Linking land policy and planning to urban inclusion

November 2014 — For a city to become more inclusive of its marginalized residents, it needs a proactive land policy that takes into account its unique historical and geospatial contexts, and fits into a broader urban planning vision. A city's laws on land ownership can make the difference between evictions and legal residency; land taxation policies may determine the quantity and quality of real-estate investments, as well as the diversity of residents.

November's discussion explores cities' current and proposed policies with respect to land use, covering such topics as slum upgrading, city-center revitalization, land taxation, and gender-inclusive urban planning. Check out this month's reports to read about policies from across the Global South — then join the conversation in the comments below.

"I wish Joburg was New York": 'Sweeping' poverty in Johannesburg

Johannesburg, 25 November 2014 — While informal trade has always struggled to exist in Johannesburg, and remains so even after the 1994 democratic transition, this usually 'hidden' struggle was made plain when the City recently embarked on a plan to remove thousands of traders from the inner-city. Known as "Operation Clean Sweep," it provoked both outrage and support, raising questions of the policy and urban space status quo, and larger questions about what a democracy and a city is, and for whom it is. See more.

MRT dan imbas terhadap sektor informal

Jakarta, 24 November 2014 — Pedagang sektor informal kerap menjadi sasaran penertiban aparat perkotaan karena dianggap menggangu ketertiban dan mengurangi keindahan kota. Pembangunan MRT Jakarta berimbas pula pada pedagang kaki lima ini. Cukupkah hanya dengan merelokasi mereka? Baca lebih lanjut.

Hasta qué punto la política pública del Bando 2 afectó la inclusión urbana y la informalidad en el DF entre 2000-2006

Mexico D.F., 21 noviembre 2014 — La política del uso de suelo del Bando 2 en la Ciudad de México pretendió meter orden en la planeación de desarrollo de la vivienda, no obstante no logró el objetivo de incluir a la población más marginada debido al efecto en el precio de la tierra a partir de la intervención de la política de gobierno. Leer más.

Returning Bangalore to its reign as India's "Green City"

Bangalore, 20 November 2014 — Bangalore, once known for its parks and cool, fresh air, is being taken over by cars, pollution, and haphazard development. The unwieldy growth is leading to massive sprawl, making it difficult to reach new areas via public transit. The city's Master Plan is up for renewal, and the Green City has a chance to reverse this trend by designing development for a more compact city. Models for denser, more walkable cities aren't too far off either. See more.

La Planeación como forma de combatir el crecimiento informal en las laderas de Cali

Cali, 19 noviembre 2014 — El Plan General del año 2000 prohibía toda construcción en las laderas de Cali. Sin embargo, la presión migratoria que se ha producido desde entonces ha resultado en la urbanización irregular de 400 hectáreas. El nuevo POT reconoce esta realidad y permite la urbanización legal como forma de detener el crecimiento irregular. Leer más.

A life of dignity through land reforms

Delhi, 18 November 2014 — With mega infrastructure projects including the 1,483 km-long Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor and numerous Special Economic Zones, Delhi is facing rising contention over land. The judgments so far have been regressive and hardly understood or practiced with respect to those affected by them. This article discusses a need for a land policy developed within the overall framework of human rights. See more.

Penertiban pemukiman liar sekitar rel Kereta Api

Surabaya, 17 November 2014 — Bangunan liar di sekitar rel kereta api sangat mudah ditemui dimanapun di Surabaya. Bangunan sementara, semi permanen maupun permanen menjadi wajah kota yang mengurangi keindahan dan menambah kesemrawutan perkotaan. Apa yang telah dilakukan pemkot Surabaya? Baca lebih lanjut.

A revisão do zoneamento e a informalidade de luxo em São Paulo

São Paulo, 14 novembro 2014 — A informalidade em São Paulo é geralmente relacionada às áreas de alta densidade, baixa qualidade ambiental e pobreza. Entretanto existem outros aspectos relativos à informalidade na cidade, como as zonas estritamente residenciais ocupadas pelo uso misto, um tópico a ser levantado na revisão da lei de zoneamento. Leia mais.

