Getting Started: Identification
Upgrading Strategies

References are arranged following the project phases. ‘Must read’ are indicated by and most include a copy of the Table of Contents or an abstract.

The current conventional belief in policy circles is that the best approach to urban upgrading of low-income settlements involves the provision of legal title, in other words, tenure legalization. This strategy is directed towards urban informal and illegal settlements, where most residents lack legal title to their properties. Tenure legalization focuses on providing security of tenure to residents through the legalization of their title/tenure. The strategy is premised on the assumption that security of tenure encourages residents to upgrade their houses and settlements.

But despite the dominance of the tenure legalization approach policy makers and planners have two other choices. First, a regularization approach without any policy intervention to legalize tenure. The regularization strategy focuses on physical interventions, such as infrastructure and amenities provision. Second, a redevelopment approach that challenges the assumption that substantial improvements in living conditions are feasible or desirable without demolition and subsequent redevelopment.

It is important to point out that any upgrading intervention can be a combination of all three approaches. In summary, the strategies are:

  1. Tenure Legalization
  2. Regularization without Tenure
  3. Redevelopment

Key references that elaborate on this significant policy choice and compare and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the three approaches are listed below. Included are references that portray life in informal areas and discuss the variations within such settlements. A better understanding of the informal settlements is necessary for making the appropriate policy intervention.

“Three Indian Cases of Upgradeable Plots.” Banerjee, Banashree and Gita D. Verma. 1994. Third World Planning Review 16 (3): pp 263-275

The Articulation of Land Supply for Popular Settlements in Third World Cities. Baross, Paul. 1983. “In Land for Housing the Poor. Edited by Shlomo Angel et al. Bangkok: Select Books.

The Transformation of Land Supply Systems in Third World Cities. Baross, Paul and Jan van der Linden. 1990. Aldershot, England: Avebury.

Some Misconceptions about Self-help Housing Policies in Less Developed Countries. Burgess, Rod. 1987. African Urban Affairs Quarterly X (4).

Integration of Irregular Settlements: Current Questions in Asia and Latin America. Clerc, V., et. al. 1995. Paris: AITEC.

People and Housing in Third World Cities: Perspectives on the Problem of Spontaneous Settlement. Dwyer, D. J. 1975. New York: Longman Inc.

Star Link Squatter Citizen: Life in the Urban Third World. Hardoy, Jorge and David Satterthwaite. 1989. London: Earthscan Publications. (Table of Contents)

“Tenure Preference, Discourse and Housing Debt: Language’s Role in Tenure Stigmatisation.” Hunter, Caroline and Judy Nixon. 1999. Habitat International 23 (1): pp 79-92.

Star Link“Tenure Security and Urban Squatting.” Jimenez, Emmanuel. November 1984. The Review of Economics and Statistics LXVI (4): pp 556-567 (Abstract)

Star LinkWorld Bank Experience with the Provision of Infrastructure Services for the Urban Poor: Preliminary Identification and Review of Best Practices. Christine Kessides, Informal Publication by the World Bank. Washington, D.C. January 1997. (Table of Contents)

Squatter Settlements in Pakistan: The Impacts of Upgrading. Kool, Maarten L., Verboom Dik, and Jan van der Linden. 1988. Lahore, Pakistan: Vanguard Books.

The Site and Services Approach Reviewed: Solution or Stopgap to the Third World Housing Shortage? Linden, Jan van der. 1986. Aldershot, England; Brookield, VT: Gower.

“Benavides and the Barriada Movement.” Mangin, William P. And John F. C. Turner. 1969. In Shelter and Society. Edited by Paul Oliver. New York: F. A. Praeger.

“Approaches to Low-income Housing in the Third World.” Nientied, Peter and J. van der Linden. 1988. In The Urbanization of the Third World. Edited by J. Gugler, pp 294-307. New York: Oxford University Press.

Urban Housing in the Third World. Payne, G. 1977. London: Leonard Hill and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

The View from the Barrio. Peattie, L. 1968. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

“Housing Policies in Developing Countries: Two Puzzles.” Peattie, L. 1979. World Development 7: pp 1017-1022.

Regularizing the Informal Land Development Process, Serageldin, M. 1991. Volume 1. Discussion Papers, Washington, DC: USAID Office of Housing and Urban Programs.

“A Theory of Slums.” Stokes, Charles J. 1962. Land Economics XXXVIII (3): pp 187-197.

