Urban land markets exert a major impact upon the ability of lower income groups to obtain access to adequate shelter and services. When they do not function well, the poor suffer more than anybody else.
The attempt to impose inappropriate tenure systems has resulted in the wholesale exclusion of vast numbers of people from access to legally sanctioned settlement, usually no fault of their own. In many cities of the developing world, half of more of the entire population live in some form of unauthorized settlement. Not only does this expose them to permanent insecurity, but it also denies them access to formal credit and services. Systems of land tenure, and government tenure policies, are therefore central to attempts to establish and maintain efficient and equitable urban housing markets.
This review surveys the extensive international literature on the subject. It proposes a typology which includes statutory customary and unauthorized tenure systems, as a basis for assessing existing problems and formulating appropriate policies. It concludes with recommendations for improving tenure security which maximize benefits to the poor and minimize market distortion.