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Housing, Institutions, Money: The Failures and Promise of Human Settlements Policy and Practice in South Africa

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Abstract

This paper considers why the housing subsidy programme in South Africa has had so little impact on poverty reduction despite its scale and generous funding. It discusses how this was linked to the government’s conception of housing, the institutions involved and who controlled funding flows for housing. Most government funding went to contractors to build new units “for the poor”; it was assumed that these would replace homes in informal settlements that the poor developed themselves. Despite statements about the government’s commitment to the People’s Housing Process (PHP), informal settlements were only seen in negative terms and there was no support for incremental upgrading and very little support for low-income households to build their own homes. Meanwhile, the contractor-built houses were usually too small, of poor quality and in locations far from livelihoods and services. The paper ends with suggestions for how the formal institutions of government can learn to support and work with the poor. The incremental approaches of the poor to their own housing and livelihoods can serve as an alternative first principle for conceiving of the challenge of human settlements policy and practice. Furthermore, funding flows and their associated institutions should support people-centred development and institutionalize systems that make the informed participation of residents of informal settlements a pre-condition for state support.
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Environment & Urbanization Copyright © 2011 International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
Vol 23(1): 267–275. DOI: 10.1177/0956247810392272 www.sagepublications.com
Housing, institutions, money: the
failures and promise of human
settlements policy and practice
in South Africa
BENJAMIN BRADLOW, JOEL BOLNICK AND
CLIFFORD SHEARING
ABSTRACT This paper considers why the housing subsidy programme in South
Africa has had so little impact on poverty reduction despite its scale and generous
funding. It discusses how this was linked to the government’s conception of
housing, the institutions involved and who controlled funding flows for housing.
Most government funding went to contractors to build new units “for the poor”; it
was assumed that these would replace homes in informal settlements that the poor
developed themselves. Despite statements about the government’s commitment
to the People’s Housing Process (PHP), informal settlements were only seen in
negative terms and there was no support for incremental upgrading and very little
support for low-income households to build their own homes. Meanwhile, the
contractor-built houses were usually too small, of poor quality and in locations
far from livelihoods and services. The paper ends with suggestions for how the
formal institutions of government can learn to support and work with the poor.
The incremental approaches of the poor to their own housing and livelihoods can
serve as an alternative first principle for conceiving of the challenge of human
settlements policy and practice. Furthermore, funding flows and their associated
institutions should support people-centred development and institutionalize
systems that make the informed participation of residents of informal settlements
a pre-condition for state support.
KEYWORDS community organization / housing subsidy / incremental upgrading
/ informality / participation / people-centred development
I. INTRODUCTION
The serious problems that exist in the human settlements policy and
delivery in South Africa have been denied by the state and other actors
for too long. At rst it was possible to be mesmerized by the numbers:
more than 200,000 free houses for the poor were being built every
year. But the backlog has grown, as has the anger over shoddy building
practices, patronage and corruption. Moreover, the spatial development
of the new houses has enhanced rather than dismantled the apartheid
urban legacy. New formal townships and extensions to pre-existing ones
far from city centres have reinforced a long-standing system whereby
poor people are pushed further away from the cities they sustain through
their labour.
Benjamin Bradlow
is Research and
Documentation Officer
at the Secretariat of
Shack/Slum Dwellers
International (SDI).
Address: 1
st
Floor, Cnr
Rappenberg and Surrey
Road, Mowbray, Cape Town
7700, South Africa; e-mail:
ben@sdinet.org
Joel Bolnick is Manager of
the Secretariat of Shack/
Slum Dwellers International
(SDI) and founder of the
Community Organization
Resource Centre, a South
African consortium of shack
dwellers associations and
development professionals.
