Economic Impact of Urban Property Rights in Tanzania: The Role of Infrastructure

Project Active from to Cities

Formalising land rights is thought to reduce expropriation risk, encourage investment  and, by enabling the collateral value of land, giving property owners increased access to credit. Despite these assumptions, few studies have examined the impact of property rights interventions in urban areas, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, while formal land titling is thought to have large implications for female welfare, little is known about how to ensure that women's stake in land is preserved and reinforced by land titling schemes.  This project is a randomized controlled trial which investigates the economic, gender and welfare implications of offering property rights to the residents of unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Whilst the government of Tanzania does provide a legal framework for urban households without a formal title to their land, over eighty percent of land in Dar es Salaam comprises informal, unplanned settlements. The Government has developed a strategy for implementing new land laws but progress is slow. To date the Government has issued Residential Licenses – only a two-year and non-transferable property right – to an estimated 60,000 of a total 400,000 properties in unplanned settlements. Full titles, known as Certificates of Right of Occupancy (CROs), are substantially more costly to provide, given requirements of planning and cadastral survey standards.

This project is investigating the consequences of expanding CRO access to two adjacent, unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam, one of which with a large infrastructure upgrading project currently underway. In collaboration with a local NGO (WAT), we are using economies of scale to bring down the cost of land titles, offering them to residents at this reduced cost with an extended repayment period. To identify credible treatment and control groups, blocks of land parcels were selected at random to receive these offers, although the programme will eventually be rolled out to the entire community.

In this extension of the original research project, we offer households in treatment groups randomly allocated vouchers to reduce the price if a land title. While some of these vouchers are general and can be used without condition, others are conditional and can only be used if a female household member is included as one of the owners in the households CRO application.

Our results suggest that conditional titles are highly successful in getting  households to co-title: households which receive any level of conditional subsidy decide to include a woman as an owner more than 90% of the time, but are no more likely to do so they were only offered a general subsidy.

Furthermore, while was  a concern that conditionality may deter some households, we find that households receiving a conditional subsidy were no less likely to purchase a CRO than those receiving general subsidies. Essentially, imposing conditionality results in more women being included as owners with no loss to overall demand. While this is encouraging, it does raise the concern that households are not treating this decision as if it has major bargaining power implications.

Studies in the past have found that overall titling has implications for gender outcomes such as household bargaining, but have been unable to separate the impact of titling from that of co-titling (including both husband and wife). In the future, the success of our intervention will allows us to identify the impact of joint-titling on a variety of intrahousehold outcomes.