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Urban Tenure Security

A proposed approach to urban land tenure reform

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Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa

19 April 2021

Nelson Mandela Foundation


uKESA Librarian 3


South Africa

The Nelson Mandela Foundation commissioned a series of papers on urban land reform in April 2019. Their aim was to inform debate about and propose a feasible approach to urban land reform which could, in the near future, be implemented. This document is a summary of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute’s paper on urban tenure reform and provides the following starting points for such reform which both frame the debate and set the parameters for the proposals of:

  • Constitutional alignment
  • Protection against arbitrary eviction
  • The dominance of registered, individual title
  • Tenure diversity and tenure security continuum and
  • Recognition of off-register tenures

This paper (available in PDF) recommends that off-register rights in informal settlements and inner-city occupied buildings should be increasingly recognised through legal and administrative means. Three possible options exist:

  • Implement options for legal and administrative recognition of occupation
  • Legalise unlawful land use
  • Develop local land records


Framing administrative or legal mechanisms may require the innovative application, and perhaps enhancement or adaptation, of existing laws and practices. Planning law and local land management arrangements are generally useful starting points. Options for legal and administrative recognition include municipal council resolutions, extending infrastructure, provision of basic services, occupation letters, occupancy registers, shack enumerations, block layouts, utility bills, and so forth.

Full report download here



Abstract based on source.


Website References

Basic services

Built environment


Human settlements



Land tenure





South Africa

Tenure security


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