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Urban Land Tenure Policies in Brazil, South Africa, and India

An Assessment of the Issues

Donald A. Krueckeberg and Kurt G. Paulsen

January 2000, English

This paper is a summary and distillation of the issues raised in 23 papers delivered at two conferences in Johannesburg, South Africa in July of 1999. It is not the purpose of this paper to summarize the entire set of conference papers or the proceedings of those four days of discussion. The purpose here is to focus on those papers that directly treated the policy experiences of Brazil, South Africa, and India.

The issues of urban tenure are near the top of the agenda in development debates around the world. The basic debate focuses on the question of how important is it to provide land and property ownership to the poor. On the one hand the argument is that individual ownership is essential for the poor to stimulate their own investment in property and as security for institutional investment in their communities, all of which might stimulate civic revenue and thus finance improved community services. The counter arguments claim that security can be achieved with, in Theunis Roux’s words, “something less than ownership”, such as freedom from violence, freedom from eviction, various secure contracts, or customary forms of collective use rights. These indeed, it is argued, may be the only feasible means of achieving security. In the discussions that follow we present various examples of these solutions with mixed degrees of success.

We review below the policies of Brazil, South Africa, and India, presenting in each case an overview of national policy and a summary of individual local experiences in each country. We then discuss the relationship between rural and urban land reform and conclude by summarizing the underlying issues in the debate.