The debate on "property" as opposed to "possession" has grown in institutional economics literature. In the real estate development context this can be extended to examining the question on what the major determinant of commencement of physical development (or 'house starts') is between 'property' and 'possession' in the minds of residential allotees on urban land. For land acquired through extra-legal mechanisms, economists, such as Hermandode Soto, have argued that lack of title impedes physical development in urban areas. What about on land acquired through legal means? This study examined this question by conceptualising land grants through the public land allocation system as having two distinct parts, possession, that is grants still at offer letter stage and property, constituting grants where legal title in the form of certificates of titlehave been registered. The observation in Zambia is that physical development commences with or without certificates of title, that is, mostly at possession stage. This study finds that contrary to conventional literature, titling is not the immediate concern for most allotees on public land. The first concern is development of the plot then followed by title. A number of reasons account for this and are explained in this paper. Thus the study hypothesised that although in the long run legal title is essential, possession is more important for the commencement of physical development in most developing countries such as Zambia.
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