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An analysis of backyard structures as a livelihood strategy for low-income households: the case of Ikwezi Township in Mthatha.

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The lack of low income housing especially rental housing in urban areas of South Africa has forced many low-income households to find accommodation in the backyard housing sector, which is mainly provided by the household sector. Despite the growth of the backyard rental housing sector in the post-apartheid era, housing policies have discounted the sector. Focusing more on eradicating informal settlements, and homelessness by delivering subsidised starter houses. The overlooking of the backyard rental sector by the state neglects prospects for more sustainable human settlements. This study thus reflects on the use of backyard structures as a livelihood strategy by low-income households. Addressing the research question of: whether backyard structures can enhance economic opportunities in townships, and what role has it played in elevating the housing backlog problem South African in cities? The study employs a literature review informed by electronic data bases, and implements mixed method research relying on quantitative data gathered via questionnaires, and qualitative data from semi-structured interviews and anecdotal observation in the nonmetropolitan case study of Ikwezi Township, in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. This thesis focuses on housing policy and legislation, spatial, economic, social, and environmental considerations in relation to the backyard rental sector. By discussing the backyard rental sector within housing, the liberal and neoliberal theories and the sustainable livelihood approach are used. In order to relate the sector to planning practises and bylaws at municipal level. The study strengthens the argument that the perception that the backyard rental sector is informal and therefore undesirable is not necessarily true. This study proposes that this position should be reconsidered. In investigating the economic, and environmental impacts of the backyard rental sector in Ikwezi Township in Mthatha. The study affirms that the backyard sector plays a vital role is sustaining livelihood strategies of the poor, and it also increases dwelling unit and population density substantially and it also promotes urban compaction. Furthermore, the study proves that landlord can make considerable amounts of money from their backyard structures. Depending on what they use their backyard structures for, the quality of their neighbourhood, and their backyard structures. The study has also found that the amounts they charge their tenants per backyard structure, and how many backyard structures they have in their homes also play a significant role on the income they can generate from their backyard structures. iv | P a g e All these factors have been proven to differ from case study to case study, and have been proven to have an influence on how much landlords can generate from their backyard structures. The case study of Ikwezi Township has also refuted the notion that economic sustainability wise, low-income dwellings rarely realise financial asset value, trapping homeowners on the low levels of the property ladder in unaffordable housing. Instead the backyard rentals sector provides rental income or other remittances, realising economic asset value, whilst providing tenants with affordable rental accommodation. The backyard rentals sector further promotes the social asset value of housing, and support social sustainability. Evidenced can be seen in co-dependence, and low-conflict in landlordtenant relationships sometimes framed by familial connections that provide tenure security. Findings also indicate that backyard rentals challenge sustainability through concerns of the pressure they place on infrastructure. The study concludes that informal backyard rentals contribute towards elevating poverty in low-income neighbourhoods. However, interventions should be considered by authorities and planners to address impediments such as, lack of infrastructural capacity to accommodate backyard tenants, especially in new housing developments targeting the poor.


Master Degree, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.