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Lincoln Institute of Land Policy calls for research proposals on Land Policy and Urban Development in Latin America!

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy announces its 2014 call for research proposals on land policy and urban development in Latin America. The research proposals will be reviewed competitively based on the weighted evaluation criteria indicated below. These criteria favor empirical studies that use reliable data and rigorous analytical methods, employing original field work and/or secondary data. Research outputs are expected to result in papers appropriate for publication.

The researchers selected through this RFP process will be invited to participate in a seminar to review and discuss draft papers. In addition, the Lincoln Institute will provide other opportunities for researchers to exchange ideas and discuss their methodology and analytical strategies. 

This year the Institute will consider proposals on the following research themes:

1. urban land markets

Research on this topic focuses on the functioning of urban land markets, notably on the interdependencies between the formal and informal segments of the market. Research projects may focus on trends in sales and rent prices within or across cities over time aiming at identifying the factors that account for price formation in the different segments of the market.

Suggested topics:

  • What are the trends in land price and land use in the formal and informal segments of the market? How are such trends affected by government programs as titling, special zoning, upgrading, redevelopment, and social housing? Of special interest is how regularization and upgrading of informal settlements impact the real estate market in these settlements.
  • How different are the land and housing market dynamics in the formal and informal segments of the market with respect to price growth rates, price differential for comparable properties, price gradients, and market share?
  • Residential inclusion exists, albeit on a modest scale in Latin American cities, and it is not well understood.  Why and how do single buildings or pockets of low income housing survive in the midst of higher income neighborhoods? Their resilience history contradicts the alternative of highest and best use for the sites.  What do existing patterns of lower income residents in higher income areas have in common?  Are there lessons to draw for the understanding of urban processes and policies?
  • Which data sources (conventional but also unconventional), research strategies, and methods are best suited to analyze the functioning of informal land markets? What are the best sampling and field work practices; does existing research exhibit biases or distorted results from faulty data.  Identify the ambiguities of measuring informality and its implications for land market analysis.

2. urban land regulations

Land use regulation influences the supply and price of urbanized land and the relative size of the formal and informal segments of the real estate market. The complexities of the determinants of land use regulation and their effects need further research.  Similarly, the analysis of regulatory practice is critical to understand how land use norms and standards affect the provision of urban infrastructure and services. It is important to learn more about how governments operate in enforcing compliance with regulation, and how market conditions affect regulatory practice.

Suggested topics:

  • To what extent is regulation capitalized in land price? What is the impact on land values of restrictive and permissive norms affecting the land use potential and/or the adjustments of the market to newly imposed land use regulation?
  • Is there a regulatory bias against the poor? Would more flexible building standards and land use regulation facilitate the access to urbanized land for the poor?  Under what conditions can regulation promote sustainable social inclusion through mixed-income housing?
  • Are there recurrent problems in the way governments manage and supervise building and land use? How are norms enforced? Are some regulations more frequently complied with than others? How do city and real estate market conditions affect regulatory practice?
  • How are conflicts over land use resolved? Examine the role of the judiciary in urban land conflict resolution and ascertain how that may affect regulatory practice.  
  • What are the effects of land use regulation on informal land development and on patterns of urban extension? How best to measure such impacts?

3. infrastructure and public services

Infrastructure provision is a major determinant of the location of economic activities and of the spatial pattern of urban development. It contributes to economic growth by increasing productivity and has direct impact on human welfare often contributing to reduce income inequality. As cities grow the demands on infrastructure and services increase and so does cost. In Latin America, saving costs by providing infrastructure before development occurs is a major challenge given the high incidence of informal land occupation. Of special interest is the spatial distribution of infrastructure and services: determinants, alternative patterns, and relevant impacts on land use. The analysis of the spatial dimension of infrastructure and service provision can shed light on how it relates to urban extension, densification, leapfrog development and poverty. How equitable and efficient is the spatial distribution? What are its effects on land values? To what extent the use of value capture instruments can help finance the provision of urban infrastructure?

Suggested topics:

  • How equitable and efficient is the allocation of infrastructure investments? Is there a systematic and spatial social bias in the distribution of infrastructure? How are the benefits and costs socially distributed and how are subsidies allocated? What is the spatial dimension of the infrastructure deficits in Latin American cities and how best to measure it?
  • What is the price differential between urbanized and non-urbanized land in urban expansion areas? To what extent may these land value differentials be mobilized to finance the provision of infrastructure? What are the public and private shares in financing for the development and maintenance of infrastructure? To what extent do local governments enforce the provision of on-site infrastructure by developers of new subdivisions?
  • How does infrastructure affect the spatial structure of the city, as for example supporting dense patterns of urban development, or alternatively fostering sprawl? Analyze the spatial patterns of urban growth in relation to the provision of infrastructure and services.
  • What is the magnitude of the urban infrastructure deficit? What were urban infrastructure investments in recent years? Has the deficit risen in absolute terms recently? How much investment in urban infrastructure could additional municipal fiscal effort generate (including value capture)?

