Addressing gendered inequalities in access to land and housing
Introduction The well-being of urban residents depends on access to a suitable place to live, in a healthy environment, and within reach of work opportunities and services. To ensure that adequate housing is available and that it can fulfil its potential roles in tackling poverty and increasing prosperity, infrastructure, a flourishing urban economy, supportive social networks, and political voice are needed, as well as a house (a dwelling and the land on which it sits). While the availability of housing is determined by the market, policies, law, and practice, access to and control over it is unequally distributed between and within households. All are gendered. In particular, female heads of household are generally more disadvantaged than male heads, and women within families more disadvantaged than men, hindering the reduction of poverty and inequality overall. Many factors influence the availability of adequate housing; among the most salient are the supply channels for plots and dwellings, how effective demand is exercised, and the laws governing land and housing. First, therefore, this chapter examines the extent to which women can access suitable housing through the main delivery channels typical in southern cities. This includes appraising whether policy interventions influencing supply or demand, while intended to improve the operation of such channels, have had a positive impact on women’s access. Second, it assesses legal reforms intended to increase access to secure tenure, especially for women, and considers whether these have empowered them. Third, it discusses how laws relevant to housing delivery, as well as those governing marital relations and inheritance, affect households, and the men and women within them, and the ways these laws are influenced by social relations within and beyond the household. To prepare the ground, this chapter discusses the roles housing can play in livelihood strategies, the promotion of ownership as the preferred way of strengthening tenure rights, and the anticipated benefits of improved access to and control over housing for women. In each instance, a simplistic understanding is inadequate, because the central concepts are complex; land and housing are related to many other dimensions of urban life, governance, and policy; and the characteristics of urban populations, governance arrangements, policies, and
practices vary enormously from one country and city to another. The outcomes of attempts to improve women’s access to and control over land and housing are both complex and varied. Unfortunately, there are few rigorous comparative gendered analyses of urban land and housing markets, the advantages and disadvantages of alternative forms of tenure for women, and the outcomes of interventions designed to improve women’s access to suitable housing.1 It is therefore necessary to exercise caution in generalising from the results of the limited evidence available. Nevertheless, this chapter assesses the available literature and identifies issues that require further gendered research.