Gendering development planning to address persistent quality of life challenges

Nairobi, 13 November 2014 — Informal settlements in Nairobi pose unique challenges to urban development, public health, and environmentally sustainable land planning and policy actualization. Transformative grassroots efforts to address these challenges are making headway towards minimizing some of the complex inequalities associated with life in Nairobi's informal tenements. See more.

Twenty years to define resettlement

Ho Chi Minh City, 12 November 2014 — Resettlement, or the movement of informal groups into government-built or supported housing projects, has always been high on Ho Chi Minh City's agenda over the past 20 years. However, housing-focused resettlement projects have proven to be an incomplete solution, failing to consider other essential needs. Recently, the city has started to consider the idea of "integrated resettlement." See more.

Securing a right to city space

Dar es Salaam, 11 November 2014 — Land is an asset, but land policy and planning often sees "the land issue" across cities in the Global South as an issue of informality. Through the case of Dar es Salaam, this article focuses on land dynamics and solutions proposing security of tenure. Such solutions recognise that the issue is not a lack of access to land, but rather focus on changing the vulnerabilities in claiming a right to land. See more.

Informalizing the formal: The forays and the futures of street trading in Cape Town's CBD

Cape Town, 10 November 2014 — South Africa's various neo-liberal centered urban regeneration models to attract formal business back into the CBDs have had mixed results for informal trading practices. In Cape Town CBD their numbers and permitted places of trade are highly restricted. Recent new policy directions, however, suggest a more "progressive" approach, but this needs to be supported by political will and implemented into urban space with imagination to bring about significant change. See more.

Planeamiento para resolver los problemas causados por el crecimiento informal

Bogotá, 7 noviembre 2014 — El planeamiento debe anteceder el crecimiento urbano. La realidad es a menudo diferente: el crecimiento se produce de forma informal, y luego se utiliza el planeamiento para intentar resolver los problemas. Tal es el caso de Fenicia, un triángulo cerca del centro histórico, que creció de forma informal y ahora es el objeto de un ambicioso plan de renovación urbana. Leer más.

Regularisation of land titles: Who benefits?

Lagos, 6 November 2014 — The rapid urbanization of Lagos increases occupancy of unallocated land. The increasing need to accommodate large populations of land squatters and obtain better records of land use for taxation has led to a policy culminating in tenancy security for squatters. However, how well the process and improvements work is debatable. See more.

Seventy-six percent invisible

Lilongwe, 5 November 2014 — Government inability to address the poor living conditions of the majority of Lilongwe's residents has left a void increasingly filled by civil society actors. Official city development strategies, however, help legitimise their work. See more.

Formalización de lo informal a través de titularización de tierras

Caracas, 4 noviembre 2014 — Una nueva iniciativa en Caracas tiene como objetivo dar títulos de propiedad a más de 100 000 familias que viven en la ciudad informal. Su impacto puede ayudar a disminuir la barrera entre ciudades formales e informales. No obstante, la planificación urbana debe ir mano a mano con este proceso. Leer más.

What does the future hold for Mumbai's Eastern Waterfront?

Mumbai, 3 November 2014 — Mumbai's Eastern Waterfront — a fading dockyard area — has huge potential to be a lively area of activity for all Mumbaikers. Its 1,800 acres have largely been left out of city plans, but since a highway has reconnected that area to the central business district, new plans have emerged. Will it be transformed into a much-needed public space or area for affordable housing? Or will developers get hold of it and make the city's coastline into malls and megastores? See more.


Join the discussion on land policy, planning, and urban inclusion in the comments below.

You can also join our October discussion on work, space and transportation.

Join the discussion for this month's topic!


