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Fit for Purpose Parcel Mapping Methodologies for a Seamless Cadastre Database

Feb 2017 | No Comment
Parcel mapping that ensures secure land tenure for a large percentage of a nation’s citizens can be produced at an acceptable and Fit-for-purpose level of accuracy using general boundary survey techniques that are a small fraction of the cost of parcel mapping created
using fixed boundary survey techniques. We present here first part of the paper

Jack McKenna

Director, Business Development in Africa and the Caribbean, Trimble Land, Administration Solutions

The joint FIG/World Bank Publication states that Fit-for-purpose means that the land administration systems – and especially the underlying spatial framework of large scale mapping – should be designed for the purpose of managing current land issues within a specific country or region – rather than simply following more advanced technical standards. The Fit-for-purpose approach is participatory and inclusive – it is fundamentally a human rights approach. Benefits relate to the opportunity of building appropriate land administration systems within a relatively short time and for relatively low and affordable costs.

Land Administration Visionaries

Few would dispute (though some surely do) that Torrens and De Soto are two pioneering visionaries in the land administration field. Torrens was responsible for the establishment of the Land Registry of England and Wales in 1862 and de Soto, in large part through the publication of his ground breaking book, The Mystery of Capital, alerted us to the mountain of dead capital that exists within the developing countries of the world.

Sir Robert Richard Torrens

Born in 1814 in Cork, Ireland, Torrens travelled to South Australia with his wife in 1840. He became collector of customs and quickly gained a reputation for unorthodox practices: in his first year he was censured for reducing wharfage rates without authority, carelessness with pay lists, unauthorised absences and not supporting some of Governor Sir George Grey’s policies. Despite his cavalier political and business practices during his appointment as colonial treasurer and registrar-general, he was a nominated member of the Legislative Council between 1851 and 1857 and member of the Executive Council in 1855.

In 1856, the South Australian Register published the first report and outline of a Torrens bill. Although he claimed authorship of the system, it’s clear that it had been an evolutionary process and was not his achievement alone. He stood for the seat of Adelaide in the 1857 House of Assembly election and won, purely for his land titles reform policies. He continued work on the bill while treasurer between October 1856 and August 1857, but no action was taken on the bill while he was Premier in September 1857. Despite strong opposition to the bill, it passed through both houses on 27 January 1858.

Torrens became Registrar-General in 1858 and, until his return to England in 1862 to enter politics, he helped turn the Act into a workable system, infl uencing public opinion and organising petitions to parliament. In England he served in the House of Commons and continued to lobby for adoption of his title system in England and Wales. (Victoria State, 2012)

Hernando de Soto

Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto’s message to the developing countries of the world and their donors is a simple one: Enable poor people to register their property so that they can borrow against it to build businesses, buy farming equipment, seed and fertilizer and for other purposes. Millions of citizens of developing countries do not have formal title to their land and De Soto believes that this is a key source of rural and urban poverty. According to de Soto, the value of un-registered land in developing countries totals over US$9 trillion. As a result of not registering their land, their most under-utilized and prized possession, they cannot convert their asset into collateral for loans.

De Soto and the importance of Secure Land Tenure

Between half and three quarters of a country’s wealth can be comprised of land and buildings. Securing land tenure through creation of a property title can significantly increase property values and subsequent investments. de Soto’s book The Mystery of Capital attempts to explain why capitalism has triumphed in the west and failed everywhere else. The following extracts from that book offer powerful arguments to support his theories.

“The major stumbling block that keeps the rest of the world from benefiting from capitalism is its inability to produce capital. Capital is the force that raises the productivity of labor and creates the wealth of nations and it is the one thing that the poor countries of the world cannot produce for themselves.

Even in the poorest countries, people save and accumulate wealth. In Egypt, for instance, the wealth that the poor have accumulated is worth fifty-five times as much as the sum of all direct foreign investment ever recorded there, including the Suez Canal and the Aswan Dam. But the poor hold their resources in defective forms: houses built on land whose ownership rights are not adequately recorded, unincorporated businesses with undefined liability and industries located where financiers and investors cannot see them. Because the rights of these possessions are not adequately documented, these assets cannot readily be turned into capital, traded or used as collateral for a loan.

