Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal


The U.N. Development Program created the Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor to explore the relationship between more formal property rights and reducing poverty. Additionally, some countries are adopting policies designed to strengthen the local property environment, such as titling real property. This article, based on fieldwork, examines the effects of property titling programs in Langa Township, South Africa. This article finds that formalization by way of titling does provide some benefits to titleholders. However, the findings also suggests that formalizing property rights in an institutional environment that has other systemic weaknesses will not transform dead capital into living capital. The poor need more than a property title to break out of poverty. Legal empowerment will work best in an institutional environment that supports broad-based entrepreneurship and rule of law.

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