Address: 1
st
Floor, Cnr
Rappenberg and Surrey
Road, Mowbray, Cape Town
7700, South Africa; e-mail:
joel@sdinet.org
Professor Clifford Shearing
is Chair of Criminology
in the Faculty of Law,
University of Cape Town
Address: Centre of
Criminology, Faculty of Law,
University of Cape Town,
Private Bag, Rondebosch
7100, South Africa; e-mail:
clifford.shearing@uct.ac.za
E N V I R O N M E N T & U R B A N I Z A T I O N Vol 23 No 1 April 2011
268
When it comes to “people-centred” development, particularly in
terms of water, sanitation and housing in South African cities, there has
been so much knowledge, so much policy, so much agreement on what
needs to be done, and so little to show for it. Within the terrain that we
refer to as “human settlements”, real people’s participation has remained
a hope rather than a reality. When we talk about “people-centred” we
are talking about an approach that puts paid to the notion that “pro-
poor” policy can exist without the integration of participatory processes
for policy formulation and implementation. This is an approach that
recognizes that effective development interventions require the state to
open up the space for informed and organized communities of the urban
poor to be included in such projects.
“People-centred” is simply not the way the state does business. It is
not the way things are typically done within the institutions dealing with
land tenure, basic services and housing. This is true despite the South
African government’s People’s Housing Process (PHP), which has actually
done little to put human settlements policy and implementation into the
hands of poor people.
The government’s housing policy has had a relatively singular focus
on “formal” housing delivery. In the process, people-centred” got lost
in the focus on implementation of policy through market actors. The
new houses have been built by profit-driven, professional developers.
This is happening despite seemingly promising, unique aspects of South
African housing policy, namely its relatively generous subsidy for low-
income housing construction. Families meeting certain criteria with
regard to poverty (earning the equivalent of less than US$ 500 a month)
are eligible for a housing subsidy of approximately US$ 6,000 to get
them a house.
The subsidy could, in theory, empower communities to implement
their own solutions to their own housing needs. Communities in
informal settlements throughout the country do this already when they
do not receive a state subsidy. The official housing backlog has risen from
1.5 million to 2.1 million people since 1994. During these years, poor
people have been the most efficient actors in housing delivery. This is not
recognized by the formal world. The creativity behind the construction
of shacks and, in some cases, provision of basic services, has been entirely
informal and, in the absence of effective formal interventions from the
state, markedly resourceful. The incremental approaches of the informal
world could point the way to different kinds of state interventions in
the realm of human settlements. To date, such moves have not been
forthcoming.
So why do informal settlement upgrading, incremental housing,
socially and economically integrated neighbourhoods and cities get
trumped by the subsidy-based housing machine that ensures private-
sector profit with limited risk and creates segregated cities characterized
by concrete slums and urban sprawl?
In order to understand the reasons behind why a seemingly well-
intentioned set of policies and interventions has achieved so little, we can
borrow a turn of phrase that an aide to former US president Bill Clinton
reportedly used during his first presidential campaign in 1992: It’s the
economy, stupid”. We may use this decidedly unsubtle language to begin
to understand this phenomenon, referring to three interrelated themes:
housing, institutions and money.
H O U S I N G , I N S T I T U T I O N S , M O N E Y
269
II. IT’S THE HOUSING, STUPID
The housing subsidy programme in South Africa has created an aggressive
contrast between shacks that need to be “eradicated” and “formal” houses that
need to be delivered. The new houses built through this subsidy programme,
referred to by the acronym of the government programme that instituted
the subsidy, the RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme),
have become all that the state is prepared to support. A fully serviced top
structure RDP house is all that the government has been willing to consider
as “housing”. This constitutes a problem for human settlements and for
integrated cities. The disparity between an illegal, dangerous, informal shack
and a formal, titled, standardized house stands in the way of decent human
settlements, integrated neighbourhoods and accessible, functional cities.
Unlike countries with much poorer subsidy environments for housing
or no subsidies at all, South Africa has refused to consider the incremental
approaches to upgrading existing housing. These are central to the relative
success of the informal strategies used by the poor to produce and improve
housing solutions. Such achievements are all the more notable because
they take place in the absence of well-placed interventions by the state. In
fact, it is the linking of the terms “people-centred” with “informal”, and
“informal” with “eradication” on the one hand, and “subsidized private
sector” with “formal”, and “formal” with “development” on the other
that is a source of the problem. When shack settlements are seen as a
problem, we are assigning blame for the exclusion of the poor from their
rights as citizens on the poor themselves.