4. urban transportation

Investment in urban transportation is undergoing dramatic changes in Latin America. Several cities are investing more in transportation and also giving higher priority to mass transit. Public transportation efficiency is improving and people once spatially isolated are gaining accessibility. Innovative modes of transportation are being used to trigger the development of low-income neighborhoods. Among the many aspects of urban transportation, we are particularly interested in the links between transportation, land use and urban growth patterns, and in the benefits of public transportation accruing to the poor. Studies should take advantage of improved data now available for several Latin American cities such as origin-destination surveys and census information on patterns of intra-city mobility.

Suggested topics:

  • Explore the political economy of funding for urban transportation, considering land-based instruments as well as non-land-based sources of financing.  Examine the impacts of cross subsidies in transport rates schedules (single/unified rates, or stepwise rates). Analyze the social and spatial redistributive burdens of transport financing. How are transport subsidies funded and what are their spatial implications?
  • To what extent can transportation planning be used as an instrument to guide urban expansion? Identify alternatives to integrate land use planning and transportation planning to maximize welfare. Examine the interaction between transportation infrastructure, city growth, land use regulation, and land prices.  
  • How are transportation investments capitalized into land values? Consider different modes of transportation and their spatial impact including facilities for pedestrians (e.g. sidewalks, trails) and bicycles (on-and-off road bicycle lanes, bicycle parking, bicycle lockers, bicycle sharing programs). Are there provisions to facilitate walking along city streets? 
  • What has been the experience in mobilizing incremental land values associated with improved accessibility to help finance transportation projects? Develop case studies and describe the strategies used in specific situations.
  • How does urban transport policy interact with employment, housing location and housing affordability? Explore ways to increase the capacity to pay for housing among low-income families through improved transportation.

5. property tax and other land-based fiscal instruments

The use of land-based financing for urban development is economically sound and good public finance practice.  An increasing number of jurisdictions in Latin America are mobilizing land value increments resulting from public interventions through fiscal instruments (property taxes, development impact fees, betterment contributions, exactions, and other charges), regulatory means (such as charges for building rights and linkage operations), and through in-kind provision of urban infrastructure and services (as in land readjustment schemes). More research is needed on how to choose and combine different land-based fiscal instruments and select implementation strategies that are appropriate to local conditions.

Suggested topics:

  • What needs to be taken into account when choosing the appropriate value capture instrument(s)?  Consider the type of public intervention and its impact area; whether compliance is voluntary, negotiated or compulsory; the context and the procedures used; and the advantages, risks and institutional requirements associated with the use of such instruments.
  • Evaluate the capitalization effects of the property tax on land values.
  • How to improve the performance of the property tax? Consider maintaining updated cadastres and valuation maps, carrying out efficient collections and enforcement practices. Are other factors relevant? Identify innovative, cost-effective methods to levy property taxes on informal settlements.  Document cases where the property tax is charged and effectively paid by low income householders.
  • Is the relation between fiscal incentives and economic development clearly understood? When are fiscal incentives a deciding factor in the location decision of firms? How do fiscal incentives rank among other factors that firms take into account in their location decisions? What is the net impact of providing fiscal incentives on local public tax revenues?
  • Analyze fiscal incentives compared to other incentives such as providing specific or subsidized infrastructure. What are the pros and cons of applying TIF (Tax Increment Financing Instruments) in the Latin American urban context where property tax is low.
  • What lessons can be learned from the use of land-based financing? Document value capture practices by local jurisdictions emphasizing enabling conditions, benefits and risks. Examine explicit vs. implicit value capture instruments (i.e. circumstances where incremental land value was effectively captured without deliberate policies or intention; and cases where major efforts were made to implement value capture tools and have failed.  Document unanticipated outcomes of the use of value capture instruments.
  • To what extent the application of value capture tools affect land use decision made by planners?  Consider the incidence of land value capture instruments on land values and urban public finance.
  • How can participatory forms of decision-making improve (or hinder) the use of value capture instruments?

6. climate change, environmental risk, and urban land use

Proposals related to this topic will be jointly evaluated and funded by the Department of Planning and Urban Form and the Program on Latin America and the Caribbean.  For this reason, research proposals on this topic must be presented in English.

