The prevalence of informal land markets in cities in developing countries has sparked interest in how these markets might be harnessed to poverty alleviation initiatives. However, this paper suggests that poverty alleviation initiatives that are based on a ‘default’ formal land market view are unlikely to be successful for poor households. Drawing on research on informal land markets in South African cities, the paper points toward a need to rethink land markets if they are to be harnessed to attempts to alleviate poverty. The research evidence suggests that, contrary to views which suggest that informal land markets are based on the absence of the state, the state is very much present and contributes to the dynamism and differentiation of informal land markets.
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