Insights are featured pieces of research

that explain key topics in greater detail.

Unlawful occupation in South Africa: What the law says

Isandla Institute | 2021-09-29 | 304 views

The 2021 local government elections have once again cast a spotlight on the lived conditions of many South Africans. Based on 2011 census data, conservatively, between 1.1 and 1.4 million households (between 2.9 and 3.6 million people) in South Africa live in conditions characterised by the lack of adequate, affordable housing, the threat of unlawful eviction, and overcrowding. The persistence of occupation in informal settlements and inner city buildings is perhaps one of the more obvious examples of how little progress has been made towards a more equal and inclusive society. It is demonstrative of the state’s failure and the market’s inability to provide poor households with formal affordable accommodation options in well-located area...


Making municipal budget allocations for informal settlements more democratic

Isandla Institute | 2021-09-08 | 342 views

Budget allocations offer insight into the priority areas that government has identified. As resources are constrained, municipalities are faced with a balancing act between different needs and demands. Beyond the challenge of limited funds to see through all desired outcomes, often there is a misalignment between the spheres of government in relation to priority areas and a lack of spatial coordination of public investment. With budgets being a key policy tool, it stands to reason that budget transparency is vital. Yet, municipal budgets are highly technical and often lack specific detail regarding what type of services will be delivered, where and by when. As Asivikelani notes: *“…the lack of detail in the metros’ budgets makes it chall...


The State of Land Release in South Africa

Isandla Institute | 2021-09-01 | 474 views

In November 2020, the national Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation announced with great fanfare that the government will no longer prioritise building houses for qualifying applicants, but instead focus its interventions on providing serviced land which people can use to build their homes themselves. The reprioritisation is ostensibly a response to the call for land made by the landless as well as enterprising individuals unwilling to languish on ubiquitous and obscure housing waiting lists. Moreover, the shrinking housing budget and at that, a significant part of the fiscus having to be diverted towards the country’s COVID-19 response has made continued provision of subsidised housing unsustainable. There is little inf...


Addressing crime and violence in informal settlements through environmental design

Isandla Institute | 2021-08-04 | 94 views

Crime and violence in South Africa is an ongoing issue that government, civil society and the private sector are grappling with. We have seen an increase in crime levels, partly due to the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the economy and communities, with many people having lost their livelihoods, been laid off or lost earnings. The crime statistics for the first three months of 2021 paint a grim picture: nearly 5,000 people were murdered during this period, showing an 8% increase (387 additional murders) compared to the corresponding period in the previous year. Evidence shows that low-income communities such as informal settlements are not only disproportionately affected by the devastating impact of Covid-19, but also by violence an...


Strategies of participatory upgrading and the promotion of a social compact

Isandla Institute | 2021-08-04 | 57 views

It is now widely acknowledged that evictions and demolitions are highly inappropriate responses to informal housing. In a break with the past, policymakers in South Africa and elsewhere have largely moved away from the language of ‘slum eradication’ to an acceptance that informal settlements are here to stay. This is encouraging, and demonstrates a recognition that neither South Africa’s public housing programme nor the formal housing market are managing to keep pace with the demand for affordable housing. If informal settlements cannot be eradicated, then the question now becomes: how can informal settlements be upgraded in a way that improves the dignity, safety and livelihoods of their residents? The shift towards informal settlement u...


The nuances of backyarding: What do we know?

Isandla Institute | 2021-07-13 | 42 views

Informal backyard living is a long standing feature of South African cities and has been steadily growing in recent years. It offers many urban residents an affordable housing solution, particularly those who are not eligible for public housing, those who qualify but find themselves on the long housing waiting list, or those who do not qualify for a bond and who cannot afford formal rentals. In fact, recent research on backyard housing in Cape Town conducted by the Backyard Matters Project, jointly executed by the Development Action Group (DAG), Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) and Isandla Institute, found that a significant proportion of tenants opt to live in neighbourhoods they have lived most of their lives or where the...


Exploring the relationship between evidence and implementation

Isandla Institute | 2021-07-07 | 49 views

It almost goes without saying that there should be a strong relationship between evidence and policy. Government interventions that are not based on research and a solid understanding of the context in which they are implemented are less likely to succeed. Similarly, it is important for government to substantiate the claims they make about service delivery using evidence so that genuine accountability can take place. Having a strong evidence base enables better planning. By understanding what is needed and what has been implemented so far, governments are able to adjust and target their interventions so that they have the greatest positive impact possible. Government (at all levels) will not be able to improve the lives of people living ...


