Regulatory guidelines for affordable shelter

Funding body:  Department for International Development (DFID). KaR project number R7851.

Aims: To improve knowledge among stakeholders responsible for providing urban land, shelter and services, on regulatory frameworks which can reduce entry costs to legal and appropriate shelter for the urban poor.

Duration: 1st September 2000 to 31st March 2004

Project outputs

  1. A manual containing a methodology for assessing the costs, specific planning standards regulations, procedures and options for reducing entry costs to officially sanctioned developments.

  2. A film of the Lesotho case study by TVE for use in training courses and transmission on the BBC and other networks (as appropriate).

  3. Training materials for use in urban development agencies, training institutes and NGOs, etc on simple methods of assessing the cost of existing regulatory frameworks and ways of improving them.

  4. Online publications of findings and recommendations at key stages in the project

It is difficult to reduce the scale of poverty by increasing incomes. However, considerable improvements can be achieved by reducing committed expenditure on major household items such as access to land, shelter and essential services. The costs of legal shelter are significantly influenced by official planning standards, regulations and administrative procedures, which frequently impose costs which low-income households cannot afford. This forces many people into unauthorised settlements which reduces security, inhibits access to credit and exposes them to additional social, financial and environmental costs. Many of these standards, regulations and procedures are inherited, or copied from other countries, outdated, or just inappropriate and lead to neither equity nor efficiency. The project will review the social and economic costs of key variables, such as plot size, road reservations, density levels, land use regulations and the time taken and steps involved in obtaining development approvals, in both formal and informal settlements in the selected countries. It will also identify and address constraints to reducing access costs for low-income groups to shelter, enabling them to retain a larger proportion of existing incomes. Priority options for further reducing costs will then be tested in local projects and disseminated widely for consideration in other countries. Inappropriate planning standards, regulations and procedures

  1. raise the costs of legal shelter;

  2. inhibit social cohesion and economic activity;

  3. waste land;

  4. discourage private sector participation;

  5. encourage unauthorised settlements and;

  6. encourage corruption.

Previous DFID funded research on public-private partnerships revealed that regulatory frameworks frequently restrict access by low-income groups to legal shelter. Analysts and officials have also acknowledged that research is needed to show which standards, regulations and procedures need to be revised to make access to legal shelter more affordable to the urban poor.

The project seeks to reduce costs and increase choice for low-income urban households to appropriate and affordable shelter. Low-income urban households are increasingly unable to avoid market based costs for land, shelter and services, so any reductions which can be made to such costs through reforms of the regulatory framework will effectively increase their disposable incomes. Studies will be made of households in unauthorised and officially approved settlements to identify the key variables affecting shelter costs and alternative options acceptable to the poor. These will then be tested in new urban projects in collaboration with local authorities and monitored to assess acceptability to all stakeholders. Which cross cutting themes (i.e.: gender, environment, sustainability) will be addressed by this project

The needs of women and other vulnerable groups are central to the research and will be assessed in studies of existing behaviour and future preferences. The environmental impact of existing urban planning regulations, standards and administrative procedures in terms of the land area required for urban expansion into peri-urban areas and agricultural land will be estimated and options identified for regulatory frameworks to reduce the ‘environmental footprint’ of urban growth. The study will explore options for increasing options for compact, mixed land use urban developments, reduce pollution and make public transport more viable. Economic sustainability will be improved by reducing the costs of entry to legal settlements based on market costs for land, construction and services provision. The likelihood of social conflicts is also expected to fall as standards of living rise.

Key publications include ‘Making Common Ground’ (G Payne, editor, IT Publications 1999), Hernando de Soto ‘The Other Path’ (Taurus 1986), Angel A ‘The Land and Housing Markets of Bangkok’ (PADCO, Washington DC 1987), Durand-Lasserve A ‘Articulation between formal and informal land markets in developing countries: Issues and trends’ (mimeo 1987), Dowall D and Clarke G ‘A framework for reforming urban land policies in developing countries’ (World Bank 1991), Farvacque, C and McAuslan, P ‘Reforming urban land policies and institutions in developing countries’ (UMP World Bank 1992) have all stressed the need to review regulatory frameworks. The project will build on this literature and provide empirical data on specific changes, plus guidelines for assessing issues and options in other contexts.

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