A Value Chain Framework for Affordable Housing in
low/moderate-income majority of developing countries creates
enormous potential demand for many types of goods and services
(World Resources Institute and International Finance Corporation,
2006) – from cement to home credit. However, designing, marketing,
and delivering products for this market requires understanding the
settlement and shelter problem of low/moderate-income families.
one-sixth of the world's population – one billion people – live in
urban slums in emerging countries. In addition, virtually all net
growth of 2.6 billion in world population between now and 2050 is
projected to occur in these cities. In effect, relatively poor
nations will build the equivalent of a city of more than one million
people each week for the next 45 years. Absent major change, the
bulk of this new development will occur informally without
integration into mainstream markets at tremendous public and private
cost. A long history of government slum upgrading, sites and
services, and other heavily-subsidized programs offers little hope
for dealing with this emergency. While government inevitably plays
an important function, new market-based approaches to affordable
housing are essential to reach the massive scale commensurate with
the enormous demand (Ferguson, 2007).
This issue of
Global Urban Development Magazine has resulted from a
collaboration of this magazine with Ashoka – an
international organization devoted to social entrepreneurship – to
assemble a series of papers that focus on the role of the private
sector in meeting the affordable housing and urban development
challenge. As a preface to these papers, this introduction presents
a framework for analyzing the complex housing problem and the
extremely high-cost methods used by most low/moderate-income
households in emerging countries to get shelter. This examination
suggests that modern management strategies well suit the challenge
squeezing the costs out of the low/moderate income
housing process through creating “value chains” consisting of
innovative packages of
products and services. Involving citizen-sector organizations
(variously called “NGOs”, “nonprofits”, and “the social sector” ) in
marketing and delivery can build the trust necessary for modern
companies to reach low-income people with these housing packages,
resulting in “hybrid” value chains (Ashoka, 2007).
Value Chain Framework for Meeting the Affordable Housing Challenge
Roughly 70% of the
world’s population in developing countries (Ferguson, 2003) access
shelter through “progressive housing.” In high-income countries, a
sophisticated system of mortgage finance, title companies, real
estate brokers, developers, and others allows the great bulk of
households to purchase or rent a complete unit.
In contrast, most
of the low/moderate-income majority of emerging nations cannot
afford a mortgage loan to purchase the least expensive
commercially-built home, formal rental markets are poorly developed,
and – instead – households must build their housing themselves.
This “self built”, “incremental”, or “progressive” housing accounts
for the bulk of housing investment in most emerging countries.
For example, Table
1 analyzes investment in new housing in Brazil.
Table 1 - Methods
of Production and Finance of New Brazilian Housing Per Annum
financed by household
2005 from Ferguson, Cherkezian, and Motta 2007.
In terms of volume,
the mode of housing that is the norm in advanced industrialized
countries – industrialized construction financed by credit –
accounts for only $2.4 billion Brazilian Reais (Box 2a + Box 2b;
one US dollar = 3 Brazilian Reais during this period) and 3.2% of
total housing investment. In comparison, self-financed progressive
housing accounts for R. $48 billion (Box 1a) and 62% of new
Brazilian housing investment.
As many of the
steps occur outside of formal institutions and legal markets, the
bulk of progressive housing is “informal.” In particular, the
start of the progressive housing process through land invasions and
informal subdivisions typically places the resulting neighborhoods
outside of the formal land-use and building process.
seeking to go downmarket have also incorporated progressive-building
techniques into their business. For example, most
commercially-built moderate-income housing in Latin America consists
of a core expandable unit without fixtures and finishing that
families must expand and complete, typically in programmed steps.
represents the only affordable approach to shelter for most
low-income households and many moderate-income families. This
method often meets the immediate needs of these households far
better than publicly-sponsored formally-developed housing. The
advantages of progressive informal development typically include
much quicker access, lower entry costs, more flexible monthly
payments, location closer to jobs better suited to households’
survival strategies, the ability to customize the construction of units to fit households’ needs and
resources, and proximity of friends and family. Not
progressive informal housing usually
out-competes formal markets except when government bulldozes these
settlements or actively eliminates them through other heavy-handed
means. As emerging countries have democratized, the wholesale
eradication of informal settlements, which contain much of the
electorate, has become politically impossible.
progressive housing development accounts for the bulk of new
residential units in most emerging countries. The UN (UNCHS 2003)
estimates that urban “slums” – which represent a part but not all of
progressive housing development – contain 72% of the population of
Sub-Saharan African cities, 59% of South-Central Asian cities, and
24% to 36% of the cities of other developing regions (other parts of
Asia, North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania).