The formal property system is where capital is born. Once the focus is on the title to a house and not on the house itself, it is possible to go beyond viewing the house as mere shelter (a dead asset) and to see it as live capital.

In the West, by contrast, every parcel of land, every building, every piece of equipment or store of inventories is represented in a property document that is the visible sign of a vast hidden process that connects all these assets to the rest of the economy. These assets can be used as collateral for credit. The single most important source of funds for new business in the United States is a mortgage on the entrepreneur’s house. These assets also provide a link to the owner’s credit history, an accountable address (universally available from what3words.com, 2015) for the collection of debts and taxes, the basis for the creation of reliable and universal public utilities and a foundation for the creation of securities (like mortgage backed bonds) that can then be rediscounted and sold in secondary markets. By this process the West injects life into assets and makes them generate capital. Americans and Europeans established widespread formal property law and invented the conversion process in that law that allowed them to create capital.

Without formal property representation or law, the assets to be found in Third World and former communist nations are dead capital. The inhabitants of these nations have houses, but not titles; crops but not deeds; businesses but not statutes of incorporation and they have not been able to produce sufficient capital to make their domestic capitalism work.

The laws and the institutional frameworks of the West do not work in Third World and former communist countries where the rules that govern property can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood or even from street to street.” (de Soto, 2000)

Before the Torrens System

Before the Torrens system was introduced in 1862, a General Law title system operated that consisted of a chain of title deeds all of which had to be in place to enable a property to be transferred. Title deeds are documents that show ownership, as well as rights, obligations, or mortgages on a property. A General Law title could have many deeds, many of which were handwritten, not always legibly.

In colonial times, there was often confusion with the General Law title system, particularly if one or more deeds were misplaced. Because all deeds had to be made available when a property changed ownership there would be serious problems if a deed was missing. The General Law title system depended on proof of an unbroken chain of deeds back to the original grant. This chain was made up of all the documents involved in every sale, resale or mortgage of the property.

Torrens created a central registry where all transfers of land are recorded in the register, thereby producing a single title with a unique number (or folio) that also records easements, mortgages and discharges of mortgage.

What is the Torrens Title System?

The Torrens title system is a secure and reliable method of recording and registering land ownership and interests. Established in South Australia in 1858, the then revolutionary and efficient land titling system was adopted throughout Australia and New Zealand, and subsequently spread across the world. Countries now using the system include, among others, England and Wales, Ireland, Trinidad and Tobago, Malaysia, Singapore, Iran, Canada and Madagascar.

The Torrens title system works on three principles:

1. The land titles Register accurately and completely refl ects the current ownership and interests about a person’s land.

2. Because the land titles Register contains all the information about the person’s land, it means that ownership and other interests do not have to be proved by long complicated documents, such as title deeds.

3. Government guarantee provides for compensation to a person who suffers loss of land or a registered interest. (Victoria State, 2012)

UK Land Register Rules (LTR 1898) – Maps and Verbal Descriptions of Land (Fixed Boundary and General Boundary Surveying)

It appears that in 1898 the UK Land Registry was not about to become entangled in a discussion of the pros and cons of general boundary versus fixed boundary surveying methodologies. Rather, their focus seemed to be squarely on getting properties into the revenue-generating register as quickly and affordably as possible by either method. As might be expected, revenue was the driving force in the establishment of the Land Registry.

Rule 209. The ordnance map, on the largest scale published, shall be the basis of all registered descriptions of land.

Author note: The UK Ordnance Survey national coverage map series consists of 1:1,250 (urban), 1:2,500 periurban) and 1:10,000 mapping (rural). In the past, 1:10,560 (6 inches to I mile) scale mapping was also used.

Rule 210. The notes on the plan, if sufficiently exhaustive, will in many cases render a verbal description of the land on the register unnecessary, but a schedule in the case of large estates should at any rate be added.

