PURPOSE: The current rapid growth of urbanization in Ethiopia has caused an impact on housing development, which in turn puts great pressure on urban land. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the legal and practical challenges of urban land access for housing development in Ethiopia.

DESIGN / METHODS FOLLOWED / APPROACH: The study has employed interviews with housing and urban land management experts, key-informant interviews with the persons involved in land lease tender and in different housing programs, research reports to examine the applicability of lease tender and allotment for housing development as modalities of urban land acquisition. Urban land lease laws, policies, plans and manuals were reviewed to explore the problems which exist in practice.

FINDINGS: The study has explored that the formal urban land market in Ethiopia is not working well in resolving the problem of the shortage of residential housing units. The current lease holding system should apply in accordance with the housing rights of citizens.

RESEARCH LIMITATIONS / IMPLICATIONS: The number of samples that would be taken is small as compared to the size of the country and the percentage of the population and the absence and fear of respondents to provide genuine and accurate information for questions posed are limitations to this paper.

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS: Interested organs in urban land and the housing sector would appreciate and consider implementing the proposed solution to alleviate the problem of shortage of housing related to land in Ethiopia.

ORIGINALITY / VALUE OF WORK: Although urban land access is a necessary condition for housing development, it’s applicability for all groups of society is questionable. This study contributes to fill this gap and to show an insight into the basic conditions of alternative modalities of urban land access.