An evaluation of housing strategy in South Africa for the creation of sustainable human settlements : a case study of the eThekwini region.
Govender, Gonaseelan Barlow.
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Given that access to adequate housing is defined under South Africa's constitution as a fundamental human right, it is understandable that the post Apartheid government focuses significant time and expense on establishing human settlements intended to redress the historically unequal distribution of wealth and resources. This thesis is concerned with looking at why, in spite of this attention, the government has underperformed in delivering low income housing projects that evolve into socially sustainable and integrated communities. Since there is no substantial evidence that a comprehensive study of the consolidation of human settlements has been done in South Africa, this research and the recommendations it engenders will be an important resource for planning truly sustainable and integrated human settlements in the future. Both theoretical and applied research methodologies were utilised in this thesis to examine specifically six human settlements in the KwaZulu-Natal Ethekwini region, selected for their diversity in terms of social, economic and location characteristics, as well as the differing historical circumstances surrounding their establishments. That the analysis included three settlements with Greenfield and social housing projects developed during the Apartheid regime and three settlements established after the 1994 democratic elections, permits comparisons to be drawn and so facilitates a deeper understanding of the successes and failures of the creation of sustainable housing settlements. A thorough review of the limited literature in South Africa in this field and an assessment of strategies contained in the National Housing Policy, was complimented by a more practical approach, including the use of a Delphi survey method, which was conducted with experts in the housing field, policy makers and settlement inhabitants, and extensive on site data collection. This investigation shows that, paradoxically, the Apartheid housing settlements, designed to entrench racial segregation and inequality, have in fact flourished as consolidated communities, in comparison with post Apartheid housing projects. The thesis draws the conclusion that in the Apartheid settlements inhabitants are using their housing units as an invaluable asset to improve their living conditions and to create a sustainable environment. However, in the settlements developed by the post Apartheid regime, inhabitants are struggling to use their home as an asset to improve their living conditions and to create a convenient and sustainable environment. Consequently, poverty, social exclusion and vulnerability of the beneficiaries of low-cost housing are deepening. While this does not justify the Apartheid policy of enforced removals or the subsequent social evils, the sense of ownership that ensued from forcing inhabitants to thererafter pay for their dwelling based on a calculated proportion of household income, is key to understanding this disparity. In comparison, post Apartheid housing policy, framed within a socialist agenda, does not allow for equitable distribution based on income levels and so for the mainly poor and economically inactive inhabitants, there is an absence of this same ownership incentive to either care for or improve the dwellings that they are given. Furthermore, the current National Housing Policy fails to take a holistic approach to the issue since its priority is simply meeting short-term high demand to eradicate the most visible effects of Apartheid. Subsequently, the National Housing Policy has failed to consider how access to education facilities for children, availability of consumer goods and the proximity to commercial activity, jostle with the need for shelter as high priorities for low income households, which fundamentally affects the success of any housing policy. For this reason, several beneficiaries of post Apartheid housing units have sold their homes to raise income to meet more pressing needs. All social housing settlements that formed the sample of this research study have long term viability issues and so replicating any model is problematic. The thesis suggests therefore, that in the future, legislators and policy makers look towards cultivating mixed use housing settlements centred around vibrant commercial, business and retail sites with connecting public transit and pedestrian networks, and various tenure options, including rentals, rent-to-buy and outright purchase. Development initiatives taking into considerations the reforms and recommendations outlined in this thesis could be implemented on housing projects that use developed buffer zones of land that were left over from the Apartheid era housing policy or on "lost spaces" within existing human settlements. The advantages of such a new approach for creating sustainable housing settlements provides an opportunity to link spatially and economically dislocated communities while ensuring beneficiaries and stakeholders in housing settlements meet a wider variety of needs. The conclusion that this thesis draws is that South Africa needs a post Apartheid approach to create sustainable human settlements. The Delphi Study reveals that the strategy to be adopted should represent the expectations of both policy-makers and beneficiaries. Consequently, this thesis proposes a sustainable housing development model and has developed guidelines and processes that take into consideration the many issues affecting housing policies and so becomes a workable tool for future housing professionals. Consolidated and integrated settlements that evolve into socially sustainable communities then becomes a real possibility.