There is an emerging consensus in recent research on urban land that informal settlements do not exist in a Hobbesian state of nature and that the processes through which households living therein access housing land are not anarchic but are structured and regulated by some form of social ordering. Starting from a legal pluralist standpoint, this paper analyses and explains the nature of the institutions that actually regulate and underpin land delivery processes in Kampala's informal settlements. By examining contemporary land access processes in three case study settlements, it is argued that in situations where actors in land delivery process are unable to deploy the often expensive and cumbersome formal approaches, institutions that are responsive to the local contexts have been developed and utilised. These non-state institutions are shown to be eclectic in nature, drawing on various normative orders, including state law, rules of market exchange, and customary practices. Their success in delivering large quantities of housing land is attributed to the social legitimacy they command, encapsulated by their general acceptance and respect by those whose relations they regulate.
Habitat International (2008) 32 (1) 109-20 [doi:10.1016/j.habitatint.2007.08.004]