The Policy and Management of Squatter Upgrading: Some Reflections of the Latin American Experience. SUM Consult: G. Aristizabal de O., C. Lewin, O.Mendez, R. Ziss. March 1989. Working Paper - GTZ, Eschborn. (Table of Contents)

“Dwelling resources in South America.” Turner, John F. C. 1963. Architectural Design, August.

Star Link“Housing Priorities, Settlement Patterns, and Urban Development in Modernizing Countries.” Turner, John F. C. 1968. AIP Journal X (X): pp 354-363. (Abstract)

Star LinkFreedom to Build: Dweller Control of the Housing Process. Turner, John F. C. and R. Fichter. 1972. New York: The Macmillan Company. (Table of Contents)

Inner City Decay and Renewal in India, a Framework for Addressing the Problem. Verma, G. D. 1990. Amsterdam: Free University.

Self-help Housing - A Critique. Ward, P. 1982. London: Mansell Publishing.

Tenure Legalization

This strategy is a policy intervention to legalize the land titles and provide security of tenure to residents of illegal and informal settlements. The straightforward logic of this strategy is that in the absence of security of tenure residents will be hesitant to invest in their housing, as they will be concerned about demolition, displacement and relocation. Moreover it is expected that the documentation of legal title will allow beneficiaries to use their property as collateral to obtain housing improvement loans from housing finance institutions. Another expected positive outcome of tenure legalization is revenue generation for the State. This is based on the assumption that the State could charge beneficiaries for the security of tenure.

The contrarian literature questions the legal and economic wisdom of positive causality between titling, security of tenure and investment in housing. There are three distinct sets of criticism. The first criticism is that security in illegal and informal settlements depends less on legal status and more on the occupants perceptions of the probability of eviction, the availability of services and the passage of time. The second criticism is that tenure in itself is not sufficient to lead to higher investment in housing as housing finance is not available. The third and most serious objection is that tenure legalization by raising the value of the property and its rents can hurt the most vulnerable, namely the poor and the tenants. Similarly the literature cautions that the strategy can adversely impact women.

Furthermore it is argued that the record of cost recovery in tenure legalization projects is poor and this contradicts the financial attractiveness of the strategy, but this may not be due to legalization per se. Another issue that has been recognized in the last few years is that tenure legalization is not an absolute concept and can operationally mean a number of different things.

“Petty Commodity Housing or Dweller Control? A Critique of the work of John F. C. Turner,” Burgess, Rod. 1978. World Development 6 (9/10): pp 1105-1133.

“Land Tenure Security and Housing Improvements in Recife, Brazil.” De Souza, Flavio A. M. 1999. Habitat International 23 (1): pp 19-33.

Star Link“Concepts of Urban Land Tenure.” Doebele, William A. 1983. In Urban Land Policy: Issues and Opportunities. Edited by Harold B. Dunkerley, pp. 63-107. New York: Oxford University Press. (Abstract)

“The Value of Squatter Dwellings in Developing Countries”. Jimenez, Emmanuel. 1982. Economic Development and Change 30 (4): pp 739-752.

Star Link“User Cost and Housing Tenure in Developing Countries.” Malpezzi, S. and S. K. Mayo. 1987. Journal of Development Economics 25 (1): pp 197-220. (Abstract)

“Impact of Tenure Regulation and Environmental Upgrading Programs on Shelter Consolidation in Squatter Settlements in Bhopal.” Mitra, B., N. Risbud and R. Khare. 1990. Open House International 15 (4): pp 54-59.

“Upgradation of Slums: A World Bank Programme.” Panwalkar, P. 1996. In Bombay: Metaphor for Modern India. Edited by S. Patel and A. Thorner. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

“Intention and Outcome: Formalization and its Consequences.” Sanyal, Bish. 1996. Regional Development Dialogue, Spring.

Star LinkHousing by People: Towards Autonomy in Building Environments. Turner, John F. C. 1977. New York: Pantheon Books. (Table of Contents)

“The Relationship Between Tenure Legalization and Housing Improvements: Evidence from Mexico.” Varley, A. 1987. Development and Change 18 (3) :pp 463-481.

Regularization without Tenure

As opposed to the focus on tenure legalization many have suggested that policy-makers concentrate on other non-legal strategies. They recommend the regularization of irregular settlements based on increasing the perception of security of residents; infrastructure provision that adds to the sense of security and also makes upgrading feasible; similarly the provision of other services and amenities; and the availability of finance for housing improvement using non-property collateral.

