By LUSUGA KIRONDE, 29th October 2011 @ 14:45, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 1050
In 2004, the Government of Tanzania through the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development (MLHHSD) embarked on a large project to issue residential licences to urban landowners in Dar es Salaam who had obtained land otherwise than through official channels.
This was in the wake of the successful implementation of the 20,000 plots project aimed at increasing the supply of planned and titled land in Dar es Salaam. The whole undertaking of issuing residential licences, was to be carried out in two phases in 2004/2005, and 2005/2006, each phase roughly covering half of the existing properties estimated to be 400,000.
The issuing of Residential Licences was formally launched at the Manzese in the City of Dar es Salaam on 9th May 2005. Eleven land occupiers (6 men, 5 women) were issued with Residential Licences and from thereon property owners were urged to report to Municipal authority offices to submit application forms and to collect residential licences over their property.
According to the speech given by the Minister for Lands Housing and human Settlements Development during the celebrations of this year’s Habitat Day (3rd October 2011), the residential licences project is going on in the cities of Dar es Salaam, Mwanza and Tanga, and in the Municipalities of Dodoma, Moshi, Arusha, and Morogoro; as well as in the town of Njombe.
In Dar es Salaam, some 221,443 houses in unplanned areas have been mapped and “recognised”, out of the 400,000 houses estimated as being in unplanned areas in the city. This latter figure, which was determined from aerial photographs in 2003, is possibly and under estimate of the current situation given the rapid construction that has taken especially in unplanned areas in Dar es Salaam since then.
Of more significance however is the fact mentioned in the Minister’s speech, that only 93,000 residential licences have been issued/collected. This figure has been rather constant since 2008 suggesting that the pace of property owners collecting residential licences has possibly dried up.
The Minister’s speech does not refer to the earlier target of completing the licencing of the 400,000 estimated properties in unplanned areas in Dar es Salaam in 2005/2006. The current situation suggests that not even half of the expected residential licences have been collected/issued. Indeed it does appear that Phase two of the residential licensing project has never been undertaken.
The residential licencing project had generated considerable interest within the international development community which is always on the lookout fro approaches that can be considered to be innovative. A number of studies have been undertaken and a number of delegations have visited the country to get a first glimpse of how the residential licences project is being implemented and with what kind of success.
The international; development community is always interested in way of formalising land which are cheap, fast and pro-poor, and which can assist hose in low income brackets to improve their lot eg by getting access to loans.
The residential licensing project will no doubt continue to appear in government reports, and a trickle of residential licences will continue to be issued. But can we say that this project is still some major developmental initiative to be reckoned with? Powers to grant a residential licence are to be found in section 23 of the Land Act 1999.
The provisions in s. 23 of the Land Act mean that occupiers of land in unplanned areas are deemed to have a licence of occupation from year to year and a local authority can grant an occupier of land in an unplanned area a residential licence for a minimum of 6 months to a maximum of two years, but this is renewable.
The authority may impose conditions that it deems fit and these could include payment of fees and other charges, or development or subdivision conditions. A licence is not granted on customary land (such as land in a registered village in an urban area), or over land over which a granted right of occupancy subsists.
While the licence is no assignable (i.e. it cannot be passed on to somebody else for their own use), it can be mortgaged. Conditions applying to the licensee apply as well to the licensee’s successor. According to Ministerial officials, the whole exercise of issuing a licence could be
accomplished in as few as twenty minutes, but since these licences are issued on behalf of the Commissioner for Lands by authorised officers, and are registered by an authorised officer on behalf of the Registrar of Titles, the process takes a bit longer.
Originally licences could be issued in 5 days but later on the days increased to 30. In response to complaints that the duration for the licence was too short, the period was extended to five years. Although a number of financial institutions have accepted the licence as collateral in issuing loans, the demand for these licences has remained low. Without a scientific research we can only speculate.
One, the belief that poor people will be quick to take up land titles or licences on the incentive that these will help them get access to loans, is possible exaggerated. Poor people have shown a high level of reluctance to use their property as collateral for getting loans. The fear is that real estate which may the largest and most secure investment that poor people have, can end up being taken over by the lenders in the case of failure to repay the loan.
For poor people, failing to repay the loan is almost 100% guaranteed, given the volatile economic situation in which socio-economic activities are taking place. Two, taking the residential licence exposes the property owner to a number of government charges and taxes including the cost to acquire the licences, annual land rent, property tax, and so on.
Development conditions imposed on land over which a residential licence has been issued is another disincentive. Some property owners reckoned that the residential licence was not as good as a full title. The short duration even afterit was extended to five years tended to augment this feeling. Of course the licence could be renewed but this is time consuming, and one can ask oneself, why the bother?
Those who see themselves as being bankable and have plans to apply for loans from financial institutions can go ahead and get their licences. Those who have no intention of getting loans have no incentive to take the licences up. May be time is now, for the government to conduct a study, to establish why the residential licences have been taken in such low numbers. We should not continue reporting about these licences without establishing the difficulties they do go through.
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