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How South Africa Can Achieve Both Social And Economic Inclusion In Our Quest To Realising The Right For Access To Adequate Housing

  • 4 min read

A CSO joint initiative has demonstrated that the release of well-located state- owned land can be used for low-income and mixed -use developments, thereby spatially transforming our societies.

The quest for access to dignified homes among the previously disadvantaged within our society remains a burning issue, despite the constitutional and legislative obligation to ensure that citizens progressively gain access to land on an equitable basis and to progressively realise the right of access to adequate housing. “South Africa has a massive housing shortage and one of the highest urbanisation rates among emerging economies across the world. 63% of South Africans are already living in urban areas and this will rise to 71% by 2030. By 2050, eight in ten people will be living in urban areas. There are currently more than 3 300 informal settlements in South Africa”. Given the rising need for urban housing and accommodation, the state must find a way to develop housing opportunities on well located land that is close to economic opportunities. 

One objective of the Spatial Planning Land Use Management Act is to ensure that spatial planning and land use promotes both social and economic inclusion. South Africa’s apartheid spatial planning sees most poor and working-class families being excluded from accessing housing in the well-located areas, leaving them confined to housing projects on or beyond the urban edge. Sadly, the pattern of spatial injustice persists, where we see housing projects predominately being placed at the urban peripheries.

In an attempt to achieve spatial integration, the City of Johannesburg and the Western Cape Provincial Government have adopted their own inclusionary housing policies. Inclusionary housing refers to municipal planning that requires property developers to provide a portion of the new construction at a rate that is affordable to the low-income earners. Private developments are often located in ‘well developed’ suburbs within South Africa and/or close to the City’s economic hubs.  The intention of inclusionary housing is to share the value in land and property markets through private sector participation, in the provision of affordable housing, thereby assisting to create integrated neighbourhoods. 

Inclusionary housing is intended to enable affordability in the private sector property market, whereby beneficiaries can pay rent or make mortgage repayments, together with the associated costs, at an affordable rate, than is otherwise available in the open market. Inclusionary housing aims to create affordable housing opportunities in or through private development, to address spatial transformation in a city or town to mitigate the persistent exclusionary impact of high value property markets. The affordable housing market according to the Financial Services Sector is defined as households earning a gross income of up to R27,200 in 2022. It is intended that inclusionary housing will benefit and integrate South Africa’s working middle class.

This then begs the question of how South Africa may achieve spatial and social integration for most poor and working-class families that do not qualify for inclusionary housing. Housing projects continue to be developed within the periphery of the urban edge, thereby perpetuating South Africa’s apartheid spatial lay-out. In 2020, an initiative of civil society organisations (CSO) working on land and housing in Cape Town, began jointly advocating for the national government to release three large and exceptionally well-located parcels of unused or under-used military land for the development of affordable housing, namely Youngsfield, Wingfield and Ysterplaat. These properties are well-located, i.e., each site is located approximately 10 kilometres from the Cape Town, central business district. “The state has consistently blamed spatial injustice on the lack of well-located land that could be used for housing development. However, all levels of government already own vast tracts of land in Cape Town’s well-located areas. Much of this land is unused or under-utilised given its potential and could provide ample space for the development of housing”. The CSO joint submission sought to demonstrate to the state that the release of state-owned land can be used to address the housing need as well as fundamentally transform and restructure unjust spatial patterns within South Africa. The release of well-located state-owned land for low-income and mixed-use developments will benefit the poor and working class, aiding social and economic inclusion.

While the LRC welcomes inclusionary housing policies within our cities, we support greater investment in the implementation of the SPLUMA objectives. The call for the release of under-utilised, unused well-located state-owned land must be taken seriously by the state if they truly seek to positively address apartheid spatial planning imbalances.



Anneline Turpin