Programme overview

Urban Housing & Land Justice

What the programme entails

Maarten Zeehandelaar

Webinar on Urban Housing & Land Justice

Learn more about the master track content directly from Dr Maartje van Eerd and Ore Fika — the programme coordinators themselves! Watch this video to discover more about the programme content, and how the right to land, housing and urban services can be achieved.

Watch the full webinar here

Access for all to affordable housing and accompanying basic social, economic and physical infrastructure and services, such as schools, health centres, employment opportunities, public transport and public space, remains a global challenge rooted in unequal access to land. The result is often seen in processes of urban socio-spatial segregation and exclusion, urban poverty and homelessness across the global north and south.

The Urban Housing and Land Justice: Equitable Access to Sustainable Land, Housing & Services programme is a master track within the MSc in Urban Management and Development. The programme will theoretically review and approach housing, land justice, and injustice complexities and visit its practical implications, real-life outcomes, and consequences while using a wide range of teaching methodologies such as lectures, participatory discussions, educational games, excursions, group exercises and workshops. Students will examine (in)justice and (in)equality through socio-political, socio-legal, economic, environmental and governance perspectives regarding enabling land and housing rights and access to land, adequate housing, and basic urban services. The track will focus on examining and evaluating land and housing socio-political economy and their complex process related to equity and social, gender and environmental justice.

Participants will analyse the complex theoretical debate surrounding these topics and their place in sustainable development and building resilient urban and peri-urban communities and societies. Students will learn to operationalise the concept of adequate housing by applying the 5 A's Principles of Adequate Housing, namely Availability, Accessibility, Affordability, Acceptability and Adaptability, while at the same time looking into how these principles interact with the housing supply value chain in which land assembly and acquisition is the first step. At the end of the master track, students will be able to critically evaluate the complexities in land and housing (in)justice and the socio-economic, ecological, and spatial strategies employed to remedy and mitigate them.

Organised in two parts, the master track enables students to understand and critically evaluate the complex legal, political, institutional, social, and economic structures and processes that facilitate or impede access to land, housing, and urban services. Emphasis is placed on empowering disadvantaged and marginalised groups. In the programme’s first part, students will jointly discuss the complexity behind processes and structures in the governance, societal impact, and economics (including finance) of land, housing, and urban services. In the second part of the programme, students will have the opportunity to focus on two overarching topics: land and housing.

Students in this group will address the social, economic, and environmental challenges that create inefficiency in land development, unequal access to property markets and inequitable distribution of resources and benefits. It assesses land value capture principles and related land instruments to achieve equitable and sustainable development.

Students in this group will explore further the practical application of the 5As principles of adequate housing by looking deeper into non-conventional approaches to housing, such as community-led housing provision, (aided) self-help housing and incremental housing. Throughout this focal point, we will emphasise the gender implications of these approaches.

How is the year organised?

The first block shares courses on urban complexity, governance & finance, data analytics and research design with the other master tracks. In the second block, your courses will be track-specific, and you will be working more closely with your master track peers. The third and last block will be entirely dedicated to your thesis. It will further guide you in writing your thesis proposal on a topic relevant to your master track.


Academic Calendar


Exam Regulations


Programme Curriculum

Block 1 - September to January

With over half of the population living in urban areas, rising to 70% in 2050, it is of ever-increasing importance to understand how cities work and evolve. Complex and interrelated economic, social, physical, and environmental processes constantly transform cities. Understanding cities, therefore, require us to recognize, define and describe these complex and multidisciplinary processes.

This course will discuss the efforts of governments, often undertaken in partnership with other stakeholders, to deliberately intervene in and influence, steer and guide the development process of cities. Local governments have a key role in planning and executing investments and preparing fundable projects. In some countries, local governments have become increasingly dependent on intergovernmental transfers, which have been shrinking over time in part because of fiscal constraints. Moreover, investment decisions are at the core of any development strategy. This course addresses all these and many other aspects of financial investments.