Increasing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide contribute to extreme weather patterns. If these emissions remain unabated, changes in global temperatures, sea level rise, and other environmental impacts will have huge implications for human settlements and economic activities. Latin America, like other regions, has experienced extreme weather events that caused extensive damage. More research is needed to help the region prepare for, mitigate, and adapt to these changing conditions and to assess the costs associated with the settlement of vulnerable areas, both for the residents and for society. Such research would focus on plausible scenarios for climate change impacts in general and the effects on land use in particular, with the understanding that predictions are fraught with uncertainty. Research may also document what is already being done in Latin America to address climate change, and identify the reasons for success or failure of specific initiatives.

In this third year of offering support for research on this topic, we are particularly seeking research on the following research theme:

  • Because the urban poor frequently live in hazard areas such as flood plains and steep slopes, they are disproportionately vulnerable to environmental risks that will likely be exacerbated by climate change.  One option is to permanently relocate settlements to safer locations, but where this is not feasible, risks need to be mitigated through on-site measures that may include temporary evacuation during hazard events.  Evaluate the effectiveness of alternative adaptive strategies, policies, and programs to promote community resilience, including public safety and health, social inclusion, and economic viability.

7. noteworthy instruments for urban intervention

This third request for research on noteworthy instruments for urban intervention responds to the interest expressed by the audience who attended the Foro Latinoamericano sobre Instrumentos Notables de Intervención Urbana, held in Quito, Ecuador in May 2013, and other similar events developed since. In these events it became clear that disseminating information on successful urban policy instruments, and especially identifying important innovations that contribute to improve urban land management is a regional priority. Thus, we now intend to expand the number of successful cases of policy implementation that potentially can inspire policymakers in other cities in the region.

The analytical work will consist of a succinct description of the policy or instrument, its context, how it has been applied, and what has been its outcome, based on existing public data and relevant literature. Additional field work shall not be necessary.

To select the case studies, researchers must ascertain that it meets the following criteria:

  • Has been effectively implemented in a given jurisdiction with sufficient time to have had observable impact.
  • Addresses an important urban development issue, for example raising municipal revenue or preventing informality.
  • Uses either an innovative instrument (e.g. CEPAC, as introduced in São Paulo) or a novel implementation strategy (e.g. negotiations with informal developers), or introduces the means to overcome a recurrent land management obstacle (e.g. a reliable method to estimate the value added to real estate property due to public sector interventions).
  • Is potentially replicable in other cities in the country or elsewhere.
  • Has already been somewhat evaluated and information on its design and implementation is available to the public.

The research seminar

Authors of selected research proposals will be invited to participate in a research seminar that is tentatively scheduled for September 2015 at a Latin American venue to be chosen by the Lincoln Institute. At that time participants will have completed their data collection and most of the analysis, and will be expected to present draft papers for review and discussion. The seminar provides a unique opportunity for researchers to network with their peers who are interested in similar research topics. It also promotes interdisciplinary debate. Peer reviews help authors improve their analytical approach and methodology. The final papers will be considered for inclusion in the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Working Papers series, and may be posted on the Institute’s Web site.

Level of funding

The Lincoln Institute will pay for the research project based on the scope of work and the justification of the proposed budget.  In addition, the Institute will cover expenses for travel and accommodations during the research seminar for the lead researcher of each selected project. Recent project funding has ranged from $6,400 to $120,000, with most projects not exceeding $30,000. Funding for the case studies on noteworthy instruments for urban intervention will be up to $3,000 per case.

Evaluation of proposals

The Lincoln Institute will evaluate the research proposals based on the following criteria:





Relevance of the research for the advancement of knowledge on the   selected topic




Quality of the proposed methodology and sources of data



General academic qualifications of the members of the research team and relevant analytical experience as indicated by prior work.





Incomplete proposals, proposals received after the due date, or proposals that do not respect the format defined in the attached Guidelines will not be considered.

Proposals due:

July 7, 2014

Awards announced:

July 28, 2014

First draft paper due:

August 4, 2015

Research seminar:

September, 2015

Final paper due:

January 12, 2016


The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is a leading resource for key issues concerning the use, regulation, and taxation of land. Providing high-quality education and research, the Institute strives to improve public dialogue and decisions about land policy.

As a private operating foundation whose origins date to 1946, the Institute seeks to inform decision making through education, research, policy evaluation, demonstration projects, and the dissemination of information, policy analysis, and data through our publications, website, and other media.

By bringing together scholars, practitioners, public officials, policy makers, journalists, and citizens, the Lincoln Institute integrates theory and practice and provides a nonpartisan forum for multidisciplinary perspectives on public policy concerning land, both in the United States and internationally.

Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

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Cambridge, MA 02138-3400 USA

Phone: 617/661-3016 or 800/LAND-USE (800/526-3873)

Fax: 617/661-7235 or 800/LAND-944 (800/526-3944)