monitoring of the intervention once it's in place.
RAY is set to launch now and will be in the implementation phase from 2013-2022. The coming decade will be one to watch in India. RAY's success, in the end, can only be measured by whether India's cities have become more inclusive and equitable — not simply if they are slum-free.