However, the negatives of progressive housing are as striking as its
positives. The process is typically highly inefficient and long,
and exacts tremendous public and private costs over time. These
eventual expenses overwhelm the upfront benefits when public and
private institutions fail to serve these markets, as is typically
Table 2 analyzes
and describes progressive housing. The first column of this table
lists the steps in the process and its overall characteristics in
order to develop a framework for creating and assessing affordable
home products and projects. Column 2 of this table provides
illustrative quantitative estimates of the costs involved. Column 3
summarizes the goods and services necessary to streamline and
squeeze the costs out of this process. In the context of the
emerging literature on the topic of progressive housing (Ferguson,
2003; Ashoka, 2006; Greene, Margarita and Eduardo Rojas, 2008),
this framework innovates in its cost estimates, level of detail, and
usefulness as a tool to create and assess affordable home products
of the private sector
as well as public-sector programs and projects.
Thus, the affordable housing/urban
upgrading challenge involves many
different interacting factors. Solving one of these
difficulties in isolation has limited positive impact. For
example, “sites and services” projects -- the most common low-income
land program of many governments -- usually provide a building lot
with “starter” infrastructure but include neither the building
materials to construct a unit nor the inputs necessary to
consolidate the infrastructure and the community over time.
Predictably, sites and services projects usually suffer from partial
occupation for long periods and end up benefiting many middle-income
households that buy a lot for speculation rather than the poor.
characteristics, costs, and goods and services for streamlining
Description and cost impact
Goods and services necessary to streamline process and reduce costs
1. Acquisition and occupancy of a lot
Physically occupy lot
b. Pay for
infrastructure (e.g. communal
standpipes/wells or “tanker” water, dirt roads, electricity)
d. Construct an initial makeshift shelter
Occupation of public land. Professional organizers – sometimes in
conjunction with public officials – assemble groups of
households, conduct these land invasions, and charge
households for these services. Often, these organizers or
other local bosses continue to charge households for access
to their land and services in informal settlements.
local mafias control energy distribution in the favelas of
Rio de Janeiro, and add a surcharge of 10% to its cost.
Purchase of a lot of raw land in an informal subdivision. Informal
developers purchase rural land on the urban fringe,
subdivide the parcel into as many lots as possible without
adding infrastructure, and then sell the lots to households
at many multiples the price of acquisition, partially
capturing the value of subsequent infrastructure
improvements and collective services provided by government.
Example: In Bogota, “pirate developers” sell raw lots of
72 Mts2 to low-income households for
US $ 2,000-
that is, at
almost US $28 per square meter (M2). In comparison, these
pirate developers buy rural land in Bogota in the areas
where illegal development predominates at less than 5% this
amount - US $1.20 M2. (Maldonado, 2007).
Households in informal settlements acquire some basic services via
clandestine connections or by paying private suppliers.
However, the quality of these services is low, the price is
typically many times that of formally-provided service, and
households often must bribe public officials to get or
continue to allow these clandestine services.
Privately-supplied water is 5 to 10 times the cost of
publicly-supplied water in Karachi’s informal settlements
and supplied by the infamous “tanker mafia” (Azfar and
Rahman). Low quality and high cost also characterize the
provision of electricity, sanitation and other services to
informally settled areas in Jamaica compared with those of
formal-sector development (Ferguson, 1996).
Formally-developed subdivisions with “starter” services (e.g.
collective water and a gravel road network) located near
trunk infrastructure lines.
Upgrading property tenure to achieve security of occupation
Maintain physical control of the lot
Achieve secure tenure
Initially, households typically lack secure tenure to their lot, and
invest considerable amounts in time and money over long
periods to maintain their tenuous rights and to hold it
physically (Durand-Laserve, A and L. Royston, 2002; Habitat
for Humanity International, 2008).
