Land poses a major issue in the urbanization process in both developed and developing countries. On one hand, lack of land policies and clear regulations lead to uncoordinated city growth and the upsurge of informal settlements, while on the other hand, excessive regulations such as strict zoning – the organization of urban space in exclusive residential, commercial, or industrial areas – can result in urban sprawl and horizontal, low density expansion of urban spaces. Both situations inhibit the development of smart cities.
Likewise, neighbourhood redevelopment and slum upgrading programmes can only take place if land ownership and property issues are clarified. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task when dealing with informal human settlements where conventional land administration – the management of land tenure, valuation, use and development – often fails to deliver results and is tainted by questionable practices. Standard land tools and regulations remain inadequate in meeting the land needs of slums, where exact land parcels are difficult to identify, and land and property units often display overlapping and sometimes conflicting interests.
In many developing countries, urban land management is rendered dysfunctional due to fragmented services and institutions, corruption, and lengthy and costly procedures. In addition, many countries still address urban and rural land management through separate jurisdictions. Often city councils, national agencies, and ministries each carry out their land management mandates in an uncoordinated manner, adding layers of complexity in the form of formal, informal, and customary rules and practices.
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