Compliance with residential building standards in the context of customary land tenure system in Ghana





Residential standards, customary land tenure system, land rights, compliance


Zoning regulation is considered as a tool used by government to control developments to ensure sustainability. In Ghana where about 80% of lands are held under customary land tenure systems, implementation of residential standards, which is a government function may conflict with customary norms of holding land. This paper uses case study to examine the implementation of residential policies and enforcement of residential standards in areas under customary land tenure in Ghana and if these policies and standards affect the enjoyment of land rights in the context of customary land tenure.

Results showed that non-compliance to residential standards and non-conformity to the local plan has minimal interference on enjoyment of land rights. Residents are ignorant of the details of the residential standards and have never seen a zoning regulations document. There is also low level of monitoring and enforcement. Spatial analysis reveals four main types of non-conformity between orthophoto and local plans i) discrepancies in the orientation of the parcel boundaries, ii) discrepancies in the shapes of plot boundaries, iii) houses constructed on the plot boundary or straddle parcel boundaries, and iii) differences in plot sizes. Results suggest the need for planning authority to use efficient approaches such as GIS and UAV’s to communicate, monitor and enforce the residential standards. It is concluded that collaboration between customary land authorities and the Municipality during the allocation and development of plots may improve spatial conformity between orthophoto and the local plans.





Research article


Alnsour, J., & Meaton, J. (2009). Factors affecting compliance with residential standards in the city of Old Salt, Jordan. Habitat International, 33(4), 301–309.

Arimah, B. C., & Adeagbo, D. (2000). Compliance with urban development and planning regulations in Ibadan, Nigeria. Habitat International, 24(3), 279–294.

Arko-Adjei, A. (2011). Adapting land administration to the institutional framework of customary tenure: The case of peri-urban Ghana. Amsterdam: IOS Press (Delft University Press).

Ayyoob, S., Yoshihiro, C., Kohei, O., Satoshi, Y., & Akito, M. (2014). Can master planning control and regulate urban growth in Vientiane, Laos? Landscape and Urban Planning, 131, 1–13.

Baffour Awuah, K. G., & Hammond, F. N. (2014). Determinants of low land use planning regulation compliance rate in Ghana. Habitat International, 41, 17–23.

Baffour Awuah, K. G., Hammond, F. N., Lamond, J. E., & Booth, C. (2014). Benefits of urban land use planning in Ghana. Geoforum, 51, 36–46.

Boamah, N. A. (2013). Land use controls and residential land values in the Offinso South municipality, Ghana. Land Use Policy, 33, 111–117.

Brody, S. D., & Highfield, W. E. (2005). Does planning work? Testing the implementation of local environmental planning in Florida. Journal of the American Planning Association, 71(2), 159–175.

Burby, R. J., May, P. J., & Paterson, R. C. (1998). Improving Compliance with Regulations: Choices and Outcomes for Local Government. Journal of the American Planning Association, 64(3), 324–334.

Cotula, L. (2006). Key concepts and trends in policy and legislation. In L. Cotula (Ed.), Land and water rights in the Sahel: Tenure challenges of improving access to water for agriculture, pp. 9–20. London: International Institute for Environment and Development.

Cotula, L., & Chauveau, J. P. (2007). Changes in customary land tenure systems in Africa. Iied.

Da Rocha, B. J., & Lodoh, C. H. K. (1999). Ghana land law and conveyancing. DR & L Print. and Pub. Services. Retrieved from

De Schutter, O. (2010). The right to food: Sixty-fifth session of the general assembly (Vol. 48230). Retrieved from

Deininger, K., Selod, H., & Burns, A. (2012). The Land Governance Assessment Framework. Burns.

Dowall, D. E., & Clarke, G. (1996). Urban management and land: A framework for reforming urban land policies in developing countries (No. 7). Washington, D.C.

Fekade, W. (2000). Deficits of formal urban land management and informal responses under rapid urban growth, an international perspective. Habitat International, 24(2), 127–150.

