The Bogotá Cadastre

An Assessment
Michelle M. Thompson, April 1, 2004

The implementation of any national planning program on a regional or local scale can be a challenge, even under the best circumstances. Colombia faces many social, political and economic issues that could easily have derailed the expansion of its major planning initiative—the national cadastral program. Some of these issues relate to its decentralized government, changing local public administrations, unstable economy and pervasive issues relating to poverty, the drug trade and international intervention. In spite of this situation, Bogotá’s Administrative Department for the District Cadastre (DACD) is gradually being recognized as a success story for developing countries in Latin America and beyond.

While legal conveyance, land policy and planning have been significant aspects of cadastres historically, fiscal management has been the primary focus in Bogotá for both its citizens and the business sector. The assessment administration process includes the maintenance of a database that receives information from the divisions that develop the econometric model, geographic information systems (GIS), building codes and enforcement, cartography, socioeconomic analysis of homogeneous sectors, land registration and zoning. As noted in the previous article, the numbers of incorporated (formación catastral) and updated (actualización catastral) properties have increased significantly (see Figure 1).

The large volume of parcels and improvements has been managed in such a short time by a deliberate and comprehensive administrative plan. The mandated public participation process did not compromise the efficiency with which the updates and property validation were completed. Within the last fiscal year, the econometric model took into consideration typical assessment variables but also considered a key element in the Bogotá cadastre, the “public value estimate.” According to Law 44 of 1990, a public comment and review process is used to update and maintain each property record card. The property owner or occupant provides an estimate of the property value and its depreciation or appreciation as required by the Unified Property Tax Reform Act. This legislation seeks to simplify the administration of taxes on land and avoid the possibility of taxing the same factors twice. Reliance on the public to provide the most current information on property conditions is important, but verification is also required. Thus, a fleet of professionally trained assessors has conducted inspections of all properties now recorded within the cadastral system. The public has been particularly forthcoming with information on improvements to vacant land, since the tax rate on land is higher than the rate on land with improvements. This integrated planning approach has encouraged community investment by limiting speculation.

The use of GIS has been key to department-wide integration and evaluation of property reviews, system updates and overall program administration. IGAC is in the process of developing an ArcCadastre program in coordination with the University of Bogotá. The goal is to link all of the regional cadastres to the national database. Within Bogotá a central GIS provides the cadastral managers with a powerful database that includes an interactive and multilevel inventory used during the property tax abatement process. The GIS has recently been expanded to allow for public searches of historic property record information along with parcel-level real estate listing data for all neighborhoods. The intended use of GIS, and the increase in the number of public terminals, will provide further access to the cadastral system. In the interim, the DACD Web site is a creative educational tool that keeps the public informed while managing this monumental process.

The Bogotá cadastre has made innovative and tangible progress in the creation, development and maintenance of a cadastral system considered by many to be a theoretical impossibility. The vision and tenacity of the public administrators, private industry and citizens have helped to build a cadastre that should meet or exceed the goals set by FIG’s Cadastre 2014 (Van der Molen 2003). This plan calls for a cadastre to have “inclusive rights and restrictions to land within map registers, comprehensive cadastre map models, seamless collaboration between public and private sectors and a cadastre that is cost recovering.” Given its political, administrative, financial, technical and practical challenges, the Bogotá cadastre has been able to turn a dream into an innovative reality.

Michelle Thompson is a real estate and research consultant teaching geographic information systems at the Cornell University Department of City and Regional Planning. She is also a faculty associate of the Lincoln Institute and she participated in the November 2003 conference on cadastres in Bogotá.


Bogotá’s Administrative Department for the District Cadastre (DACD):

Van der Molen, Paul. 2003. The future cadastres: Cadastres after 2014. FIG Working Week 2003, Paris, France (April 13-17). Available at