Example: Studies have shown that women in Peru sacrifice
their participation in labor markets outside the home in
informal settlements largely in order to occupy the property
physically in order to deter other claims to it, and that
the main benefit of tenure regularization programs is to
free up women's time (Morris).
The cost of achieving full legal tenure varies widely among countries
and within countries depending on the practices of local
jurisdictions and the effectiveness of reforms, and is often
less than the benefit to low/moderate income households.
Examples: the full costs of registering title are US$400
to US$700 in Argentina (World Bank, 2006a), US $2,156 in
Peru before title-system reform and US $200 after
title-system reform (Morris, 2004), $2,500 in the Dominican
Republic (Zanelli, 2008). Even after title reform in Peru
greatly reduced the cost of full legal title to rates
affordable to low-income families, however, households value
formal title no more than many types of paralegal tenure
that cost less and, as a result, fail to register new
purchase agreements, allowing
the property to revert to informality (Morris).
Some cities and countries have created stable systems of secure
In Caracas, Venezuela, where around 60% of owner-occupants
hold title to their property (located mainly on occupied
public land) informally, a para-legal system of
“supplemental title” (titulo supletorio) gives households
effective security of tenure. Families can register this
supplemental title to the improvements on the property – as
opposed to the land, which, in theory, remains public – for
free with the municipality once the application is prepared
by a lawyer. Lawyers typically charge US $80 to $95 for
this service, although public-service lawyers are available
that will prepare this document for free for the poorest
households that cannot afford even this sum. More commonly,
security of tenure must be achieved on a case-by-case basis
that varies with each informal settlement’s legal and
Provision of basic infrastructure
a. Upgrading (e.g. road network, paving, drainage)
b. Adequate sanitation (improved pit latrines or sewerage)
Retrofitting irregularly-settled neighborhoods to provide basic
infrastructure typically costs two to three times as much as
provision to formal-sector and planned development.
cost of provision of basic infrastructure to informal
settlement in Sao Paulo was US $3,540 per unit, compared to
that for formal-sector development of US $1,300 (Abiko et.
al., 2007); cost of provision of basic infrastructure to
informal settlement in Bogota was $3,362 per unit, compared
to that for formal-sector development of $1,100 to $1,350
per unit (Metrovivienda, 2003); informal settlement also
required US $572 per unit, on average, of extra costs for
public works to mitigate risk of emergencies and disasters,
titling, and relocation of a portion of residents. In
Karachi, the capital cost of piped water supply, underground
sanitation, electricity and roads was 1.8 times higher in a
typical large informal settlement than a planned one (Azfar
and Rahman, 2004).
Typically, the last service to be provided is piped sewerage and
treatment and many low and moderate income neighborhoods
never receive sewerage because of its high cost. A much
less expensive alternative is improved pit latrines.
Lobbying for and brokering infrastructure and collective services from
various levels of government and private sector
Organizing the community to help maintain and pay for installed
infrastructure and collective services (e.g. cleaning
drains, operating community centers)
Construction of the house structure
and expansion of unit of owner occupant
accessory units and spaces for relatives and rental income
of progressive house construction and improvement is long
and wasteful. Example:
In Mexico, the construction of a 9 square meter space (size
of a typical bedroom) typically takes 4 years and costs 30%
more because of waste in loss and poor use of construction
materials, inadequacies of design, and mistakes (CEMEX).
Household mix their own labor with that of specialized
construction workers to the extent that they can afford it.
For construction of a basic two bedroom house, the process
typically takes 13 years if unassisted.
unassisted, households frequently make technical mistakes in
planning or construction that substantially raise final
costs or result in lower quality.
Example: focus groups of
low-income progressive homebuilders in Brazil show that they
often end up with asymmetric walls that lean to one side
(Cities Alliance and Municipality of Sao Paulo, 2007) and
other serious quality problems. These Brazilian households
are willing to pay for technical assistance and want credit
for specialized labor ..
Packages of high quality building materials.
Technical assistance in design, budgeting, and construction of houses
Market information on the type of home improvement and upgrading of
property tenure that increases home values.
