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Low income rental housing, a neglected component of urban regeneration strategies in South African inner cities : a case study of the Durban inner city.

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Various factors are responsible for the degeneration and decay of South African inner cities, many of which are directly linked to the country’s history of political, social, economic and spatial inequality. In attempts to remedy the injustices of apartheid planning, the government initiated a major push in the National Housing Policy for a better integration of housing within inner cities. Breaking New Ground (BNG) put great emphasis on the role of social housing as a driver for urban regeneration. Stating that low-income rental interventions may also be used to facilitate the acquisition, rehabilitation and conversion of vacant or dilapidated buildings as part of a broader urban renewal strategy. However, the urban regeneration strategies implemented by the municipalities have been similar in terms of their vision and content. The primary focus has been centred on economic growth. The core of the strategies generally emphasise attracting sustained private investments and creating a functioning property market leading to a rise in property value and displacement of the inner city poor. Emphasis has also been on the improvement of municipal infrastructure, the regulation of informal trading and the eradication of crime and grime. Unfortunately these strategies are characterised by a glaring weakness of the housing component. This dissertation was aimed at expressing the need for development of low-income rental housing within South African inner cities as an effective yet neglected component of urban regeneration strategies in the country. The study made reference to the inner city of Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal in particular. The study sought to; assess the current state of urban decline and the housing situation within the Durban inner city, discuss urban regeneration strategies implemented nationally and internationally, and showcase the potential role of low-income rental housing as a driver of regeneration strategies. Primary data was sourced through observation and semi-structured interviews with municipal, provincial government, ward counselor and Section 21 company officials. This was done to answer the question, ‘why has low-income rental housing become a neglected component of urban regeneration strategies within the Durban inner city, despite the apparent need and it being highlighted as such in Housing policy’. The information gathered from the interviews was analysed using thematic analysis. After analysing the information, the following were some of the findings; the Durban inner city was in dire need of regeneration as well as low-income rental housing that is not limited to social housing, as the majority of the inner city poor do not meet the income bracket requirement. Data also expressed challenges such as land availability and financial constraints had limited the scale of low-income rental housing development within the inner city. Perhaps the most integral finding was that, despite the push in housing policy of low-income rental housing as a driver of urban regeneration, strong linkages between the two had not been facilitated through a corresponding national regeneration policy or municipal programmes and initiative. The study made a number of recommendations, such as; EThekwini Municipality needs to strongly consider developing Community Residential Units (CRU) in order to accommodate the inner city poor who earn below R1500 per month; the development of a national urban regeneration policy which makes strong linkages between low-income rental housing and urban regeneration. With regards to the issue of land availability, the Municipality should use Land-Use Schemes to deny development consent instead of low-income rental housing within the inner city.


Master of Housing. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2016.