State institutions that deal with housing are structured in such a way
that they consider a problem to be solved when a poor person’s ingenuity
has been declared undesirable, and that person has been blamed for a
“harm”. Moreover, this person will likely be punished for that “harm”
of living in a shack settlement. The penalty is the social and economic
dislocation that comes through relocation to a concrete slum on the urban
periphery. This model is replicated throughout South Africas biggest cities,
including the once-heralded, now much-maligned N2 Gateway project
along Cape Town’s main highway. There, slum dwellers in long-established
informal settlements on relatively well-located land have been relocated to
far away land in sterile environments of tin and brick one-room houses.
Crime, drug use and other social problems are, in some cases, even greater
than in the original informal settlements along the highway.
For more than a decade, the state has turned informal settlements into
illegal built environments. It has then tried to address these informalities and
illegalities by governing them through institutional arrangements that blame
poor people for the failures of the state, punishing them through evictions
and relocations to newly constructed slums and still sub-standard housing
stock. For example, the Ministry of Human Settlements acknowledged in
2009 that tens of thousands of RDP houses were damaged and unfit for
occupancy. Minister Tokyo Sexwale claimed that repairs would cost almost
US$ 180 million. This is what the government has called “housing”.
III. IT’S THE INSTITUTIONS, STUPID
The South African government’s conceptual approach to “housing” has
a direct bearing on the institutions it uses to address housing issues.
E N V I R O N M E N T & U R B A N I Z A T I O N Vol 23 No 1 April 2011
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The Ministry of Housing changed its name to the Ministry of Human
Settlements after a cabinet re-shuffle subsequent to the election of current
President Jacob Zuma in 2009. However, we are only beginning to see
the early sprouts of institutional change. The institutions governing
low-cost housing delivery continue to be constituted through a set of
organizational arrangements directed at the “eradication of shacks” and
the delivery of “formal” houses.
The eThekwini metropolitan municipality, which encompasses
Durban and its surrounding areas, has articulated a strategy that puts
such an intention in the starkest possible terms: “one shack, one house”.
The implementing mechanisms for such an approach became clear with
the introduction in 2007 of the Slums Act by the province of KwaZulu-
Natal, which includes Durban. The law made it much easier for the state
to pursue evictions of informal settlement dwellers without the necessity
of finding suitable alternative accommodation and engaging meaningfully
with affected communities around relocation. These two compulsions have
been notable, if imperfect, outcomes of a series of Constitutional Court
cases related to constitutional rights to basic services and adequate housing.
It is little surprise, then, that the KwaZulu-Natal Slums Act was ill-fated. The
Constitutional Court struck it down in a landmark ruling in 2009.
Still, the introduction of the Slums Act revealed the state’s intentions.
The existing institutional arrangements for human settlements are
increasingly directed towards strengthening the state’s capacity to keep
the poor out of South Africa’s cities. Although important judgments of the
Constitutional Court tasked with upholding what is widely considered
the world’s most progressive constitution – have only stopped individual
evictions, the efforts of some civil society actors to pursue changes in
policy and practice through the courts appear to have been relatively
pyrrhic. Evictions continue and delivery of improved human settlements
for the poor has not happened at meaningful scale.
The South African alliance of community-based groups and support
professionals affiliated to Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI)
(1)
has
long tried to moderate the damaging aspects of the current housing delivery
system by piloting community-led housing projects in partnership with
the state.
(2)
The main community partners in this alliance are the Informed
Settlement Network (ISN) and the South African Federation of the Urban
Poor (FEDUP), and the bridge finance facility instituted to engage with
the financial institutions of the state on behalf of FEDUP is the uTshani
Fund. These partnerships have gone by different names over time: PHP,
Enhanced PHP, the “uTshani Agreement” and the latest being simply
“the pledge”, referring to a commitment in 2007 by the then Minister of
Housing, Lindiwe Sisulu, that 9,000 housing subsidies per year would go
directly to FEDUP to build houses.
(3)
Despite the progress made through
these arrangements – more than 15,000 houses built, demonstrated
community capacity to build at even greater scale the essential design
of a professional developer-driven institutional model has persisted with
its attendant dysfunctions.
The principal focus in housing delivery has remained the mass delivery
of completely serviced housing sites and contractor-driven housing. This
is opposed to the model of incremental upgrading of existing settlements
and, where upgrading is not possible, support for those who move to
find, and build on, better-located land. It is little wonder that the South
African government’s housing policy has failed to both empower the
1. For more details of SDI,
see http://www.sdinet.org/.
