The GPA website offers a range of resources that can help improve understanding of some key issues involved in managing expanding urban areas as a basis for evidence based policy. These are based on extensive international experience and have been applied in various practical and academic contexts. We offer them in the hope that they will prove useful for all those involved in trying to improve the ways in which urban areas are managed in ways that can improve access for all those in need, especially the poor, women and other vulnerable groups, to affordable, secure and adequate land and housing. 

Strengthening urban land tenure and property rights

The extent to which people feel secure in their housing is a major determinant of the degree to which they will invest in maintaining and improving it. It is therefore vital to understand the level of tenure security that people perceive they possess and the property rights regarding land and housing that apply to different tenure categories.

International experience and the vast literature on the subject shows a range of primary tenure regimes: public and private statutory systems, customary systems, and religious systems, as in Islamic contexts. In addition to these are a vast range of non-formal or semi-formal, as when somebody legally acquired land but builds in areas not officially zoned, or when housing does not conform to official regulations. The range of tenure categories can be extremely large and each one forms a key option within the overall urban land and housing market. Understanding how these relate to each other is therefore vital in anticipating the outcomes of land policy, since a failure to reasonably anticipate the outcomes of a policy invariably mean they are different from those intended.

GPA offers a simple matrix on which it is possible to summarise:

  • The full range of land tenure categories in a selected city from non-formal, semi-formal and formal
  • The proportion each represents as part of the overall land supply
  • The level of perceived or de facto security provided by each tenure category
  • The rights provided by each tenure category, including gender aspects.

To prepare a Land Tenure and Property Rights Matrix for your city, click here to see the guideline. Then please simply complete a matrix by clicking here and send your answers to and follow the results in our website!To see a range of examples of land tenure and property rights from different cities, as prepared by master degree students at the Mundus Urbano course at the Technical University Darmstadt, click here.

Assessing urban land and housing needs

As urban areas grow, so the need for more land is needed for housing and other uses, such as commerce, industry, social facilities and recreation.

Assessing the area needed for urban land, and housing in particular, is a basic requirement for ensuring that supply matches demand. Projections based on previous and current increases in demand are no guarantee that they will provide a sound basis for planning.  However, since trends show that demand is continuing or even increasing, current rates of demand at least provide a basis for forward planning.
To undertake a simple urban land needs assessment click here.

Reviewing regulatory frameworks for urban land and housing development

Official planning and building standards, regulations and administrative procedures exert a major influence on the costs of accessing urban land and housing. As such, they establish the entry cost to the formal land and housing market and the ability of lower income households to conform to official norms.

It could be argued that in a society, a small proportion of the population will break the laws or regulations at a given time. This is a bad reflection on those groups. However, if a substantial proportion of the population repeatedly break the official norms on land and housing development, especially if the cause is because the costs are too high or the procedures too cumbersome, this is a bad reflection on the laws, regulations and norms.

In many countries, a significant proportion of the urban population live in housing that does not conform fully to official planning and building standards, norms and administrative procedures. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that central and local government agencies undertake a regular regulatory review or audit to ensure that the standards, regulations and administrative procedures reflect local realities, needs and resources of all sections of the population, not just an affluent minority. To see how to undertake a regulatory review or audit of your town or city, click here.