Don't Miss >

Meeting the urban growth challenge: Expanding the supply of urban land strategically. – Matthias Nohn, Rapid Urbanism

By on October 5, 2016
Lecturer - profile

Matthias Nohn

Principal / Executive Director

Main affiliation
Rapid Urbanism



European Union



Matt Nohn is an independent urban economist and development planner. An expert for poverty reduction, he works for international agencies, foundations, think tanks and social movements, including: as lead specialist for the World Bank (land, planning, housing), GIZ (infrastructure, land) and UN-Habitat (urban economy & finance), Cities Alliance (research). He serves as Loeb Fellow at Harvard and as advisor to Mahila Housing SEWA Trust, India.
Matt’s work focuses on solving the housing, land, transportation and employment conundrum in rapidly urbanizing cities. He has worked with every level of urban actor on a diverse portfolio covering over 20 countries, specializing in the delivery of land, infrastructure, housing, finance and life-affirming job opportunities to the poor.
At Rapid Urbanism, Matt promotes transdisciplinary work of multi-stakeholder alliances. Learning from informality, RU devises truly inclusive interfaces between formal and informal systems, rather than forcing the latter to formalize, thereby, aiming to develop simple, affordable and sound mechanisms, capable of addressing rapid urbanization at speed and at scale.
Starting his career as a bricklayer in 1995, Matt holds postgraduate degrees in Advanced Environmental Design (Harvard), Public Policy (Harvard) and Architecture & Planning (TU Darmstadt). At Harvard, he won the Outstanding Policy Analysis Award for Market-based Affordable Housing in Urban India, which contributed to the formation of two community-led real estate and finance companies.

English Proficiency

Previous experience of recording video lectures

Experience of lecturing to large audiences

Experience of lecturing to large audiences

Frequency of lectures
Very often

Recording opportunities
Habitat III attendance and availability
Oct 18-22


Main themes
Urban Management
Planning and Design
Municipal/Urban Finance

Meeting the urban growth challenge: Expanding the supply of urban land strategically.

The lecture/paper discusses 10 considerations for expanding the supply of affordable serviced land, strategically.

Issues which the lecture addresses
The lecture recognized UN-Habitat’s Three Pronged Approach to planned urbanization, highlighting the need for a complementary approach, integrating design, finance and regulation, in order to expand the supply of land strategically. Thereby, the lecture overcomes the conventional approach that master plans expanding the urban footprint (or containing it) are sufficient instruments in order to steer and implement urban growth strategies.

Short analysis of the above issues
Rapid urbanization takes place. Now. And its magnitude is without precedence. “The increase of the urban population of 2.8 billion people between 2010 and 2050 is forecast to be higher than the total population of the world of 2.5 billion in 1950”. (UN Secretary-General, 2012) However, the expected increase in the urban built-up area takes place at an even higher pace. “Double population—triple area: the urban built-up area is expected to triple between 2000 and 2030” (World Bank, 2005)

During rapid urbanization, societies face many land-related challenges, such as: land identification, assembly, site planning, infrastructure development and financing. If these challenges are not adequately addressed, then “2 billion people could be living in urban slums by 2030.” (UN-Habitat)

The lecture begins with the traditional understanding of “land supply”, correlated with the point of view of architects, designers and planners: meaning either the urbanization of new peripheral areas (planned city extensions, manufacturing corridors, etc.) or the densification of underdeveloped inner-urban areas (planned city infill, urban renewal, slum upgrading, etc.) However, the initial point too often ignores necessary complements, which may constitute binding constraints to meeting the demand of land in an inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable way (cf. SDG 11). Too often this leaves the urban poor behind, unable to access formal, serviced land at a desirable location.

Therefore the lecture quickly expands the discussion, promoting a multi-pronged, interdisciplinary approach:
• Larger planning/design questions show how to expand the supply of land: be it through developing denser compact cities or through expanding urban boundaries. They also show why and how to invest into urban mobility systems and how to develop urban sub centers.
• Legal considerations highlight key strategies for reducing the overall cost of land as a housing input, for example through permitting higher densities, as well as for lowering the entry barriers to the formal land and housing markets, for example through relaxing minimum plot requirements.
• Fiscal policy options show how to (and how not to) finance the supply of serviced land, for example through land value taxation and land value capture mechanisms.
• Lastly, the discussion builds a bridge to incrementalism (see Goethert’s lecture), as the incremental development of affordable dwellings, the incremental development of affordable habitats (i.e. land serviced with infrastructure and amenities) and the incremental financing thereof require a larger, integrated urban strategy supporting the evolution of cities, neighborhoods and homes over time.

Propositions for addressing the issue
The following is a list of the 10 considerations:
1. Service and zone land for urban use.
2. Remove wasteful regulations, obstructing land use efficiency.
3. Invest in mass transportation and alternative mobility.
4. Promote sub-centers and intra-urban equality.
5. Encourage mixed-use mixed-income settlements.
6. Balance the social and environmental costs of urbanization.
7. Share land value increases fairly between stakeholders.
8. Release underdeveloped lands to the market.
9. Tax land value to promote efficiency and equity.
10. Plan for housing careers and incremental development.

Additional Reading Materials
A general introduction to Rapid Urbanism’s four-pronged approach to urbanization is posted here:
At present I am developing a working paper for UEFB on the lecture material. The current, not approved version of this paper is posted here: https://app.box.com/s/85wzarezck5x13bhkoxe0ii4rt4tx194

Draft presentation