Nora Lindstrom's picture

Hi Ana,

Interesting development that you've covered in Caracas. You outline some of the risks associated with land titling in informal areas, but I wonder if gentrification is one that is also experienced in Caracas? In many cases globally where informal land has been titled this has encouraged the 'original' residents to sell their land following formalisation leading to gentrification of these areas while the 'original' residents sometimes move to other informal areas. One way to control for this has been to bar recipients of land titles from selling their plots within a certain amount of time following receipt of the land title. Other options are for the government to secure tenure but not actually give 'sellable' land titles for X amount of years. There are also ways other than land titles to secure tenure in informal settlements, depending on the layout and living standards in a settlement (a la the tenure security continuum). Do these issues feature in the discourse in Caracas?

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi's picture

Interesting points you raise Nora,regarding controls and it is clear from all the situation of the various cities, that process of securing titles and tenancy is a very important factor from informal to formal. Similar controls are being implemented in Lagos for the new housing projects limiting the number of times ownership can be transferred and period of time before it can be transferred, the hope is this is implemented properly and due process followed.

As this week's topic has shown it is not enough for policy to be in place, the implementation process affects whether or not there will be drawbacks such as gentrification you and Jorge pointed out and the sustainability of the policy. Also, as seen from Dar es Salaam, Ho chi minh , Lagos and others lack of attention to process can affect implementation in various ways be it reluctance to begin/complete the process as in Lagos due to cumbersome nature, or lack of adequate provision and attention to the multifaceted nature of resettlement which creates new set of urban issues. Creating a good policy requires stable and widely encompasing processes so urban planning is less reactionary and more proactive.

Chris Baulman's picture

Hi Olatawura Lapido-Ajayi
I think you & I might be on the same wave length.
I believe "titling" of land leads to wealth for some and poverty for others who get marginalised.

Titling also prepares land for capture by the elite when the desperate poor must sell.

If we are looking at land reform, we don't really need to worry too much about the group who will become owners - they can look after themselves - but we do need to wory about those who are negatively effected by this system of ownership of that which is actually a birthright ALL should have GUARANTEED secure access to - as to air! If we don't guarantee that, life itself is conditional on this ownership system - what does that make of human rights?!

Land reform must begin with guaranteeing human rights - the only ones whose rights are threatened are those who cannot buy their access to the elements for life - the free gifts of nature for life.

With technological job redundancy & global competition, this is a group that is destined to grow, in spite of economic growth.

I would like to see urban commons established in every neighbourhood for eligible people to establish secure housing and community (non commercial) food gardens. Their presence in neighbourhoods everywhere would be an attractive presence which would vitalise gentrifying but lifeless dormitory suburbs.

With such urban commons there would be no need to worrry about "social inclusion" or lack of paying employment - collaboration & cooperation would thrive and compliment the benefits others create through their engagement with the competitive economy.

For a brief "vision" of how this could lay the building blocks for sustainable development, have a look at

@landrights4all (Twitter)

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi's picture

Hi Chris,
Thanks for your insights. I do agree we are on the same wave length, Land in a country of birth should really be a given for everyone like council flats in the UK. In the capital city, FCT, this is available. For some places like Lagos, with its small land mass better regulations and reforms are certainly required. However some intricacies are inevitable in land matters. I looked into the concept of Urban commons, and it is definitely work looking into. Brings to mind how things were done in the old days in villages and if it worked then, its definitely worth a re visit for urban centers. How would one go about implementing this though, it still requires a measure of government regulation and land security? It can be argued this comes with titling/ tenancy agreements.

I believe a similar commune is under way in South Africa, Tariq wrote about it a while back, you should also check out that article.

widya anggraini's picture

Hi Tariq, interesting insight from Cape Town on informalizing the formal.
But what is the city government point of view towards the informal traders? And so far what kind of policy issued to help those in informal economy to enter formal economy. I am asking because as I understand those who are in informal economy do not pay taxes hence many cities encouraged them to work in formal sectors because city government can get revenue from the business. There is also retribution type of revenue, which also applied to informal traders who open their business at government land such as park or parking lot (Indonesia have many like this). Adding to this, can I ask what makes the government shift their focus from a regulatory role to developmental role? This is interesting to me because so far, many Indonesian government only understood to formalize informal business.

