The private urban residential development process in Tamale, Ghana : an application of structure and agency institutionalism
This study adopts the theoretical framework of structure and agency institutionalism to analyse the private urban residential development process (URDP) from policy formulation through to consumption, from the perspective of the individual household developer in a case study of the Tamale Municipal Assembly (TMA) in northern Ghana. The various theoretical frameworks for analysing land and housing development processes are reviewed. Traditional models are found to be unsuitable for adequately explaining the customary land tenure system as a constraint in the self-build URDP in the TMA. As a result, this research relies on an institutional approach to study the transformation occurring in communal land ownership. The use of structure and agency institutionalism in the study reveals that a wide spectrum of agents (actors) are involved in the private URDP in Tamale. The process itself is not only embedded within but is taking place against a background defined by a combination of economic, social, political and institutional environments. This contextual mix is observed to provide the formal and informal institutions, regulations and resources for all the agents, with profound implications for urban housing development, particularly with regard to land tenure conversion. The study reveals the complex web of agency and power relations that are being excerised in this arena, with the result that it is difficult to separate agents' attitudes from policy, especially at the formal institutional level. Contrary to popular belief, this study finds that the customary land tenure system, as it now operates in the study area, constitutes no real hindrance to the self-build developer with regard to land access. The economic and social changes taking place have engendered the transformation of societal attitudes resulting in the birth of a market for housing land. An oligopolistic class of capitalist landlords represented by the chiefs has evolved and while this could lead to the exclusion of the poor from access to land, those with the means, whether local or non-local people, can and do buy land from this new class of capitalist land holders. In relative terms, availability of finance, the cumbersome documentation procedures and lack of infrastructure are the principal difficulties faced by the household developer. Based on the key findings and problems faced by the self-build developer, the study suggests that rather than radical and unpopular reform of the customary land tenure system, the evolutionary changes taking place should be supported, while putting in place policy measures to address the issue of redistribution of the financial gains the chiefs make from land sales, the availability of finance and other constraints faced by the self-build developer. Although the study does not offer a blue print for solving the housing problem, it does propose through structure and agency institutionalism, an alternative approach which suggests a holistic analysis capable of enhancing comprehension of the problem, for therein lies the first steps towards its resolution.