Fischel, W. (2000). Zoning and Land Use Regulation. Encyclopedia of Law and Economics, 403–442. Retrieved from ELEpdf.pdf

Ghana Statistical Service. (2012). 2010 Population and Housing Census. Seoul, Korea, Various Issues, 1–117.

GIZ. (2012). Land Use Planning Concepts, Tools and Applications. (B. Wehrmann, Ed.). Berlin, Germany: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

GOG. (2015). Land Administration Project. Retrieved December 30, 2015, from

Goodfellow, T. (2013). Planning and development regulation amid rapid urban growth: Explaining divergent trajectories in Africa. Geoforum, 48, 83–93.

Kasanga, K., & Kotey, N. A. (2001). Land Management in Ghana: Building on Tradition and Modernity. Russell The Journal of The Bertrand Russell Archives, (February), 1–42. 1-899825-69-X

Larbi, W. O. (1996). Spatial planning and urban fragmentation in Accra. Third World Planning Review, 18(2), 193.

Loh, C. G. (2011). Assessing and Interpreting Non- Implementation Assessing and Interpreting Non-conformance in Land-use Planning Implementation, (May 2015), 37–41.

Mayer, C. J., & Somerville, C. T. (2000). Land use regulation and new construction. Regional Science and Urban Economics, 30(6), 639–662.

Nkwae, B. (2006). Conceptual Framework for Modelling and Analysing Periurban Land Problems in Southern Africa. Ph.D Dissertation. University of NewBrunswick,Fredericton,NewBrunswick, Canada.

Onsted, J. a., & Chowdhury, R. R. (2014). Does zoning matter? A comparative analysis of landscape change in Redland, Florida using cellular automata. Landscape and Urban Planning, 121, 1–18.

Payne, G. K., & Majale, M. (2004). The urban housing manual: Making regulatory frameworks work for the poor. Earthscan.

Pressman, J. L., & Wildavsky, A. B. (1973). How great expectations in Washington are dashed in Oakland. University of California Press, Berkeley, California.

Quigley, J. M., & Rosenthal, L. A. (2005). The Effects of Land Use Regulation on the Price of Housin : What Do We Know What Can We Learn ? A Journal of Public Development and Research, 8(1).

Rukwaro, R. W. (2009). The owner occupier democracy and violation of building by-laws. Habitat International, 33(4), 485-498.

Schilling, J. M., & Hare, J. B. (1994). Code Enforcement: A Comprehensive Approach. Solano Press.

Šliužas, R. V. (2004). Managing Informal Settlements A Study Using Geo-Information in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Utrecht University and ITC.

Talen, E. (1996). Do plans get implemented? A review of evaluation in planning. Journal of Planning Literature, 10(3), 248–259.

Tanasescu, A., Wing-tak, E. C., & Smart, A. (2010). Tops and bottoms: State tolerance of illegal housing in Hong Kong and Calgary. Habitat International, 34(4), 478-484.

TGUP Perera. (n.d.). Implementing Land Registration Systems in Sri Lanka: Being Pragmatic. Journal, Sri Lankan Estate, Real, 74–96.

Town and Country Planning Department. (2011). Manual for the Preparation of Spatial Plans. Accra.

Town and country plnning department. (1991). Strategic Plan for the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area. Accra.

Turkstra, J. (1998). Urban Development and Geographical Information: Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Urban Development and Land Values Using Integrated Geo-data, Villavicencio, Colombia. International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences.

UN Habitat. (2008). Secure Land Rights for All. Nairobi: UN Habitat.

UN-Habitat. (2007). Situation Analysis of Informal Settlements in Kampala. Development Southern Africa (Vol. 22). Nairobi.

Williamson, Ian;Enemark, Stig; Wallace, Jude;Rajafibard, A. (2010). Land Administration for Sustainable Development. California.

Yeboah, E., & Obeng-Odoom, F. (2010). “We are not the only ones to blame”: District Assemblies’ perspectives on the state of planning in Ghana. Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, 1996(7), 78–98.

Yeboah, I. E. A. (2003). Demographic and Housing Aspects of Structural Adjustment and Emerging Urban Form in Accra, Ghana. Africa Today, 50(1), 107–119.