Another expected advantage of this approach is that it side-steps legal complications involved in tenure legalization.

However there is no consensus on the relative significance of the non-legal interventions. It is not clear under what conditions will an intervention be successful and what are the limitations? And probably the biggest unanswered question is how to pay for the interventions.

“Land Tenure for the Urban Poor.” In Land for Housing the Poor. Angel, Shlomo. 1983. Edited by S. Angel et al. Bangkok: Select Books.

Star LinkThe Role of Self-help in Low Cost Shelter Programs for the Third World. Bamberger, Michael. 1982. World Bank Reprint Series: No. 264. Washington DC: The World Bank. (Reprinted from Built Environment 8 (2). (Table of Contents)

Observations on land tenure and housing development in the major villages of Botswana. Bruce, John. 1981. Mimeo, prepared for the Ministry of Local Government and Lands, Botswana, by Land Tenure Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Star Link“Indonesia’s Kampung Improvement Program: An Evaluative Case Study.” Devas, Nick. 1981. Ekistics 286: pp 19-36. (Abstract)

“The Costs and Benefits of Illegality and Irregularity in the Supply of Land.” Gilbert, A. 1990. In The Transformation of Land Supply Systems in Third World Cities. Edited by Paul Baross and Jan van der Linden. Brookfield: Avebury.

“Informal Residential Land Development in Indonesia.” Hoffman, M. L. 1991. In Regularizing the Informal Land Development Process, Volume 2, pp. 1-8. Discussion Papers, Washington, DC: USAID Office of Housing and Urban Programs.

Star LinkSlum Networking: An Innovative Approach to Urban Development. Diane Diacon. 1997. Building and Social Housing Foundation. (Table of Contents)

“Slum Networking.” Parikh, H. 1995. Open House International.

Between Basti Dwellers and Bureaucrats: Lessons in Squatter Settlement Upgrading in Karachi. Schoorl, J. W., J. Van der Linden, and K. S. Yap. 1983. NY: Pergamon Press.

“The Effects of Combined Upgrading and New Development Schemes on Housing Patterns of the Site: Case Study of Ismailia Project in Egypt.” Serag-el-Din, Hany B. 1990. Housing Science 14 (4): 259-272.


The third approach of redevelopment is much less acknowledged in policy circles. The biggest drawback of the redevelopment approach is that not only is it expensive but also resource intensive in other ways. Nonetheless redevelopment is practiced and usually implemented under two crucial conditions. First, the assumption that significant improvements in living conditions are feasible only after demolition and subsequent redevelopment. Second, when the value of the land being redeveloped is high enough to make the cost of redevelopment less of a problem.

There are two crucial distinctions within a redevelopment strategy. These differences involve resettlement, resettlement on-site or off-site.

Most tenure legalization and regularization without tenure approaches involve a certain amount of redevelopment to make the projects successful. Cities involved in upgrading approaches with redevelopment as the central focus are Bangkok with its Land-sharing schemes, Mumbai (Bombay) with its Slum Redevelopment program and Beijing and its Housing Renewal program. The redevelopment programs of these cities involve on-site resettlement.

“Marketization and Institutions in Chinese Inner-city Redevelopment: a Commentary of Lu Junhua’s Beijing’s Old and Dilapidated Housing Renewal.” Abramson, Daniel Benjamin. 1997. Cities 14 (2): pp 71-75.

“Transferability of the Land Pooling/Readjustment Techniques.” Acharya, B. P. 1988. Habitat International 12 (4): pp 103-117.

Star Link“Slum Reconstruction: Land Sharing as an Alternative to Eviction in Bangkok.” Angel, Shlomo with Thipparat Chirathamkijkul. 1983. In Land for Housing the Poor. Edited by Shlomo Angel et. al., pp 430-460. Bankok: Select Books. (See Tools: Land Sharing)

“Beijing’s Old and Dilapidated Housing Renewal.” Junhua, Lu. 1997. Cities 14 (2): 59-69.

“Incorporating Slum Dwellers into Redevelopment Schemes: The Jacobs Lines Project in Karachi.” Kalim, Syed Iqbal. 1983 In Land for Housing the Poor. Edited by Shlomo Angel et. al., pp 461-472. Bankok: Select Books.

Star LinkLand Readjustment: a Modern Approach to Urbanization. Larsson, Gerhard. 1993. Aldershot; Brookfield, USA: Avebury. (Table of Contents)

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