The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU Working Paper - No. 80

Housing Strategies and The Urban Poor In South Africa: A Brief Critical Evaluation


27 July 1996

Authors: Lombard, J J G.

Publication Date: 1996

During the 1950s and 1960s urban migration and burgeoning informal settlements around the cities of developing countries generally elicited hostile responses from governments. The urban poor were considered to be parasites on the formal system, and a threat to an orderly urban development. The destruction of their makeshift structures proved illusory however, as the perceived problem was not removed, but simply displaced elsewhere.

By the 1960s the concern for controlled urban development and political pressures on governments to intervene in the housing markets on behalf of the poor led to the adoption of public housing programmes. These generally failed to meet expectations; inappropriately high standards and increasing implementation costs required ever higher subsidies that could not be sustained over the longer term. In addition designs and locations were invariably illmatched to the needs and affordability levels of the intended lowincome households, so that higher income groups often ended up as the beneficiaries.

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