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Slum Upgrading Initiatives In the Running for Cities Alliance Funding
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Home » July 2011

Urban LandMark project to provide support for slum upgrading initiatives in southern Africa in the running for Cities Alliance funding

A proposal submitted by Urban LandMark on a project which aims to provide specialist tenure technical assistance and advisory services to slum upgrading initiatives in the southern African region is one of only seven projects approved for potential funding by the Cities Alliance Catalytic Fund, out of an initial submission of 74 projects.

The Catalytic Fund is a funding instrument which provides grant support for projects that strengthen and promote the role of cities in poverty reduction and in sustainable urban development.

Our approach to incrementally securing tenure

In 2007, Urban LandMark published the findings of its research into how the poor access, hold and trade land in three metropolitan areas of South Africa - Cape Town, Ekurhuleni and eThekwini.

Principal findings included that 'socially dominated' land markets exist in the parts of these cities where poorer people live; that they are mediated by community organisation, social relations and the state; and that although they function in the short term to provide access to land, constraints exist as to how well they function in the medium and longer terms for the poor.

One of the primary implications of this work for Urban LandMark was the need to promote official recognition of these markets, to improve how they function for the poor. Consequently Urban LandMark identified increasing tenure security as the first step toward official recognition.

As a result, in 2009/2010, and from a range of activities, including input from research papers, large numbers of interviews and the testing of different processes with municipalities, Urban LandMark developed an approach for incrementally securing tenure in informal settlements in South Africa. The approach emphasises practical mechanisms that allow land rights to be upgraded over time.

In particular, our work here proposes innovative, incremental methods based on the concepts of legal and administrative recognition. It provides practical examples of mechanisms for administrative recognition - such as street addressing, documented proof of occupation rights, provision of essential services, and local forms of registration; and legal recognition - for example, in South Africa, designating a transitional residential settlement area or declaring a land development area or a less formal settlement area, or rezoning in terms of a town planning scheme.

Importantly, our approach addresses the tenure question from within a land markets framework, which gives it a particular emphasis on working from the land access mechanisms and local management practices that already exist. This provides the potential to integrate, rather than replace, local practice, in the process of upgrading and formalisation.

The demand for such an approach

Informal settlements pose a social and economic risk that need to be addressed. The majority of households in informal settlements do not have a legalised pathway to accessing land, and an administratively and legally supported way of holding onto land once they have accessed it. As a result, many people occupy land or inadequate shelter illegally and are then constantly vulnerable to eviction, have little access to basic services, and are not part of the planning process of cities. As a result, informal settlements are one of the major threats to urban stability and, by extension, to overall political stability.

Thousands of people in the region living in informal settlements or participating in informal economic activities have been evicted in recent years. These evictions took place with little or no notice, without compensation and often contrary to national and international law. Environmental health, physical or other risk conditions are used to justify eviction and forced removal of poor land occupants. Rights-based approaches are marginal to urban development and management in Southern Africa.

Many of the agencies at the coal face of slum upgrading, municipal governments especially, lack the technical know-how and human resource capacity to address the complex social, legal and technical issues of tenure security, especially of an incremental nature.

Testing the applicability, extending our knowledge

In 2010/2011, we applied our approach to incrementally securing tenure in selected sites in South Africa. We also adopted a multi-country focus in the Southern Africa region through an 'Operation of the Markets Study' in Maputo, and supporting the implementation of a similar study in Luanda with partner Development Workshop, which provided technical assistance. In both cities, our original operation of the market methodology was used and adapted.

We further continue to build our partnership, through technical assistance on incremental tenure upgrading, with South Africa's National Upgrading Support Programme, an initiative of the national Department of Human Settlements and Cities Alliance, which are providing assistance to 40 municipalities in all nine provinces in South Africa to upgrade informal settlements.

Finally, we are developing a new collaboration with the Housing Development Agency in South Africa whose mandate concerning informal settlement upgrading is around implementation and project packaging. Here too our collaboration focuses on Urban LandMark providing assistance on tenure security.

The overall purpose of the Urban LandMark project is to provide assistance on incrementally securing tenure as part of existing slum upgrading initiatives in southern Africa, to contribute to the organisation's vision of improved access to land for the poor, which in turn contributes to improved livelihoods, active citizenship and wealth creation.

Background on the Catalytic Fund

The fund has two major strategic objectives:

  • To catalyse urban transformation processes that promote more inclusive cities, and
  • To advance collective know-how through learning distilled from project experiences.

Projects supported by the Catalytic Fund should aim to make a positive impact on urban development challenges by leveraging cooperation among urban development actors, be contextually innovative and foster knowledge as well as learning among cities, practitioners and policymakers.

Urban LandMark is in the process of completing a full project proposal, which will be submitted to Cities Alliance by the end of July 2011.