Rule 211. If it is desired to indicate on the filed plan, or otherwise to define in the register, the precise position of the boundaries of the land or any parts thereof notice shall be given to the owners and occupiers of the adjoining lands, in each instance, of the intention to ascertain and fix the boundary, with such plan, or tracing, or extract from the proposed verbal description of the land as may be necessary, to show clearly the fixed boundary proposed to be registered; and any question of doubt or dispute arising therefrom shall be dealt with as provided by these Rules.

Rule 212. When the position and description of the boundaries of the land have been thus ascertained and determined, the necessary particulars shall be added to the filed plan, which shall be the Property Register.

Rule 213. Except in cases in which the fixed boundary of the land has been thus ascertained the map shall be deemed to indicate the general boundaries only. In such cases the exact line of the boundary will be left undetermined (as for instance whether it runs along the centre of a wall or fence, or its inner or outer or how far it runs within or beyond it; or whether or not the land registered extends to the centre of an adjoining road or stream). When a general boundary only is desired to be entered in the register, notice to the owners of the adjoining lands need not be given. The result of this Rule is that, where the boundary is left undetermined, no indemnity will be given if the dispute is confined to the general boundary line.

Rule 214. Where, and so far as, physical boundaries or boundary marks do not exist, the fullest available particulars of the boundaries shall be· added to the plan. This Rule appears to be applicable whether a precise boundary is fixed or not. (Benjamin, Marigold, 1899)

Author note: The UK Land Registry system, and its exclusive use of 1:1,250, 1:2,500 and 1:10,000 national map coverage for creation of the cadastre, is worthy of consideration of adoption by developing countries as a Fit-for-purpose parcel mapping model for creation of a seamless cadastre database. It was obvious to the pioneering UK Land Registry, even in 1862, that accurate topographic mapping in conjunction with a hybrid of general boundary and fixed boundary surveying methodologies, was eminently Fit-for-purpose.

Converting Dirt to Gold: How to Create Capital for Millions of People in Developing Countries

Millions of the world’s poor have assets in the form of houses, crops and businesses, yet they cannot create capital from them. One reason they are not able to leverage their assets is due to the lack of a formal property system. Or, on the other hand, there is a formal property system that operates under corruption-ridden, complex, expensive and pro-wealthy rules. Too much land is in the hands of too few people in developing countries and by some estimates, putting land measuring as little as one tenth of an urban acre, or one or two rural acres, in the hands of the poor in developing countries is sufficient to break the cycle of poverty.

Citizens of developing countries can begin to generate wealth in the form of land that they own or occupy. The first step in converting their land from an asset to capital is providing a solution to the problem of achieving secure land tenure. Debates have been taking place regarding the lack of secure land tenure in developing countries for many decades. If nothing is done to implement a workable program for establishing secure, propoor and pro-women land tenure in the very near future it is safe to assume that the same debates will continue for many more decades. A global approach to helping people secure land tenure must be implemented as soon as possible.

The real estate market is the proven catalyst for generating capital movement in markets worldwide. The power of the real estate market is the asset (land and structures). Knowing “where” this property is located, and “who” owns it is the basic foundation for real estate transactions. The ability to access the “where” and “who” information is critical for the rapid exchange of properties in the marketplace. If a comprehensive, accurate and transparent land records system is in place, the speed with which such property transactions can transpire is significantly increased. The faster property contracts move, the more capital there is in motion in the marketplace. The more capital that is available in the marketplace, the greater the investment and development that results.

Many developing countries deny women the right to own property. A report by ActionAid International, Cultivating Women’s Rights for Access to Land 2005, states that, although it has been proven that empowering women socially and economically leads to positive effects on household food security levels, women experience unacceptable statutory and customary discrimination. Women’s rights to land are often secondary and derived from the rights of others. They have limited knowledge of their citizenship rights and they are susceptible to instrumentalization by men. However, it is one thing to acquire the right to own property: it is quite another to secure tenure to that property, and create capital from it in a corruptionfree, affordable and timely manner.

