Urban LandMark

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A Handbook on Urban Land Markets for Africa

Managing urban land: a guide for municipal practitioners

Training for Township Renewal Initiative:
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Urban LandMark commissions projects from time to time.

Urban LandMark's offices are based in Pretoria, South Africa.

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About us

Urban LandMark sheds light on what can be done to remedy the problems that have made urban land markets dysfunctional, and hence land unaffordable. It does this by using the development approach known as "making markets work for the poor" while acknowledging the importance of land rights.

Core funding to the programme ceased in early 2013, and the Urban LandMark offices were then closed. However, Urban LandMark remains a network of interested people and organisations continuing with the mission outlined here.

Lack of access by the poor to urban land is a hotly debated policy issue in developing countries around the world. Sub-Saharan African cities share common problems with many other cities such as rapid urbanisation, rising land prices, unequal access to services, uneven legal protection and political advantage, and limited state resources.

The rise in the price of urban land has become a barrier to government policies to enable poor households and communities to live closer to the benefits enjoyed by wealthier communities. The way urban land markets now work affects the lives of the urban poor in many ways. These include, for example, higher transport costs, and not being able easily to visit clinics, send children to good schools, or get decent housing.

Urban LandMark is dedicated to making urban land markets work for (and with) the poor. The 'making markets work for the poor' approach is increasingly being adopted by the international development community. Urban LandMark defines what making markets work for the poor could mean for access to affordable urban land.

Urban LandMark aims to influence policies and practices in South Africa to improve poor people's access to well-located urban land by making market, land planning and management systems work better, giving effect and meaning to the idea of people having a right to land.

A number of initiatives around land already exist, though they approach land from very different ideological standpoints. Urban LandMark plays a catalytic role in bringing people together for dialogue. By enabling debate between government, the private sector and civil society, the programme aims to help all role players reach an understanding of the problems and how they may be tackled.

Who we are

"Urban LandMark" is short for the Urban Land Markets Programme Southern Africa. Based in Pretoria, the programme was set up in May 2006 with seven years of funding from the UK's Department for International Development until March 2013. The initiative is now hosted at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa.

Urban LandMark was designed to play a short-term, catalytic role. Between 2006 and 2013 it was financially managed by FinMark Trust. FinMark Trust is already applying the 'making markets work for the poor' thinking in financial and housing markets, which are relevant to the urban land markets question.

What we do

Urban LandMark is working to make urban land markets work for the poor by:

  • Defining what 'making markets work for the poor' means for urban land and developing a distinctive voice for this approach,
  • Mobilising diverse players, including the private sector and civil society, to come up with innovative ways to achieve this objective,
  • Promoting policy dialogue between people , and
  • Bringing about change in government policy and implementation, and in private sector praxis.

Five areas of activity

Research projects cover four sectors: people, place, governance and the market, in an integrated way.

Research is disseminated widely to industry, government, NGOs and other interested people.

Individuals affiliated with Urban LandMark are available to government and the private sector to take part in task teams.

Professional development
To ensure industry professionals incorporate MMW4P ideas in their work, we assist with the development of courses and academic exchange programmes as well as forums and seminars.

Networking and advocacy
We develop and maintain relationships with industry and government players, and build partnerships with academic institutions and organisations, local and international, working on urban land issues to share information and participate in joint activities.

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