Urban LandMark's latest Annual Report, to be launched in September 2010, provides a comprehensive overview of our programme activities for 2008 to 2010.
The report is structured around our five main areas of focus - urban land rights and secure tenure, functional markets, better governance, regionalisation and professional development. Each section of the report details our objectives within the particular theme area, gives an overview of the research and initiatives undertaken and partnerships engaged in during the period under review, and provides some of the leading findings and recommendations that influence our further work in these areas.
The report's overarching focus, though, is on the fact that the ability to access and hold land should be understood as a fundamental building block for development [to read more about this, link to other piece on land security].
Our engagements around an incremental tenure approach to informal settlement upgrading show that the problem of landlessness remains as much of a challenge now as when Urban LandMark began operations early in 2006. With increasing urbanisation in the region, the number of slums in cities and towns continues to grow. Even active housing and urban development programmes by governments in some countries have not halted this process of slum formation. And often, existing practices in urban planning, management and administration do not fully addressed the underlying issue of access to land by poor communities.
Land security is an essential element of promoting economic development, and access to space for living and trading is the first foothold that urbanising families establish in cities. For this foothold to be consolidated, the conditions need to be such that households are able to hold on to that land without being arbitrarily dispossessed of that right.
The next stage in the consolidation of land security is the ability to trade land and land use rights, and thus to participate gainfully in the market. If the barriers to entering the market are not too great, this allows households to participate more fully in the urban economy, not to mention being able to attain residential and business mobility.
What this mobility means is that households are able to move house more easily, or move their businesses, so that they can take advantage of urban opportunities in different places without having to commute long distances. It is also a fact that not all people living in southern African cities want to stay in urban areas indefinitely. We should therefore factor into our thinking around effective urban land planning and management the seasonal movements of people between urban and rural places and that significant numbers of people move to rural areas when they retire.
Our report also shows that the state sometimes fails to ensure that people's land tenure is secure against future competing claims from other urban actors. As a result, even when people do access land in the short term, whether that land is used for living or trading, they often fail to hold on to that opportunity.
An example of this in the South African context is when people sell a government-subsidised house, usually for a fifth of its real value, and return to living in an informal settlement, having lost their one greatest asset. This may be because households need a short-term cash injection and therefore make 'distress' sales, or because the house is not located near to opportunities, or simply because the household cannot afford to live there.
In other countries, people are displaced from their land because of conflict, or because the overall economic situation does not allow them to stay there, or even because they are forced off the land by government itself. Street traders in many countries also live life on the margins, and state recognition of their sources of livelihood may be fickle and at risk of being withdrawn at any time. Municipalities do not have consistent street trading laws and are prone to 'clean the streets' ahead of state visits or sporting events.
However, the report also attempts to show that there are positive opportunities in growing urban areas, which is why people put up with the adverse effects of living on the peripheries of poorly planned and managed cities. People in cities are able to network more effectively, provide supporting services, access larger markets and benefit from better health and education than they are able to elsewhere.
While this Annual Report provides a broad overview of our programmes in - and positive impacts on - the urban land market sphere, we also make the outputs from our research and project activities available as learning material to enhance urban land market actors and practitioners' effective participation in this area.
Our deep body of knowledge is further disseminated and our experience shared through our website, conferences and workshops, and through participation in external events, dialogues and forums.
We hope that you find our latest Annual Report an interesting but also thought-provoking read around the dimensions of and complexities involved in addressing urban poverty, and a tool to interrogate some of the solutions being developed.