For details on the South
African alliance of community
organizations and NGOs
affiliated to SDI, see www.
sasdialliance.org.za
2. See Bolnick, Joel (1993),
“The People’s Dialogue on
Land and Shelter; community-
driven networking in South
Africa’s informal settlements”,
Environment and Urbanization
Vol 5, No 1, April, pages
91–110; also Bolnick, Joel
(1996), “uTshani Buyakhuluma
(The grass speaks), People’s
Dialogue and the South African
Homeless People’s Federation,
1993–1996”, Environment
and Urbanization Vol 8, No 2,
October, pages 153–170;
People’s Dialogue on Land and
Shelter(1999), “Negotiating
for land: the construction and
demolition of Ruo Emoh’s
show house in Cape Town in
August 1999”, Environment
and Urbanization Vol 11,
No 2, October, pages 31–40;
Baumann, Ted and Joel Bolnick
(2001), “Out of the frying pan
into the fire; the limits of loan
finance in a capital subsidy
context”, Environment and
Urbanization Vol 13, No 2,
pages 103–115; and Bolnick,
Joel and Greg Van Rensburg
(2005), “The Methodist Church’s
initiative to use its vacant land
to support homeless people’s
housing and livelihoods in
South Africa”, Environment and
Urbanization Vol 17, No 1, April,
pages 115–122.
3. Sisulu, Lindiwe (2006),
“Partnerships between
government and slum/
shack dwellers’ federations”,
Environment and Urbanization
Vol 18, No 2, October,
pages 401–406.
H O U S I N G , I N S T I T U T I O N S , M O N E Y
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poor and create more inclusive cities. The urban poor are increasingly
passive, entitlement-driven constituencies, and South Africa’s cities are
increasingly fragmented, unequal and unsustainable built environments.
When we use terms like “passive” and “entitlement-driven” to describe
urban poor communities in South Africa, we refer to the insistence that
the state give them houses and services. Such rights are important, but
the communities asking for them are, on the whole, not being empowered
to participate and fundamentally change the relevant institutions so that
they can actually realize these entitlements.
This is happening despite the South African government’s rhetoric
about a pro-poor, developmental state. If the most important institutional
arrangements are dedicated to enabling a private sector, housing-for-profit
approach, there will not be much people-centred housing development taking
place. This will be true no matter how deeply the state is committed to the
urban poor and how much funding goes to the housing subsidy programme.
Similarly, if people’s organizations choose to give their problems
to institutions that are designed to do what is at odds with what they
want, then they should not be surprised when these institutions deliver
solutions that actually work against them. The South African SDI alliance
has found just that. Although FEDUP and uTshani Fund have worked
with the South African government since 1994, the relationship has been
highly fraught. Difficulties in getting the government to release pledged
subsidies bridged by the uTshani Fund over the years has meant that
the South African government is actually in debt to the uTshani Fund.
Reasons for this range from bureaucratic misuse such as those related to
house inspections and title deed conveyance, to different understandings
at local government levels of FEDUP’s relationship with the national
ministry, to willful incompetence. Today, the South African government
owes US$ 12 million to a nationwide federation of people from the
poorest communities (mainly women) who have organized themselves to
save daily and build their capacity to be equal partners with government.
If we want to get cities with better design principles, with poor people
participating in development and governance, then we need to ensure
that the institutions addressing urban poverty are institutions that are
built specifically for these purposes. The challenge for community-based
groups and their support professionals is to engage seriously in both
reforming existing government institutions as well as building new ones.
Demanding solutions from government, blaming them for failure and
waiting for them to deliver, simply will not work.
IV. IT’S THE MONEY, STUPID
If we are to understand why “people-centred” is so often a scorned and
rejected ideal within the governance of housing and human settlements
delivery, then we have to understand where the money goes. The flow of
money is rooted in the conceptual understandings of “housing” as only
formal housing and the resulting institutional arrangements. Developers,
local ward councillors and other local politicians have the power to set
up roadblocks to the flow of money for human settlements. It is little
wonder that the lists where low-income households register for access to
a house are often proven to be inaccurate or false, listing certain people
twice and others who are long dead. The same is true for the RDP houses
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that fall down after a few years due to shoddy building. There are too
many incentives in the current flow of money for those who man the
roadblocks to skim off the top. FEDUP is currently pursuing PHP housing
projects in the provinces of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern
Cape, where federation members have been obstructed by such instances.
