May 25, 2016
There are an estimated one million urban plots of land in Honduras that are not registered with the government’s Property Institute, and thus, lack a formal title. The people who live on this land face the constant threat of eviction and have no formal proof of ownership that would allow them to use their land as an asset — something to be inherited, sold, or placed as security on a loan.
The Property Institute (IP) has been making advances in registering this land, but the process has been slow. Studies estimated the institute’s yearly capacity at 45,000 titles per year – but they work nowhere near this capacity. Instead, it has taken the IP ten years to register 45,000 titles. At this rate, registering every untitled plot of land would take 177 years, and generations would miss out on the security and opportunity of legally owning their property.
Reform in the Property Institute is urgent and necessary, and AJS is actively calling for this change, as well as offering technical assistance to help make it happen.
Last week, the Property Institute’s “International Oversight Committee”, (VIIP, in Spanish) flew down to support this ongoing advocacy. The VIIP is made up of five US lawyers who have committed to twice-yearly visits learning from and offering advice to the Property Institute. The VIIP partners with AJS, and are also members of the organization Partners Worldwide, a Christian organization that promotes business development.
When the VIIP first visited the Property Institute in 2014, ASJ had just finished an audit of 5,000 titles in which 100% had some sort of error in their preparation. The next year saw marked improvements, but a full 33% of audited titles were still flawed. On top of this, titles were so backed up that a process that should have taken ten months was taking, on average, six years.
AJS has been a constant presence in the Property Institute, creating a baseline index from which to measure progress, then helping to create a detailed Improvement Plan. The VIIP has helped to advocate for these measures, as well as the implementation of process manuals that standardize and streamline the titling process.
All this work is beginning to show. In a joint press conference between AJS, the IP, and the VIIP, AJS was able to present the result of this year’s audit: only 2.8% of titles had errors, all of which were relatively minor spelling or orthographic errors. Members of the VIIP left this trip, they said, “more encouraged than any previous trip”.
“We want citizens to perceive the Property Institute as an organization they can trust,” the Property Institute’s director said in the press conference, “Today, it is not so, but we bet that, we assure that the Property Institute will become a trustworthy organization.”
“I see it as very positive that we can be externally audited and evaluated by actors like AJS,” he continued.
The registration and legalization of property can seem like a technical and unimportant task, but in reality, it is one that most affects the vulnerable in Honduras. Every improvement made in the management of the Property Institute can mean the difference of thousands of titles issued – in turn, changing the lives of thousands of Honduran families.