This course will teach students how to harness the power of quantitative urban data by mastering how they are prepared, visualised and analysed. The course introduces students to quantitative data analysis (compared to qualitative data analysis) and continues with lectures on descriptive statistics and data visualisation. The focus is, besides understanding, on working with real data and practising how to conduct data analyses, which students learn in workshops and with exercises. Students will also learn how to present descriptive statistics and data visualisation in academic studies.

Designing and implementing academic research in the field of urban studies is a major component of the master’s programme at IHS. This Research Design (RD) course guides students to design academic research within the social sciences and develop their thesis proposal.

Blocks 2 - January to April

Addressing equity, social justice and human rights, this module analyses and evaluates the complex process of housing rights and its symbiotic relationship with land and property rights. It evaluates processes of privatisation, commodification and financialisation of housing and land in relation to housing and land rights, tenure security, and (forced)evictions. It discusses how rights relate to justice. And it reviews gender and environmental justice as it pertains to housing and land. Finally, the module covers legal approaches to achieving justice and human rights.

The second module addresses the financialisation of land. As land values increase, unequal access to adequate housing and urban services such as amenities, infrastructure, and green areas rises. The module analyses urban and peri-urban land markets and their inefficiencies. It reviews the use of land value capture for equitable development and reduction of market inequalities. Addressing the financing of public goods such as the provision of housing and urban services like basic infrastructure and services, public and green spaces necessary for sustainable cities and communities. Key economic instruments such as development exactions, impact fees, property and land taxes and valuation, and betterment charges are reviewed for land value redistribution.

Continuing with Land Value Capture (LVC) Instruments, the third module focuses on land-use regulation and spatial land instruments used for equitable access to land, housing, and urban services. The module discusses the theoretical debates surrounding the use of LVC, the assessment and evaluation and applicability of instruments used in both the global north and south that include the transfer of development rights, inclusionary zoning, community land trust, land readjustment and ZEIS and the Social function of the land.

This module delivers topics on both the contribution of housing to the economy, and the environment in relationship to sustainable development. Focusing on affordability, the first part of the module looks at the housing value chain and housing finance interventions, including mortgages, micro credits, incremental financing and subsidies. Part two of the module reviews housing and the environment in line with sustainable development and resilience. It looks at housing adaptability and sustainable human settlement planning in response also to climate change.

In this module, policy approaches to informal and formal housing will be presented and analysed in relation to the provision of adequate housing, equity and social-spatial justice. The approaches discussed cover a wide spread of top-down to bottom-up approaches; and conventional to more innovative applications such as social housing, rental housing, slum upgrading and resettlement, incremental approaches like sites and services, and people-led housing and housing for special needs groups like refugees and students.

This module discusses the housing and land nexus. Governance of this nexus is discussed in relation to the three pillars of urban sustainability (social, economic and the environment), urban planning and urban socio-spatial justice.

The Action Planning Workshop incorporates the concepts learned during the Urban Sustainability and Urban Governance and Finance modules in a practical, one-week exercise in cooperation with local stakeholders in the city of Rotterdam.

Participants will focus on developing a thesis proposal for their Master’s thesis. They will build on the content knowledge from the Master track and the research skills from the Core Period to prepare an academically relevant and sound thesis proposal.  Students are expected to primarily work independently during this part of the track, but they will receive guidance and support during this process from the academic staff and their fellow students.

Block 3 - April to August

Designing and implementing academic research in the field of urban studies is a major component of the master's programme at IHS. During this period students will write their master thesis on their chosen topic, guided by a supervisor.

Key components

The course will focus on equitable access to land, adequate housing and urban service to improve the quality of life for all.

The course views land, housing and urban services through the pillars of sustainability. It covers the socio-legal, economic and environmental components of land, housing and urban services.

Students will be acquainted with and debate academic theories and concepts, discuss international case studies and policies, and participate in excursions to real-life cases to link theory with practice.

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Photo of a digital city

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