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Land-based Commons for Housing and the Inclusive City: A Comparative Approach

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Simonneau, Claire; Denis, Eric; Valitutto, Irene
Conference: In Defense of the Commons: Challenges, Innovation and Action, the Seventeenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Lima, Peru
Conf. Date: July 1-5
Date: 2019
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/10627
Sector: Urban Commons
Subject(s): urban affairs
Abstract: "Urban land for housing issues in the Global South are more severe than ever. The rapid urban transition in emerging and developing countries results in a considerable and growing weight of precarious housing, in term of hazardous/inappropriate sites, legal status and construction qualities. Indeed, freehold land ownership, as defined by the Civil Code, and the land market to which it is linked, reinforce inequalities and is inaccessible to many urban dwellers. Then, vulnerable urban dwellers have no other option than accessing land through informal channel, being then under the threat of eviction by both public authorities and the market. No market-based approach (land sharing nor affordable housing or public housing) has proved able to significantly reduce the spread of slum condition. In parallel, time is at a massive dismantling of commons under the pressure of land commodification and environmental enclosures. The global urban sprawl is a major factor explaining the disappearance of commons. Within cities, a more commercial management of municipal public goods increase the trend. Our research program questions where and under which socio-political conditions alternative forms to private individualisation of property (titling and subdivision of land) are implemented to popular demand for housing and/or upgrading of existing precarious neighbourhoods. We use a commons perspective on land issues, giving priority to land use above land ownership, and to general interested prior to private interest of land owner, and preventing speculation. This paper presents preliminary results of our research programme on land-based urban commons for housing in the Global South, supported by the French Development Agency (2017-2019). In this research, urban land-based commons designate a range of situations where possession of a piece of land has a collective dimension and where land-use rights are organized, at least partially, by the community. They represent alternatives to individual private property and are considered as a mean of realizing the “social function of land”, namely a distribution of, and access to, land for purposes of housing for all. This research is based on several case studies in the Global South, conducted by local researchers: housing cooperatives in Burkina Faso, Community Land Trust-CLT in Kenya, collective land regularization processes in India, collective positive acquisition processes in Brazil, evolution of ejidos in Mexico, traditional land-based commons in New Caledonia, and housing cooperatives in Uruguay. In this paper, we present preliminary results. First, we highlight the diversity of land-based urban commons for housing, showing what is put in common – or not – within the housing development process. Second, we examine to what extent the land-based commons for housing contribute to fulfill the social function of land on an individual level (need for affordability, security of tenure, and participation). Third, we analyze issues of scale and reproduction in time and space."

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