Finance of steps in progressive housing process
a. Household savings vehicles
b. Small serial short-term credit for:
-purchase of lot
-infrastructure provision and connection
-expansion and improvement of structure
The finance of the steps in progressive housing – such as purchase of a
lot, tenure upgrading, and construction of the house -
occurs mostly through household savings (Mitlin 2008)
supplemented by small credits. However, low-income
households typically pay very high rates both to save and to
borrow. Example: the most widespread form of savings –
informal savings clubs – carry substantial costs; that is,
households get back significantly less than they put in;
Rutherford’s seminal study on the savings of the poor
calculates that households typically pay 30% per annum to
the organizers of informal savings and credit clubs (called
“Accumulating Savings and Credit Associations” -- ASCAs --
in the microfinance literature) in order to save. When
households open accounts at formal-sector financial
institutions, the interest rate paid is often negative in
real terms (taking into account inflation); In addition,
the institution charges fees for services, and the saver
must pay for transport and spend time to make deposits and
withdrawals. The most widely available source of small
credits for low-income households consists of informal
moneylenders, which typically charge very high rates of
interest – 180% per annum is not uncommon (Rutherford, p.
19). Alternatively, informal savings and credit clubs
charge, in effect, somewhat less for credit to participating
members; 80% per annum is an illustrative rate (Ibid, p.
24). The most efficient form of savings and credit for the
poor – Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCAs) -
where all households contribute a set amount each month and
one household “wins” the pot every month based on a lottery
– carry effective lending rates that are much lower, but
still substantial; Rutherford’s example of a typical ROSCA
results in credit at 26% per annum (Ibid, p. 28).
Organizing groups of households
to save for home upgrading
Saving vehicles that create discipline
and give a
positive real interest rate
A range of credit including: microfinance; supplier and consumer
developers and building materials retailers; and small
mortgage loans; not only for building materials but also
for specialized technical labor.
Building community institutions to combat insecurity
of neighborhood groups
b. Local and international NGOs support neighborhood groups
Neighborhood groups and NGOs partner with public and private
sector to increase security
Crime, violence, and “insecurity.” Irregularly-settled neighborhoods
have substantially higher levels of insecurity, and poorer
health than other neighborhoods of households of a similar
socio-economic profile. Strengthening and working with
women’s role and citizen sector organizations is key to
building trust, reducing insecurity, and selling appropriate
packages of products in these neighborhoods.
Examples: 70% of surveyed residents of one consolidated
irregularly settled informal low-income community in Karachi
had been victims of violence or robbery in this area,
compared to only 2% in a planned low-income community with
comparable demographics (Azfar and Rahman, 2004). In
Jamaica, residents of many irregularly-settled communities
are unable to get jobs as a result of the bad reputation of
their neighborhoods (Ferguson, 1996).
Organizing community associations and funding sources to operate them.
Developing women's networks to market goods and services
Community centers with daycare and youth facilities
Agreements with the police and other authorities that enhance security
Investment in street lighting and local police stations
Key questions -- extent to which:
a.. …project/product meets demand/need?
b. …revenues cover expenses?
c. …project/product is independent of uncertain actions
or subsidies of government?
d. …project/product improves or avoids damaging the
Location relative to existing infrastructure,
services, and jobs
a. …project is distant from existing infrastructure
lines, services, and jobs?
…this distance increases costs?
…these costs are borne by government?
a. …product/project is affordable/targeted to
When government programs succeed in integrating a sufficient
number of steps to be truly useful to households, they tend to
involve large subsidies per family and become boutique showcases –
successful for a well-connected or lucky few but financially
unsustainable if expanded to a substantial share of the population.
Because of these high subsidy amounts, government affordable housing
projects are seldom market-based and have limited scope.
No wonder that informal progressive housing development has
been called a “devil’s bargain” and labeled as the principal agent
in creating a “planet of slums” (Davis).
