Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Security of tenure in urban areas: Guidance Note for Humanitarian Practitioners

Stronger Cities Consortium

International Institute for Environment and Development



Since the majority of urban displaced live in informal settlements or in rental accommodation without formal lease agreements, tenure insecurity – the risk of forced eviction – is a defining feature of their lives. Finding housing solutions in emergencies in large cities is extremely complex.

Given the co-existence of different tenure arrangements, the informalities of housing markets and the constantly changing environment of urban areas, there is a distinct need to understand the tenure systems that exist, along with the broader factors that accompany them. However, there has been insufficient attention to security of tenure in humanitarian response, and humanitarians operating in urban areas face many challenges in designing interventions that support security of tenure.

The emergence of new programming modalities in recent years, particularly in humanitarian shelter and legal assistance, has generated useful learning. This forms the basis for this guidance note, which provides an overview of the key strategies for approaching tenure in urban humanitarian interventions. The aim is to assist humanitarians to consider ways to support security of tenure from the outset of a response.


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