Geospatial mapping and GIS foundations are the means by which the door to the property title insurance market is opened. Once the issue of who owns what property is settled, this provides the assurance needed for financial institutions to provide primary and secondary mortgage financing. The concept revolves around the reality in developing countries that the citizens, when they acquire title to the property they own (or occupy) can obtain secured loans, backed by the property title, for the purpose of improving their property or for buying new property. (de Soto, 2000) The US model is the basis for establishment of the primary and secondary mortgage markets in developing countries. The effect on the economies of those countries is substantial. This is not surprising when it is realized that 12% or more of the US economy is driven by the primary and secondary mortgage and real estate markets. When people buy a home they start to take better care of it. They buy paint, lumber and plumbing supplies. They employ builders to construct additions to their property. They buy a second home. They employ landscapers, plumbers, electricians, and painters. The economic conditions within countries that enable their citizens to own property improves dramatically.

The happy citizens are then persuaded that paying property taxes and getting permits to build or improve a home are necessary functions of society and of benefit to everyone. Taxes pay for improvements in city infrastructure, construction of schools, hospitals and parks. They learn that capitalism can be a good thing. So they register their property and pay taxes on equitably assessed property values. A modern land records management system is created and all the property ownership and mapping information is used to feed a GIS, in addition to a variety of land records management software modules for land registry records keeping, cadastral mapping and tax revenue calculation. The databases are kept current and the information becomes available for use by both the public and private sectors. As a result, a reliable and transparent revenue stream is established to enable local and national governments to provide greatly improved services to the citizens, attract investment and provide funding mechanisms for property and industrial development. (McKenna, 2006, 2016)

Who Owns the World

A recently published book, Who Owns the World by author Kevin Cahill is a compilation of landowners and landownership structures in every single one of the world’s 197 states and 66 territories.

The following extracts from that book offer powerful arguments to support his theories.

This book asserts that the main cause of most remaining poverty in the world is an excess of land ownership in too few hands. What the book also asserts is that private ownership of a very small amount of land – one tenth of an urban acre or an acre or two of rural land, granted to every person on the planet has the potential to, and Cahill believes will, begin the ending of poverty on a global basis.

In some countries people have obtained the land they need, the acreage for a private dwelling, and obtained a form of ownership for that acreage. In many cases, what they have is not ownership but feudal tenure, sometimes called ‘freehold’.

The very touchstone of what freedom really is, though, in the here and now, is clear. It is the right and ability of individuals, men and women, to actually own land. With ownership comes security of shelter, and a vital means to the right to life. But, as the 15% of the planet who have obtained relative ownership of their homes show, ownership is also the first step to prosperity and the solvent that destroys poverty.

More than 50% of the world’s 197 countries and 66 territories have either no land registry at all, or one that covers less than 10% of the land of the country. Ask why so few proper land registries exist anywhere in the world. Then look at those who scream the loudest about the sanctity of private land ownership rights, those not named in any land registry, but who really do own most of the land of the earth.

Of the earth’s 6,500 million inhabitants, few, perhaps just 15%, own anything at all, and most are pitifully poor. The distinguishing feature of universal poverty is landlessness. Yet, there is no great movement to get land to the impoverished masses. Aid, yes. Land, no.” (Cahill, 2006)

Bono and the ‘One” Campaign

Bono created the ‘One’ campaign and the following quotes from the utopian pop superstar offer powerful arguments to support his theories:

• “Aid money does not reach the poor.”

• “Global aid pledges have doubled from $25 billion to $50 billion and still 1 million people die from malaria every year.”

• “Money does not translate into help on the ground; it disappears into the money sink of bureaucracies.”

• “Aid agencies responsible for distribution of money must be held accountable and should not, as they currently do, grade themselves.”

• “Only projects that make sense should be funded, under the scrutiny of independent auditors and accountants, just as in the corporate world.”

• “The recipients of aid must be asked if they are satisfied with the results. Currently this does not happen.”

According to Bono, Africans are traders and they prefer commerce to aid (Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day, teach him how to fish he’ll eat forever). (Bono, 2005) To be concluded in next issue.

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