The new impetus given to Informal Settlement Upgrading in South Africa

Isandla Institute | 2021-06-30 | 40 views

In her recent address on the Human Settlements Budget Vote, Minister Sisulu dedicated R10 billion to address the ‘nightmare’ of informal settlements over the next 3 years. This denotes a significant shift from previous stances taken by the National Department of Human Settlements – under Sisulu’s leadership – to either ‘eradicate’ informal settlements or have informal settlement upgrading eclipsed by ambitious housing projects. The shift represents a sense of pragmatism: an acceptance that informal settlements are an enduring feature of the urban landscape, combined with the realisation that the public housing programme cannot resolve the housing crisis fast enough. The contraction of the economy as a result of Covid-19 is further puttin...


Planning 4 Informality (P4I): Encouraging Accountability and Dialogue on Informal Settlement Upgrading and Backyarding Support

Isandla Institute | 2021-06-23 | 35 views

Informality remains a prominent feature of South African cities. Despite an ambitious public housing programme, informal settlements have continued to mushroom over the years. It is projected that 2.2 million families live in underdeveloped and substandard housing across the country; at least 60% (1.3 million households) of those live in informal settlements in and around the eight metros. Cities are given a clear mandate to upgrade informal settlements by providing services and renovating infrastructure. This is accomplished through the Upgrading Informal Settlements Programme (UISP), which outlines the procedures to be followed for different aspects of informal settlement upgrading, such as planning, land acquisition, basic services pro...


2019/2020 Update Analysis

Isandla Institute | 2020-10-06 | 38 views

The policy context for informal settlement upgrading is in constant flux, as policy-makers try to ensure that policy is evidence-based and informed by practice. The dynamic nature of informality is the reason why informal settlement upgrading is often referred to as a ‘moving target’. This has a bearing on annual metro municipalities’ plans and strategies. The 2019/2020 financial year was notable in the context of local government strategic planning, particularly for urban development. It was the end of national government’s 4-year medium-term strategic framework (MTSF) to tackle poverty, unemployment and inequality. This meant that metros would be gearing up to meet the targets set in 2014. 2019/2020 was also the year that National ...


Upgrading key to overcoming poverty and unemployment in informal settlements

Isandla Institute | 2019-04-09 | 38 views

Informal settlements form and grow due to in-migration as people seek better prospects in urban areas from rural areas or smaller towns, and partly due to natural population growth in the urban area and in other informal settlements. These settlements can provide a foothold for low income migrants due to low rentals, with proximity to opportunity leading to minimal transport costs. Thus, informal settlements provide potential for a ladder out of poverty. Not only do they serve as access points to economic activities in nearby formal areas, but a host of economic activity occurs within these settlements. These need to be protected and promoted. Most of this economic activity is in the informal sector. A sustainable settlement should host ...


Approaches to the Upgrading of Informal Settlements

Isandla Institute | 2019-04-02 | 33 views

There are a number of approaches to informal settlement upgrading, such as in situ upgrading, reblocking, and superblocking. A look at the characteristics of each allows for a better understanding of their respective benefits, as well as highlighting the necessity for community participation from the planning stage to ensure the sustainability of these upgrading approaches. # In Situ Upgrading of Monwabisi Park Monwabisi Park is one of the five informal settlements where the City of Cape Town embarked on a pilot programme for in situ upgrading in 2010. The upgrading process in these areas was participatory in nature, with the first step being the establishment of steering committees. The committees were tasked with identifying community ...


Measures of disaster risk management in informal settlements

Isandla Institute | 2019-03-26 | 38 views

Informal settlement residents live in precarious circumstances caused by multiple factors which affect their quality of life. These households are incredibly vulnerable to natural and other disasters such as flooding and fires. A number of methods are implemented by government to manage and mitigate disaster risks in informal settlements, including settlement realignment, smoke detectors and fire combat training, alternative building materials use and methods, as well as alternative lighting technologies. The provision of disaster kits is the most common initial intervention by government once a natural disaster has struck *[1]*. Re-blocking, the realignment of shacks, allows for thoroughfares and courtyards that inhibit the spread of f...


