Informal land rights and infrastructure retrofit: A typology of land rights in informal settlements

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Informal settlements represent a challenging operational context for local government service providers due to precarious contextual conditions. Location choice and land procurement for public infrastructure raise the complicated question: who has the right to occupy, control, and use a piece of land in informal settlements? There is currently a dearth of intelligence on how to identify well-located land for public infrastructure, spatially and with careful consideration for safeguarding the claimed rights and preventing conflicts. Drawing on a case study of green infrastructure retrofit in seven informal settlements in Makassar, Indonesia, we classify the informal settlers’ land rights into four types: ownership, use, control, and management. This exploratory study uses a typological approach to investigate the spatial dimension of land rights in informal settlements. We introduce non-registrable land interests and the partial, dynamic, and informal land use rights that impact the land procurement for infrastructure retrofit. We also create a simple spatial matrix describing the control/power, responsibilities and land interests of different stakeholders involved in the location decision making for public infrastructure. We argue that without sufficient understanding of non-formal land rights, land procurement proposals for the public infrastructure upgrades can be frustrated by the individual or group claims on the land, making the service provision impossible in informal settlements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number273
Number of pages17
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Green infrastructure
  • Informal settlements
  • Infrastructure retrofit
  • Land rights
  • Land tenure
  • Morphological study
  • WASH

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