Councillors and developers are so used to getting their cut of money from
housing developments that they stand in the way when poor people seek
to get the funding themselves so that they can organize and manage the
upgrading of their homes or new house construction.
One of the obvious reasons why there has been so little people-
centred settlement upgrading, relocation and development is that
there is so little money for it. And when money is available, it is almost
impossible for community organizations to access it. Instead, nearly all of
the South African government’s resources allocated to human settlements
upgrading and development is spent on “eradicating” shacks and getting
local authorities to enable developers to build new sterile blocks of houses
on the periphery of sprawling cities and towns that are still an assault on
the dignity of urban dwellers.
The vague prescriptions of PHP, controlled by the institutions that
drive the subsidy-based housing bureaucracy, are wholly unpromising
prospects on which to pin hopes for dramatic change. The new ministry
has been a promising start, but nothing demonstrates the challenge
ahead more clearly than the current money flows in the housing
delivery system and the vested interests that benefit from them. For
example, there is no budgeting outside of PHP that prioritizes people-
centred development and everything that goes with it: informal
settlement upgrading, more flexible tenure arrangements or a range of
land tenure arrangements, higher-density settlements, integrated and
mixed-income neighbourhoods, incremental housing and an informed,
engaged citizenry. Instead, they give almost all of the resources to
initiatives and mechanisms that support developer-delivered, one-plot-
one-house projects that create far more blighted neighbourhoods than
the informal settlements they are meant to replace.
People-centred initiatives, which account for the vast majority of
neighbourhood development, service provision and housing, take place
outside the formal system. The people, and their ability to step in where the
state abdicates responsibility, are treated as illegal and criminal. The divide
between the formal and informal worlds persists without a bridge in sight.
V. FROM “TALKING STUPID” TO “BOXING CLEVER”
Or so it can appear. The Clintonian motif of “its x, stupid may be crude,
but South Africa is in a position to make each of the variables discussed
thus far housing, institutions and money turn the phrase on its
head. We hope that this article can contribute to a nascent discussion
on new understandings of how these variables operate in the arena of
human settlements. In so doing, we have three fundamental design
principles, which will need to be further developed through pragmatic
engagements between the relevant actors in practice. They address
each factor of housing, institutions and money, which are currently
contributing to the vast gap of human settlements policy theory and
practice in South Africa.
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Design principle one: Develop a multiplicity of strategies to
housing and neighbourhood development. One central belief lies
behind all of these: an insistence that delivery is always through the
leadership of united, organized and informed communities of the
urban poor. The current concept of “housing” as an area for policy
engagement treats these communities as problems to be removed and
“eradicated”. Instead, new strategies can be informed by the informal
BOX 1
Houses built by the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP)
Since 1994, FEDUP has built more than 15,000 houses. What follows here are three examples of ongoing
FEDUP housing projects as part of the South African government’s People’s Housing Process (PHP). In
each case, although some houses have been built under the current “pledge” agreement with the national
Ministry of Human Settlements, the respective projects have encountered problems of bureaucratic
hold-ups, confused building requirements and the insertion of semi-private housing developers into the
people’s process”. These cases demonstrate some of the fundamental challenges as experienced by
FEDUP of people-centred” housing in South Africa.
Town: KwaNdebele (Thembisile municipality)
Province: Mpumalanga
Forty-one of the 50 units have been completed and completion claims have been submitted to the
department. Construction has gone well, as the FEDUP Community Construction Management Team (CCMT)
has developed a good working relationship with the newly instituted Project Management Unit (PMU)
of the Provincial Department of Housing. The balance of nine units is awaiting approval on the Housing
Subsidy System (HSS). As soon as this is obtained, construction will resume.
Town: Lethabong (Rustenburg municipality)
Province: North West
A contract for 96 subsidy houses has been signed with the North West Provincial Department of Housing.
