Land tenure for community infrastructure investment

Land tenure for community infrastructure investment

Why won’t slum communities invest in infrastructure for water, sanitation and waste disposal?

Lack of secure tenure has a three-fold effect on society: firstly, people and business enterprises in the informal settlements are deprived of essential public services; secondly, the municipal governments receive no tax income to pay for any of the services they should provide to the settlements; and finally, the potential value of these properties constitutes personal and national wealth which remains inaccessible and unusable as collateral for borrowing for further investment.”
The State of the World’s Cities 2001, UN-Habitat, p33.

  • The majority of urban slum dwellers live as squatters, with no legal standing over the land they occupy
  • They often live in very precarious conditions and under constant threat of evictions and slum clearance programmes
  • Therefore, while it appears that slum dwellers are happy to invest in mobile infrastructure such as televisions and mobile phones, there is much less inclination for them to invest in more permanent infrastructure improvements, e.g. roads, drainage, sewerage, potable water, building improvements etc
  • It is unlikely that the MDG targets for infrastructure delivery will be achieved through public and donor funding alone
  • To meet the MDG targets it will be necessary to engage the private sector and secure funding from other sources
  • In many cases this will mean mobilising contributions from slum communities themselves, e.g. hard cash, materials and labour, as well as engaging them in the decision making process to ensure they take ownership of the infrastructure and that it is appropriate, affordable and easy for them to maintain

Why won’t slum communities invest in infrastructure for water, sanitation and waste disposal?

Integrated infrastructure delivery solutions are required, which fully engage communities and incorporate land tenure at their core. This will give slum dwellers the confidence and security to invest in infrastructure upgrades, and over time give them motivation to improve the quality of their homes.

The land tenure systems should be tailored to suit local conditions and can range from full title and ownership to leasehold. They should be affordable, flexible, user friendly and transparent, with a clear legal framework and they should be scalable for city-wide slum application. Examples of successful systems where land tenure has been central to achieving effective infrastructure delivery include:

  • Slum networking
  • Slum upgrading
The two most important factors in the success of such schemes are strong political will on behalf of government and strong buy-in on the part of communities. Therefore stakeholder engagement is key.

Further reading:

Parikh, H. (1995) Slum Networking of Ahmedabad City, A Proposal for ‘Slum Networking’ of Ahmedabad City. For Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation
Diacon, D. (1997) Slum Networking - An Innovative Approach to Urban Development, Building and Social Housing Foundation

According to The Cities Alliance (2008), with successful slum upgrading, three processes occur simultaneously over time:

  • the slum dweller becomes the citizen
  • the shack becomes the house
  • the slum becomes the suburb

Further reading:

Parikh, H. (2008)
Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) (2005) Slum Networking Programme – A Partnership Programme of Infrastructure and Social Development in Slums of Ahmedabad City, Submitted to Human Settlement Institute (HSMI) The Cities Alliance (2008) Slum Upgrading Up Close – The experience of six cities