The September - October edition of the IRGLUS Newsletter
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The newsletter of the International Group on Law and Urban Space |
The Bedroom Tax

This month, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Housing, Raquel Ronik, came under fire from conservative politicians in the United Kingdom for her criticism of the so-called Bedroom Tax.

Amongst these criticisms are that Ms Ronik failed to meet relevant government ministers (although Ms Ronik asserts that she did, in fact, approach them), and further that she demonstrated bias by referring to the tax as a 'bedroom tax', rather than the ostensibly more neutral 'spare room subsidy'. Watch a video here in which a government spokesman outlines their criticism.

The Bedroom Tax is part of a series of welfare reforms that aims to restrict the amount of benefits someone can claim according to the number of people living in a household. If, therefore, you have one 'spare'  room, up to 14% can be cut from your housing benefit - hence, the term, 'the bedroom tax'.

Ms Ronik argues that this goes against the United Kingdom's obligations to provide adequate housing. She notes that this is particularly so in respect of how the policy affects those most vulnerable, such as people with disabilities, or grandmothers who look after families. Her recommendation is for the UK to scrap the tax. Read her press release here, and watch this video in which Ms Ronik outlines the thrust of her criticism.

What do you think? Feel free to comment on this Facebook thread.

In this edition, we highlight the 7th World Urban Forum, scheduled to take place in Medellin in April 2014.

Read more here.

The Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge is an opportunity for municipal government leaders, or major institutions that have a predominant affiliation with the city to be one of 100 cities receiving technical support and resources for developing and implementing plans for urban resilience.

If selected, the applicant must agree to work with The Rockefeller Foundation's partners to establish the suite of financial and technical assistance support to develop and implement the resilience plan, and will become a member of the 100 Resilient Cities Network.

Registration closes 23 September 2013, and the application form must be submitted and set before 14 October 2013.

For more information, consult the 100 Resilient Cities' website here.

IRGLUS on Facebook

Of Bedroom Taxes and Urban Resilience

As the year picks up pace, we welcome you to the second edition of the IRGLUS newsletter.  To reiterate what we said in the first edition, we envisage that this newsletter will become the primary mode of communication between IRGLUS members, in addition to our website (to be found at and our regularly updated Facebook page: (

In this edition, we include a short vignette written by IRGLUS founding member, Antonio Azuela, a professor at the Institute of Social Research at the National University of Mexico in Mexico City.  Antonio considers the future research agenda of IRGLUS and its members, in an era where De Soto’s ideas on land ownership as basis for upliftment from poverty are giving way to Ostrom’s notion of common resources.

We would like to invite all other IRGLUS members to also submit short, topical pieces (of approximately 500 words) for inclusions in future editions of this newsletter, the content of which is heavily dependent on your input.  Also feel free to let us know of any upcoming events that may be of interest to other members or of any professional opportunities in the field of which you may be aware.  Then, feel free to submit a picture and brief biography of yourself, your professional interests and your areas of research focus, for inclusion in our “member profile” section.

Then, on a sombre note, we were saddened to learn of the passing of longstanding IRGLUS member Emilio Duhau, in Mexico City on 13 August 2013.  Emilio was a long time faculty member and national research professor at the department of Sociology at the Autonomous Metropolitan University’s Atzcapotzalco campus, where he taught urban sociology and metropolitan planning law.  His research focused on the production, organization and management of urban-metropolitan space.  He published 12 books as either author or editor and was also the author or co-author of over 100 journal articles and contributions to research anthologies.  Emilio also served as an officer in the public sector and as a national and international urban consultant.  He will be much missed by colleagues all over the world, and the discipline of law and urban space is poorer for his passing.

We wish everyone well over the coming two months and look forward to hearing from you

Thomas Coggin and Marius Pieterse
Global Co-ordinators


IRGLUS in a Post-De Soto Era

Antonia Azuela

In its new era, IRGLUS’ agenda is more pertinent than ever.  All over the world, cities are both the context and the object of social mobilizations that put into question political orders.  Cities face deep predicaments that legal scholarship has been largely unable to grasp.  That is why it is so important to reflect on the future agenda of Irglus.  In the previous two decades or so, the issue of tenure regularization dominated our debates.  We probably spent too long arguing about Hernando de Soto’s simplistic proposals around the generalization of full ownership titles as a panacea for the urban poor.  Fortunately, we can now declare the De Soto era over, as even World Bank economists are trying to think beyond the individual property rights paradigm.

At the same time, we might be entering a more promising, but equally challenging and even dangerous route: what we can call Ostrom’s era.  After the outstanding American political scientist Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, the concept of “the commons” has entered the global parlance, particularly in relation to territorial issues.  While the concept has been used mainly in the rural context, to understand problems related with natural resources, it is obvious that cities can also be seen as huge collections of common goods.  What is new is that common property regimes, which used to be seen as residual institutions of primitive societies, are now understood and even accepted within the language of mainstream economics and international development organizations.

Without doubt, this new way of looking at “common pool resources” creates new conceptual spaces to think about cities and their many predicaments, beyond the rigid public/private dichotomy that dominates the discipline of law.  Thinking about the urban “commons” may give us the opportunity of new interdisciplinary debates in which law, political science and economics produce relevant insights for the understanding of urban areas as complex social orders.

However, there are also risks with the new legitimacy of common property regimes.  A case in point is water.  In many countries, the idea of state ownership of water is being challenged in favor of considering the property of peasants’ communities.  That sounds fair for agricultural uses, but when it comes to the needs of urban dwellers a potential conflict of legitimate interests arises.  On the one hand, the success of a common property regime rests on the fact that the community is able to “exclude” others from access to a resource.  On the other hand, access to water in urban areas is nothing less than a fundamental right that is central to the right to the city.  Land is another obvious example.  Many of us witness situations in which rural communities located in the periphery of metropolitan areas develop exclusionary strategies vis-à-vis urban settlers.  This is only one of the many challenges that IRGLUS faces in its new era.


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IRGLUS is highly dependent on its members. As such, we welcome contributions from our members. This could range from short vignettes, to photography, news and events.

We will contact various members directly to ask for these contributions, but if you would like to contribute to the next newsletter, please feel free to contact us.

We also welcome feedback on this newsletter, as well as the other initiatives we have implemented to give IRGLUS a stronger virtual institutional basis. 
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