A CCMT has been established and is actively involved in the development process. Initial implementation
was impeded by the need for a geo-technical assessment that has since been concluded and approved
by the province. Currently, 10 units are at wall plate level and 10 foundations have been cast. A new
requirement that the project be registered with the National Housing Building Regulation Commission (NHBRC)
has temporarily suspended construction, as synchronization of joint inspections has not been achieved.
FEDUP has taken up the matter with the province, the PMU, the NHBRC, Lethabong municipality and the
assigned engineer. A resolution was taken that there should be an inspector from the PMU dedicated to
working with the engineer to resolve the technical issues at project level. Claims have been submitted
to the department for current milestone payments. They have not yet been processed.
Town: Joe Slovo (Nelson Mandela Bay municipality)
Province: Eastern Cape
The Joe Slovo project falls under the Nelson Mandela metropolitan municipality in the Eastern Cape, and
the contract with the Housing Department has been signed for 181 beneficiaries. The FEDUP CCMT is
functional. A service provider has been appointed to provide project management and technical support.
At a technical level, training has been provided by the service provider to the local FEDUP members by
utilizing skilled builders/carpenters/plumbers and small FEDUP technical teams to focus on specialized
construction components. In this manner, they completed the initial 10 houses within a fortnight. Currently,
there are 15 completed units certified by the NHBRC and six at foundation level.
A major challenge has been unpaid claims submitted to the Eastern Cape province. This is a consequence
of institutional problems on the side of the municipal authorities, whereby the subsidies of FEDUP
beneficiaries were paid to a now-defunct parastatal housing developer called Thubelisha. The matter was
escalated to the provincial MEC (Member of the Executive Committee) level and part of the payment has
now been received. The balance of payment is still stuck at institutional level and has been submitted to
the National Department of Human Settlements.
SOURCE: uTshani Fund internal report. All figures are accurate as of 31 July 2010.
E N V I R O N M E N T & U R B A N I Z A T I O N Vol 23 No 1 April 2011
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practice of communities that are already delivering most of the urban
housing stock in the country, namely incrementalism.
Design principle two: Reshape the institutional environment
within which government support, especially subsidies and grants,
are delivered. The experience of FEDUP as part of the government’s
PHP shows that subsidies need to be delivered directly and up-front to
the poor, who are organized to help themselves through innovative
institutional arrangements with government. Attendant dysfunctions
of the current system will continue to grow unless these institutions
are reformed drastically.
Design principle three: Change the flow of money so that it
flows in ways that support people-centred development. Invest in
the growth and capacitation of united and informed communities.
Develop and institutionalize systems that make their informed
participation a pre-condition for state resource flows.
Civil society actors often pursue legal, human rights-based routes
to challenge the state. This is particularly so in South Africa, with its
BOX 2
The Informal Settlement Network
The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) is the first major attempt in the post-Apartheid era to bring the
country’s disparate settlement-level and national-level organizations of the urban poor under one umbrella.
In just one and a half years, networks within the ISN structure have come together in the country’s
five biggest metropolitan municipalities: Johannesburg, eThekwini (Durban), Cape Town, Ekurhuleni and
Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth), as well as in the smaller Sol Plaatje municipality, which includes
the diamond mining city of Kimberly.
The network is not just about moral solidarity among the urban poor. It is paving the way towards incremental
development that leverages up to the ever-elusive holy grail of urban development: scale. This kind of
model is being employed to increasing effect within Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), the global
network of national-level federations of the urban poor. Their answer to the question of development at
scale is unequivocal: put organized communities of the urban poor at the centre of their own development.
The ISN has been organizing in ways that place it in prime position to put people at the centre of
upgrading strategies that can make an impact. In Cape Town, eThekwini, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni,
the ISN has undertaken or is undertaking surveys of every informal settlement in each city. Armed with
information about the different kinds of needs in settlements throughout a given city, the organizations
affiliated to this network have begun to implement upgrading pilot projects that can inform policy and
practice based on experience.
In Cape Town, the partnership between the municipal government and the local ISN began because of this
kind of learning. The informal settlements that line the main N2 highway stretch as far as the eye can see
as one drives along the road. An informal settlement there called Joe Slovo, near the township of Langa,
has been a target area for redevelopment as part of the national government’s N2 gateway project. But
evictions related to the project, and more general accusations of corruption and ineffectiveness, have
made what was supposed to be a model government programme something more akin to a laughing
stock of public policy in the urban sector.
