Investigating the experiences of refugees in accessing proper housing in urban areas: the case of eThekwini Municipality (Durban CBD), South Africa.
Dlamini, Nokubonga Philile Mirandah.
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The provision of proper housing has been an urgent and a thorny issue in South Africa for decades. The country attempted to deal with this challenge through the RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) in the post-1994 dispensation. The attempt was not only meant to address housing for the poor, but also to encourage economic growth and make it possible for a large number of people from informal settlements to enter the housing market. Most importantly, RDP was also an attempt to fulfil the requirements of section 26 of the Constitution, which states that everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing. One of the main shortcomings of the RDP programme was that one had to be a South African citizen to receive a ‘RDP house’, which then raises a question on the constitutional imperative of housing for all, making it much more complex. The Constitution also makes it clear that everyone, irrespective of citizenship, has the right to access proper housing. What then does this mean for refugees, whether poor or not? Do they, in practice, have access to adequate housing? This study thus investigates the experiences of refugees in accessing housing, especially in the urban areas where most refugees are likely to stay for both economic and security reasons. With the vast number of immigrant applications currently being processed by the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA), most refugees are on waiting lists and some are only provided with temporary residence for only a few months. Both the aforementioned challenges make it difficult for them to get occupancy in the rental housing market and also hinders their ability to buy houses; consequently, refugees are pushed into unregulated, overcrowded and dilapidated inner-city buildings. This is where they are exposed to crime, exploitation by landlords and discrimination including xenophobia. The abovementioned experiences which are substantiated by the findings of this study places an onus on the responsible governmental bodies to address the issue of access to proper housing. Further, the current planning and strategic policies do not seem to be utilising housing as an instrument for sustainable development, promoting social cohesion and combating crime to achieve the objectives stated in the National Development Plan (NDP).