Even where tenants do not constitute a majority, their numbers may still be enormous. Both Sao Paulo and Mexico City have around four million tenants.
In practice, very few third-world governments have a coherent rental-housing policy. Insofar as they have a clear objective it seems most have resolved that rental housing should disappear. They have joined the majority of developed countries in encouraging the current trend toward universal owner-occupation. Middle-class families are buying houses with the help of a mortgage; low-income families are invading land or buying land in illegal subdivisions and building their own homes. Few governments have tried to increase of improve the rental housing stock. Few governments have even mentioned rental housing in their policy statements.
2. Rental housing should be encouraged because it is a cost-effective shelter strategy. In addition, there are excellent reasons for believing that a more positive approach to renting might actually improve housing conditions. Since rental housing tends to offer tenants a better location and superior services and infrastructure than does self-help housing, its improvement offers a means of raising the quality of shelter in most cities. Direct investment in rental housing will also help to reduce suburban sprawl and illegal forms of land occupation. It may also help to finance service improvements; landlords and tenants living on the same lot can afford basic services such as water.