In this context, modern management methods – particularly a
“hybrid value chain” approach (Ashoka, 2006) – well suit organizing,
streamlining, and squeezing the costs out of the progressive housing
process. Broadly, a “value chain” consists of
delivery of a mix of products and services to the end customer by
different economic actors resulting in new business models that cut
costs and/or enhance worth. The industry-wide synchronized
interactions of those local value chains create a “value system”
(Michael Porter, 1985).
high costs that represent problems from the perspective of
households and government constitute enormous potential markets for
housing goods and services from the point of view of companies. For
example, Figure 1 broadly quantifies the opportunity for
construction materials sales, in general, and cement producers, in
particular, in low-income housing in Brazil (Ashoka, 2007).
estimates are a highly useful complement to the perspective of
households (that of “demand” – column 2 of Table 2). In
particular, they demonstrate that ample markets do, indeed, exist at
the bottom of the pyramid in housing and turn affordable housing and
community upgrading from “problems” and “deficits” to be addressed
mainly by government subsidies of limited scope into business
opportunities for products and services capable of expanding to
taking only a supplier view – particularly one focused
on one product or service of a particular company – over-simplifies
the problem and the task of designing products for this segment, and
under-estimates the market that can be created by solving sections
of it. In order to
design products and assess markets accurately,
companies must also examine low-income housing from
of households and view their main product or service
within the family’s overall housing problem. Good examples of such
investigations include the market studies of CEMEX in Mexico
(Michigan Business School, 2003) and Corona in Colombia
(Trujillo-Cardenas and Gutierrez, 2006) that have informed the
design of their bottom-of-the-pyramid products.
The key to creating
value and, thus, markets in affordable housing is not only to lower
the costs of each of its steps but also, more importantly, to
innovate and join products and
services together into new business models that
address larger segments of the problem. To this end,
column 3 of Table 2 lists products and services that can help reduce
costs, particularly when assembled. For example, a company that not
only offers high-quality, low-cost building materials but also
provides competitive credit to purchase these building materials
will create much greater effective demand than separate provision of
these products without coordination.
Figure 1 --
Estimate of the Construction Material Market Opportunity
in Low Income
Housing in Brazil
Broadening this package
to include remittance services (for sending money from family members in
other countries to help their relatives invest in housing), savings
vehicles with positive real rates of interest that organize and
encourage families to set aside money regularly for home construction,
and technical guidance for the design and construction process will
expand the total market still further. Such packages will displace
high-cost suppliers of these inputs -- i.e., the savage informal
markets that make progressive housing many times more expensive than
For example, CEMEX has found that selling only cement fails to reach
effectively the self-help housing market in Mexico, which constitutes
40% of sales and withstands downturns much better than the formal-sector
cement market. Instead, this company discovered that it must provide a
complete housing solution at low cost through joining microcredit, a
savings program, technical assistance in design and building, and other
building-materials with cement in its well-known bottom-of-the-pyramid
program, Patrimonio Hoy. In effect, Cemex has created a
product/service package for low-income households to build their home in
two to three years rather than 16 years (the median for self-help
housing in Mexico). The company projects serving one million Mexicans
under this program by 2010 and has recently added remittance services
and product/service packages to build neighborhood streets and schools
to this core self-help housing product.
The synergy created by product/service packages holds much greater
importance than competing on price alone on one product. In effect,
households value this synergy over deep discounts. For example, Cemex
and Corona offer their central product (cement and floor tiling,
respectively) at competitive rates but not the lowest cost and avoid
Although modern companies well suit the provision of packages of
high-quality inputs to squeeze costs out of the progressive housing
process, they typically have little direct access to poor communities,
which they find dangerous and difficult places in which to work, and to
low-income people, who usually do not trust them. As a result,
citizen-sector organizations can perform an important function at
critical junctures in the value chain. In the words of Corona, a
Colombian building materials manufacturer and retailer with a
bottom-of-the-pyramid product for poor communities, “we cannot work in
these places directly and channel our products through NGOs. ”
The roles suited to citizen-sector organizations include empowering
households and the community as well as marketing and delivery of the
product/service package. CEMEX and Corona employ neighborhood women as
sales representatives for these functions. CEMEX’s networks of female
sales reps has proved crucial in overcoming the resignation of
low-income households to the length and the high cost of typical
self-help housing and in motivating families to participate in a program
to build their homes in 24 to 36 months rather than 16 years. While
mass media (radio, television) fail to reach these neighborhoods, the
local women sales reps of Corona and CEMEX have generated a steady
expanding volume of business for their bottom-of-the-pyramid
Consequently, a “hybrid” value system that joins the strengths of
for-profit modern companies with those of citizen-sector organizations
can best deliver affordable housing products (Ashoka, 2006). For
similar reasons, citizen-sector organizations also can provide the
critical intelligence and relationships to use public subsidies well in
these neighborhoods. Although citizen-sector organizations can play a
role throughout the progressive housing process, they can contribute
most to “building community institutions and combating insecurity” --
step 6 of Table 2. For-profit firms typically focus on selling
product/service packages to build houses and then exit. In comparison,
citizen-sector organizations stay involved in consolidating the
community, which -- in effect -- expands markets long-term. The
long-term stewardship of citizen-sector organizations can create
enormous public and private benefits. Increasingly, modern companies
recognize the strength by involving and supporting nonprofits in their
bottom- of-the-pyramid programs. The size and collective nature of
these benefits also justifies public support of effective NGOs.
