The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU Working Paper - No. 38

Urban Land World Bank Policy: Redressing the Balance Between the State, the Market and the Poor

26 May 1985

Author: Allyson Thirkell

Publication Date: September 1989

"The technocratic approach to housing is more convenient and better understood than the more open ended issue of access to land which involves negotiation, legislation and possible confrontation. Hence, the land issue is critical to the resolution of the housing issue and the technocratic approach by itself can not meet the housing challenge" (Angel 1983).

Today Third World cities are today facing some of their greatest challenges, the outcome of which will determine their continued development, both nationally and internationally. Rapid urbanisation has placed pressures on land, housing, infrastructure and services beyond the capacity of most cities to sustain. Emergent capitalism in developing centres of production has exacerbated the contradictions prevalent in the capitalist process, concentrating wealth, and the benefits of development among the few, excluding the vast majority. The issue of land is critical to this development as it facilitates access to housing which forms an essential element in the production and reproduction of labour. As capitalist production units and investment become spatially concentrated in the city, conflicts over land, housing and employment are heightened resulting in slums, high levels of unemployment and chronic urban poverty; the visible manifestations of the urban class struggle. The land question is central to this debate and is the key to social advancement, as well as the development of capitalist production.

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