María Fernanda Carvallo's picture

Jorge, el proyecto de reconversión en la zona de Fenicia me parece muy atractivo para formalizar a los habitantes de la zona; podrías ahondar sobre los servicios y el costo de estos, es decir, ¿en la zona ya hay servicios públicos para los habitantes? ¿Cómo es que pueden tener acceso a ellos dependiendo del estrato? Saludos

jorgebela's picture

Hola María Fernanda. El sistema de estratos fue ideado como una forma de subsidios cruzados, en la que loe estratos mas altos pagan una tarifa superior cuyo importe se utiliza íntegramente para que los estratos mas bajos tengan unas tarifas subvencionadas. Los estratos no se determinan por los ingresos de cada individuo o de sus unidades familiares, sino a nivel zonal, dependiendo del nivel de servicios y calidad de cada zona individual. Es decir, una manzana puede ser de un estrato, y la siguiente puede ser de un estrato distinto, pero en una manzana todos sus habitantes son del mismo estrato. Todos los habitantes de una zona estrato 1, por ejemplo, tienen de forma automática las tarifas subsidiadas correspondientes a ese estrato, sin tener que solicitarlo

El sistema tiene sus problemas. Entre ellos, que de alguna forma perpetúa la segregación, pues las personas de los estratos 1 y 2 se lo piensan mucho antes de mudarse a zonas de estrato superior, pues el coste de los servicios públicos sube de forma significativa. Ya escribí sobre el tema en URB.IM:

Nora Lindstrom's picture

Hi Tam,

Thanks for an interesting article. The challenges with resettlement that you outline are sadly the norm when it comes to government-driven resettlement. It was interesting to read that there now is at least discussion about on-site upgrading or same-place resettlement. How strongly do you think the government backs this? My question is related to the motivation behind previous resettlements - were the poor really moved to enhance their living conditions, or did the government have ulterior motives, such as getting access to valuable real estate? In Cambodia, the government has orchestrated mass evictions in Phnom Penh to get hold of valuable real estate which is then sold or leased to dubious companies..(see e.g. the Boeung Kak case in central Phnom Penh -

jorgebela's picture

Hi Carlin, your article points out at a reality that is very present in Colombia, particularly in Bogotá: informal settlements are not only made by the poor, they are also made by the very rich. In Bogota, the Eastern Hills, a natural reserve with the highest protection levels, are under threat by luxury condominiums. Some of the most expensive apartments in the city, which can cost several million dollars, have been built there. Of course, they more affluent have the resources to eventually give legal appearance to their illegal developments.

Public awareness and higher scrutiny are making this kind of luxury illegal settlements increasingly difficult, but still the risk is there.

Gemma Todd's picture

Thanks for all of the great insights into your cities! Tariq, I like your final statement in your article stating the formal need to be informalised. It is not a one way street and in order to achieve urban inclusion questions and changes are required within formal and informal land. The current focus often tends to see the informal as requiring inclusion into the formal system, without questioning the suitability, feasibility, and sustainability. But also additionally, the links between the formal and informal land systems are often not recognised. So it is good to see that Cape Town is making such changes.
Within this complex comes the question of location, location, and location - who gets what piece of land, where, and why? Urban space is competitive and the question of location is defined by geographical inequalities (concerning economics, race, etc). Therefore I am wondering within the question of location and including the informal what stakeholders play a key role and require engagement? Governments, but also businesses and corporates are increasingly controlling city space. Therefore in discussing city space and (in)formalisation policy needs a platform whereby such groups can be engaged.

Hilaryzainab's picture

Priyanka, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article on forced resettlement and human rights issues in Delhi. This is an issue faced by many Nairobi residents and will likely increase as the country continues to develop. I was inspired by the grassroots citizen agency approach you highlighted and believe there is a great deal that can be learned from these efforts. In all major cities globally, it is the poor who are often relocated. We call it gentrification and urban development, but in the end it is the forced relocation of families to meet the needs of industrialization. I agree with you completely that a more human-centered approach needs to be incorporated in this design.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.