Cooperative Land Banks for Low-Income Housing

LAND FOR HOUSING THE POOR, Angel, Archer, Tanphiphat, Wegelin, eds., Select Books, Singapore, 1983

12 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2005

See all articles by Shann Turnbull

Shann Turnbull

International Institute for Self-Governance; Sustainable Money Working Group; New Garden City Alliance


Most of the articles in this book deal with incremental changes in the existing structures of institutions and do not postulate revolutionary upheavals as preconditions to effective action on the land issue. Yet it is worthwhile to contemplate far-reaching changes in the ways that we commonly perceive land ownership. The thinking along that dimension has unfortunately been rather sterile and there appears to be ample room for further development of new concepts and new ideas.

An interesting scheme for restructuring the ownership of land in residential communities is given by Turnbull. Turnbull criticizes the conventional methods of owning land and housing by private individuals and corporations on the one hand and by the public authorities on the other as either inequitable or inefficient or both. The rampant exploitation generated by private ownership of land is not mitigated by government efforts at taxation and regulation. Government ownership of land and housing, on the other hand, is grossly inefficient and many socialist countries are turning towards home ownership schemes to combat the growing inefficiencies.

Turnbull sees the value of introducing a new duplex tenure system to remedy this situation. In this system, the ownership of structures and improvements on land is separate from the ownership of the land itself, and the land is collectively owned by the community as a whole. Each individual owns his house as well as shares in the community land corresponding to the size of his plot. He is free to sell his house and his shares, but his shares are sold to the community land bank, which in turn sells them to the new buyer at a higher price. In this manner, the community captures the increased land value, using the proceeds for infrastructure development and other community improvements. As only individual community members are allowed to own shares in land, additional revenue is generated from the leasing of community land to commercial and public enterprises. Turnbull discusses a number of mechanisms for creating cooperative land banks, the simplest one being the creation of a new community on virgin land. In areas occupied by tenants or squatters, he proposes a dynamic tenure scheme whereby, through regular payments, the tenants gradually gain equity to the land and structures they occupy and in the long run become owner-occupiers. Turnbull believes that using such mechanisms, communities varying in size from 3,000 to 50,000 people can be self-financed and self-managed, improving gradually over time in an equitable manner without resorting to central government subsidies.

The thinking on appropriate forms of land ownership and land tenure systems has by no means been exhausted, and there are inherent problems in existing systems which may require fundamental changes before they can be adequately resolved. Our current perception of land tenure is inherently bound up in the historical period we live in and in the existing relationships within the societies of which we are a part. Both are in a process of dynamic change and do not contain, in the last analysis, any patterns or rules of a permanent nature. As these patterns change, concepts and ideas which were considered completely unrealistic may emerge as new paradigms for a new order.

Keywords: Cooperative ownership, Development profits, Duplex tenure, Dynamic tenure, Housing, Land, Self-financing, Squatter settlements

JEL Classification: P31, P26, P32, R38, R51, R52

Suggested Citation

Turnbull, Shann, Cooperative Land Banks for Low-Income Housing. LAND FOR HOUSING THE POOR, Angel, Archer, Tanphiphat, Wegelin, eds., Select Books, Singapore, 1983, Available at SSRN:

Shann Turnbull (Contact Author)

International Institute for Self-Governance ( email )

PO Box 266 Woollahra
Cell: +61418222378
Sydney, New South Wales 1350
+61293278487 (Phone)
+61280655905 (Fax)

SKYPE: shann.turnbull

Sustainable Money Working Group ( email )

Holyoake House
Hanover Street
Manchester, M60 0AS
United Kingdom

New Garden City Alliance ( email )

113 Guinness Court
London, UK, SE1 3TA
United Kingdom
+44 207 378 1902 (Phone)


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