Housing Issues South Africa

Topics: City, Urban decay, Sustainability Pages: 22 (7719 words) Published: August 26, 2010

Habitat International 31 (2007) 291–302 www.elsevier.com/locate/habitatint

Sustainable urban development? Low-cost housing challenges in South Africa Allison GoebelÃ
Environmental Studies and Women’s Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont., Canada K7L 3N6

Abstract Low-cost housing provision has been a major focus of government in post-apartheid urban South Africa. While successes can be noted, there is growing concern regarding the social and environmental sustainability of housing programs and the impacts upon both the surrounding environment and human health. Utilizing key informant interviews, survey research, Census data and documentary review, this essay identifies the major impediments to a sustainable low-cost housing provision in urban South Africa. The essay also points to hopeful signs in new policy directions, particularly attention to health issues and informal settlement upgrade programs. However, the major obstacles to a sustainable low-cost housing process, including macro-economic conditions, enduring historical legacies of race and class, the scale and rapidity of urban growth and institutional challenges show little indication of abating. r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: Low-cost housing; South Africa; Sustainable habitats; Health; Urban environments; Environmental justice

Introduction: the urban housing crisis in South Africa Low-cost housing provision has been a major focus of government in post-apartheid urban South Africa, as the government attempts to address historical race-based inequalities, poor municipal service provision and contemporary rapid urbanization. The White Paper on Housing of 1994 prioritized the needs of the poor, encouraged community participation and the involvement of the private sector, and committed to deliver 1 million houses in five years (Jenkins, 1999, p. 433). The African National Congress (ANC) Reconstruction and Development Program document (RDP) of 1994, and the Constitution (1996, p. 12) also commit to providing housing for the poor (Republic of South Africa, 1994, 1996). Since 1994, the low-cost housing program has mostly involved building serviced townships on urban peripheries, which in itself presents a myriad of environmental, social and political concerns. By early 2006, 1,877,958 housing units have been constructed or are under construction according to the Department of Housing.1 However, many problems with the process have become clear as the process has unfolded. ÃTel.: +1 613 533 6000x77660; fax: +1 613 533 6090.


E-mail address: goebela@queensu.ca. http://www.housing.gov.za/ (accessed 2.03.06).

0197-3975/$ - see front matter r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.habitatint.2007.03.001

292 A. Goebel / Habitat International 31 (2007) 291–302

These include:


New houses and townships continue placing poor and low-income blacks in ‘‘ghettos’’ on urban peripheries, far from jobs and services (Seekings, 2000, p. 835); New houses and infrastructure (such as sewerage services) are of poor quality, are rapidly deteriorating and require maintenance (Huchzermeyer, 2001, p. 322); The dominant model of free-hold tenure inadequately deals with the dynamics of poverty, and several categories of the poor, such as temporary workers and many women, would be better served by rental accommodation (Seekings, 2000, pp. 835–836); People dislike the model of housing used, and would prefer larger houses (main model was changed in 1998 when Department of Housing increased minimum size of new houses to 30 m2) (Huchzermeyer, 2001, p. 306); Because of these problems, people often sell or rent out their RDP houses bought through the subsidy, and move back to squatter or other informal settlements closer to their economic activities; the cost of transport from the new townships to jobs and income generation activities is the single biggest financial problem encouraging...

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