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Property as a human right and property as a special title. Rediscussing private ownership of land

Moroni, Stefano
Land use policy 2018 v.70 pp. 273-280
land ownership, planning, private ownership, property rights
The issue of land ownership is central to any discussion on planning and land use policies. What is surprising is that, in the contemporary debate, there are those who argue that property rights are the solution, while others maintain that they are the problem. For some commentators, property rights are indispensable for protecting the most vulnerable sections of society; for others, they are the main cause of the marginalization of the disadvantaged. Some see them as natural rights; others as socially created ones. This probably depends on the fact that the right to property is one of the most misunderstood of basic rights. One aspect in particular seems to have created confusion also in the debate on land use policies and planning practices: the overlap between the ‘general right to hold private property’ and ‘specific property titles’ (in part this is due to the fact that the term ‘rights’ is often used interchangeably in both cases). This article dwells on this aspect in particular. It considers the main theoretical and practical implications of clearer recognition of the difference between the right to hold private property and specific property titles.