is a consultant and former Senior Housing and Urban Economist at the
World Bank, and a member of the Advisory Board of Global Urban
Development. He previously served as an Urban Development and Housing
Project Officer at the Inter-American Development Bank, and
has published widely on housing and
urban development in developing countries and the U.S.
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and H. C. Riogi Haga, “Basic Costs of Slum Upgrading in Brazil” in
Freire, M, R. Lima, D. Cira, B.
Ferguson, C Kessides, J. Mota, and D. Motta, Land and Urban Policies
for Poverty Reduction. World Bank and Brazilian Institute of
Economic and Administrative Studies (IPEA). Washington, DC.. 2007.
Ashoka. Opportunity for Building
Materials Manufacturers and Retailers in Low-Income Housing in Brazil.
Internal Document/Presentation. Arlington, Virginia: Ashoka. 2007.
Housing the Poor; Engaging
the Private and Citizensector's: Social Innovations and“Hybrid Value
Chains”. Authors: Valeria Budinich and Stephanie Schmidt.
Arlington, Virginia: Ashoka. 2006.
Azfar. A. and A. Rahman. Housing the Urban Poor.
Acumen Fund. April 2004
Booz/Allen/Hamilton. Construcao Civil – Evolucao e Desafios,
presentation at Forum Nacional da Sustentabilidade da Construcao Civil
ABRAMAT. Sao Paulo: 21 Nov. 2005.
Cities Alliance and Municipality of Sao Paulo.
de Viabilidade de Implantacao de Um Programa de Microcredito
Habitacional na Cidade de Sao Paulo.
Sao Paulo: Municipality of Sao Paulo. October, 2007.
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Countries. London: Earthscan Publications. 2002
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Ferguson, Bruce. "New Approaches to Progressive Housing in Latin
America; a Key to Habitat Programs and Policy", in Habitat
International, London, Pergamon Press, March 2003.
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Motta, Land and Urban Policies for Poverty Reduction. World Bank
and Brazilian Institute of Economic and Administrative Studies (IPEA).
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International Urban Research Symposium by Mila Freire. November 2007.
Greene, Margharita and Eduardo Rojas. “Incremental construction: a
strategy to facilitate access to housing” in Environment and
Urbanization, London: international Institute for environment and
development. March 2008.
Habitat for Humanity International. Secure Tenure. Draft
document. Washington D.C., 2008
Maldonado, Maria Mercedes. “The Nuevo
Usme and Pereira Projects: Mobilization of Land Value Increments for
Provision of Serviced Land for Social Housing” in Freire, M, R. Lima,
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Urban Policies for Poverty Reduction. World Bank and Brazilian
Institute of Economic and Administrative Studies (IPEA).
Washington, DC.. 2007.
Diana and Roberto Gutierrez. “Citizenship above Consumerism: Colombia’s
Colceramica” in Revista, Fall 2006.
UNCHS (United Nations
Human Settlements Programme), The Challenge of Slums. London:
Earthscan Publications. 2004.
World Bank. Review of Argentina's Housing Sector.
Team leader: Maryse Gautier. 2006a.
World Resources Institute and International Finance
Corporation. “Chapter 6 -- The Housing Market” in The Next 4
Billion; Market Size in Business Strategy at the Base of the Pyramid,
Washington, D.C. 2006.
Zanelli, Maria Luisa. Achieving Land Titles in the
Dominican Republic: Habitat's Initiative for Land Regularization and
Ttitling. Report prepared for Habitat for Humanity international.
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