The 2019/2020 budget and how it affects human settlements

Isandla Institute | 2019-03-19 | 26 views

On 20 February 2019 Finance Minister Tito Mboweni tabled the 2019/2020 budget, his first budget vote since his appointment last year. The budget message over the past few years has been for government officials to do more with less. So what does the 2019/2020 budget have in store for human settlements, and informal settlement upgrading specifically? The 2019/2020 Budget is premised on the Minister of Finance’s analogy of a farmer who reaps and sows. This implies putting in, in order to get out. First, it is important to establish that the national Department of Human Settlements is responsible for more than just housing. As defined in the Breaking New Ground strategy of 2004, sustainable human settlements have to do with many aspects of ...


Planning for Informality webtool turns spotlight on municipal progress in informal settlement upgrading

Isandla Institute | 2019-03-19 | 24 views

# About the Planning for Informality webtool The Planning for Informality webtool was developed by Isandla Institute in partnership with Open Data Durban and launched in August 2017. Municipalities, mandated by the National Department of Human Settlements, have committed to upgrading 750 000 informal settlement dwellings by 2019. Comprehensive informal upgrading strategies and plans are important elements in achieving this goal. The webtool tracks how the major metros are progressing towards this, based on reporting and policy commitments in core annual municipal documentation. The core municipal documents include the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) reviews, Built Environment Performance Plan (BEPP), Service Delivery Budget and Implementa...


Partnerships facilitating Community Participation in Cape Town

Isandla Institute | 2019-02-26 | 30 views

Strong partnerships between municipalities and civil society organizations are noted as good practice in informal settlement upgrading. Partnerships offer a way for stakeholders to share resources, knowledge and skills in upgrading projects. They can also be used to facilitate meaningful community participation – a principle that often lacks in practice. Municipal documentation from the City of Cape Town displays evidence of partnerships with civil society organisations to facilitate community participation. A deeper look into some of these partnerships reveals lessons which may be useful for other municipalities that are working towards creating an enabling environment for community participation. # Community Participation and Partn...


South African Urban Backyarders.

Isandla Institute | 2018-02-19 | 26 views

South African metropolitan cities (Metros) are currently experiencing pressing urban development issues, with many residents living in extreme poverty and inadequate conditions.The urban poor are often socially excluded and are in need of effective government intervention. The challenge of informal settlements is the most recognisable and is often at the forefront of political media, human settlement policy and interventions. However, the plight of the backyard dwellers is frequently overlooked and disregarded. </p></p> Because of housing backlogs and economic recession across South African cities, amongst others, it has become more common for existing dwellings to accommodate tenants in predominately <a href="http://informalcity.co.z...


Evaluating the Strengths and Weaknesses of the UISP

Isandla Institute | 2018-02-16 | 31 views

The Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) forms part of the ambitious National Housing Code of the Department of Human Settlements (DoHS). The programme offers an intergovernmental approach aimed at improving the living conditions of people in informal settlements by providing efficient service delivery, security of tenure and community empowerment and involvement. The UISP is divided into four major phases: project preparation, interim services, full services and registered tenure. Phases 1 to 3 focus on service delivery through the involvement of municipal, provincial and national government. The 4th phase relates to the allocation of funds for the development of individual houses in line with the eligibility of households...


Analysis of 2016/17 municipal documentation – Our findings

Isandla Institute | 2018-02-14 | 56 views

Analysis of the policies, programmes and projects presented in core municipal documentation was the starting point for developing the Data Index. Researchers in Isandla Institute’s Urban Land programme trawled through more than 50 pdf documents ranging from 50 – 300 pages to extract data. Read more about the research methodology and data sources.</p></p> In the assessment of 2016/17 municipal data of the eight cities, we found that increasingly cities are adopting strategies for the improvement of informal settlements in line with national government targets, but there is a general lack of alignment. Below we present the top five issues that national policymakers and regulators need to resolve. This will help ensure cities are held accou...


Introducing Planning for Informality

Isandla Institute | 2018-02-14 | 99 views

Last year global leaders adopted the New Urban Agenda at the Habitat III convention. This convention is held every 20 years where policy directions are discussed and enacted. News websites were abuzz at the news that the New Urban Agenda will set a new global standard and policy direction for sustainable urban development, and blogs featured in-depth discussions on the detailed recommendations for planning, managing, financing, conserving and living in cities of the present and future. Through Resolution 109 of the New Urban Agenda, global leaders promise that, “We will consider increased allocations of financial and human resources, as appropriate, for the upgrading and, to the extent possible, prevention of slums and informal settlement...