In March 2009, the Joe Slovo community experienced a fire that destroyed more than 100 shacks. The
community mobilized to block out the settlement into lanes, which would make it more resistant to
such widespread damage from fires in the future. Just days after the “blocking outexercise was finished,
word of the project had spread. Municipal employees came by to see what had happened. Within months
the local government was working with ISN to pilot 10 upgrades in settlements throughout the city.
H O U S I N G , I N S T I T U T I O N S , M O N E Y
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admirable constitution and recent jurisprudence on socioeconomic rights.
But the problems of human settlements go far beyond such discrete,
limited and conservative challenges. Community-based organizations
and their supporting partners are tasked with finding ways of addressing
the heart of the problems of state policy: addressing urban poverty. This
means critical engagement as opposed to a more detached type of
contestation with the conceptual approaches to “housing”, with the
institutions of the state such approaches inevitably spawn, and the flows
of resources attached to these institutions. Such is the unavoidable task
of all civil society stakeholders and government actors alike if housing
is to actually improve for low-income groups. Such is the road ahead for
“people-centred” to become more than a rhetorical red herring in human
settlements interventions by the state, as South Africa approaches the end
of its second democratic decade.
REFERENCES
Baumann, Ted and Joel Bolnick (2001), “Out of the
frying pan into the fire; the limits of loan finance
in a capital subsidy context”, Environment and
Urbanization Vol 13, No 2, pages 103–115.
Bolnick, Joel (1993), “The People’s Dialogue on Land
and Shelter; community-driven networking in
South Africa’s informal settlements”, Environment
and Urbanization Vol 5, No 1, April, pages 91–110.
Bolnick, Joel (1996), “uTshani Buyakhuluma (The grass
speaks), People’s Dialogue and the South African
Homeless People’s Federation, 1993–1996”,
Environment and Urbanization Vol 8, No 2, October,
pages 153–170.
Bolnick, Joel and Greg Van Rensburg (2005), “The
Methodist Church’s initiative to use its vacant
land to support homeless people’s housing and
livelihoods in South Africa”, Environment and
Urbanization Vol 17, No 1, April, pages 115–122.
http://www.sdinet.org/.
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... [18] (p. 19), the extension of existing townships and formation of new townships in urban areas has largely mimicked previous spatial dynamics where poor people live further away from the cities that depend upon their labour [11]. Inequities in South Africa are reflected along racial lines, compounded by intergenerational poverty, barriers to accessing education, skills and productive land. ...
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This paper tells the story of how a small savings group formed by low-income women in Cape Town invaded a land site and built a house over the period of a weekend to demonstrate that they could build their own homes better and more cheaply than any government programme. It tells of their long negotiation for land on which to build, the various promises from government agencies that were broken and, finally, of the weekend invasion and construction. It also tells the story of the confrontation, first with the police and then with the local government, and how then the house had to be dismantled.
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This paper describes the difficulties that the South African Homeless People’s Federation has had to face, as the government housing subsidies to which its members are entitled have not been forthcoming. The Federation’s members are entitled to a housing subsidy of around US$ 1,500 - and there are housing developments all over South Africa built by Federation savings and loan groups that have demonstrated their capacity to build good quality homes with this. Because of the time taken to obtain housing subsidies, a special fund (the uTshani Fund) was set up to provide bridging loans so that members could start building their own homes. The Fund was to be sustained, as members obtained housing subsidies and repaid the loan thus making more funds available for other bridging loans. But most members who took out loans never received the subsidy and many now face difficulties in repaying these loans. This paper describes how the problem arose and how the Federation and its support NGO, People’s Dialogue on Land and Shelter, are seeking to address it. In doing so, it discusses the difficulties that movements of the urban poor face in reconciling the immediate needs of members (including access to housing) with strategies to obtain the long-term political changes that would allow such needs to be met sustainably.
Negotiating for land: the construction and demolition of Ruo Emoh's show house in Cape
People's Dialogue on Land and Shelter (1999), "Negotiating for land: the construction and demolition of Ruo Emoh's show house in Cape Town in August 1999", Environment and Urbanization Vol 11, No 2, October, pages 31-40.