Property Rights

The GHI assessment seeks to determine whether a country is

  • Reducing barriers to property or land ownership
  • Providing property titles or alternative documents
  • Protecting long-term squatter's rights
  • Implementing fair eviction practices
  • Avoiding slum clearance

Property rights – the recognition of people’s rights to own, occupy, and use housing and land – are an important indicator of economic prosperity. According to the United Nations, more than 1 billion of the world’s poorest people are living “illegally” and without protection from eviction from their homes. This lack of secure tenure makes it hard for families to obtain credit and invest in home improvements or home-based businesses. Often, they live on the margins of society, neglected by local governments that fail to provide basic services such as water and electricity. 

Full titling is one route some governments have taken to provide tenure security to residents.  But it is not always easy or practical to establish who owns what or has lived where for how long. And without accurate records, the certainty provided by titles is lost. However, alternatives to titles are possible.  These include long term leases, certificates of occupancy, community land trusts, and simple addressing. (This last example has been carried out in more than 50 African cities.)  These policies have been shown to provide the poor with the protection and security they need to invest in improvements in their homes and community.

Gender and property rights

The recognition of women’s equal legal right to land and property —regardless of marital status —has been the subject of a number of international conventions. Yet, in some countries, written law prevents a married woman from entering a contract without authorization from her husband or a male relative. In other countries, particularly in parts of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, gender equity laws appear on paper, but are ignored by customary practices that favor ownership and inheritance by distant male relatives over widows or female heirs.  In the countries covered thus far by the GHI, it was found that customary land practices in Mozambique, Uganda and Bangladesh sometimes result, in practice, in women being deprived the opportunity to own land.  In Latin America, poorly educated women of indigenous groups were reported to encounter discrimination when asserting their claim to certain lands. 







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