After two months we finally have clean title to the property! We're celebrating with homemade tomato soup and fresh bread. It was a lot of frustrating work, but we finally got it.
I'm glad to have gone through this process personally for a few reasons. One, I learned a few things that will make the process easier on our next development. Two, I realized first hand the challenges the poor are facing in obtaining property rights. The corruption and bureaucracy are so thick and so overwhelming that people just give up. If you don't have the time (and money) to push through this process for two months you won't succeed. Most people can't do this.
Most of the international discussion around low-cost housing is focused on developing cheaper construction technologies and methods. While I hope those discussions continue to produce better building options, the biggest hurdles (and therefore costs) for low-cost housing come from two significant issues; property rights and financing.
We've come a long way with the hurdle of property rights. Obtaining a title deed for the development is a major step forward. We'll still have challenges when transferring the ownership of the individual homes. We hope to bypass most of the headache by having the buyers purchase shares in a management company rather than actually buying the land itself. The effect is the same, each home owner owns their home and can sell it at will, but we'll avoid working with the government land office altogether.