Alliance at Human Settlements Learning Exchange in Durban

By 5th May 2015 CORC, FEDUP, ISN

By Jeff Thomas (on behalf of CORC)

A SA SDI Alliance team comprising FEDUP and ISN community leaders, regional co-ordinators and CORC representatives was invited to attend the International Human Settlements Learning Exchange in eThekwini Municipality from 15-17 April 2015.

The exchange, a first of its kind, was hosted by the Municipal Institute of Learning (MILE) in partnership with eThekwini’s Human Settlements Department and the Affordable Housing Institute (AHI). It included about 200 local, national and provincial government officials, eThekwini Municipality councillors, private sector housing, NGO and academic representatives.  

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 11.42.19 AM

It aimed to “share different organisation’s perspectives and experiences within the human settlements sector to improve housing service delivery” (Reference). The exchange focussed on new funding models for affordable housing finance, effective new housing typologies and guidance for establishing socially inclusive and responsive housing settlements.  For the Alliance it was an opportunity to share concrete experiences in community participation that move beyond infrastructural approaches to human settlements development.The event was billed as an international exchange in that the keynote speaker, Professor Jeremy Gorelick, is a globally acclaimed expert in the area of alternative, more-sustainable funding models for housing finance. Among other things, he is the Managing Director of Capital Markets for the USA-based Affordable Housing Institute, a non-profit and tax exempt pro-poor consulting and research firm which operates in 43 countries.
Community-Based Implementation at Alliance's Namibia Stop 8 Housing Project in eThekwini Municipality

Community-Based Implementation at Alliance’s Namibia Stop 8 Housing Project in eThekwini Municipality

Examining Sustainable Funding Models 

His presentation on the first day examined factors relating to the opportunities and challenges of financing housing development in Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by a brief exploration of “Public-Private Partnerships” and “Municipal Development Funds”. The day also involved presentations by KZN MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works, SALGA’s Sustainable Human Settlements Specialist and the Treasury’s DDG who spoke on the South African Model of Human Settlements Finance. Seated around tables in the audience, participants were given the opportunity to discuss the presentations and share feedback on these at a plenary session.

SA SDI Alliance Team at Exchange

SA SDI Alliance Team at Exchange

Visiting Cornubia housing project 

While the first day focused on a sustainable funding model, the second day comprised two key parts: presentations and a field trip.  The presentations related to a series of existing and proposed human settlement projects while the field trip took us to two of them: KwaMashu Centre where a multi-storey 1000-unit social housing development is planned and Cornubia, a 25000-unit housing project and associated social and light industrial precinct to the north of Durban. At both these projects participants were afforded an opportunity to engage in a question and answer session with municipal officials leading the visit.

Cornubia Housing Project,

Cornubia Housing Project, eThekwini Municipality


Cornubia, eThekwini Municipality

Cornubia, eThekwini Municipality

Community-Centred Human Settlement Development

The third day’s focus shifted to issues of community participation in human settlements development discussed by the Project Preparation Trust, the SA SDI Alliance and Habitat for Humanity South Africa. The CEO of Project Preparation Trust examined the meaning of ‘people-centred development’ and its relationship to infrastructural development’. He shared 8 actions that South African cities need to take in order to become more people-centred. Key amongst these were

  • the need to understand local communities and circumstances
  • approaching participation as ‘negotiation’
  • focusing on partnership and trust-building
  • asset not deficit-based thinking
  • understanding informality by working with it not against it
  • and most importantly, focussing on improving livelihoods and quality of life

The SA SDI Alliance team shared its experience in pioneering people-centred development initiatives since 1991. The presentation focussed on the Alliance’s experience in community-driven human settlement upgrading in relation to ‘project preparation’ and ‘project implementation’. While project preparation was explained as comprising community-based savings, data-collection (profiling & enumerations) and planning, implementation looked at upgrading in terms of improved services, re-blocking and housing.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 12.31.08 PM


The emphasis in both regards was on how the Alliance approach provides opportunities for people to participate in and drive their own development, leading to self-pride and greater sense of ownership of the final product. It also emphasised the central role of women in driving the process and the need for partnerships between poor communities and government. A series of quotes about the Alliance process from significant national human settlements ministers concluded the presentation, clearly communicating that,

“It’s only a fool who cannot support this process”

(Derek Hanekom, SA Human Settlements Minister, 1999)

Habitat for Humanity SA’s final presentation shared its new strategic direction since 2012 and its use of the 4P model: People-Public-Private Partnerships. Habitat shared its approach to leadership capacity-building workshops, the role of asset-mapping and sustainable livelihoods analysis, the artisan audit towards providing appropriate skills training which is part of a social scoping exercise run in communities that participate in their own development programs.


Discussions aimed to broaden thinking and practice by municipal officials and sector practitioners alike. As a result of the presentations and discussion on community-centred participation on Day 3, the concept of ‘Public-Private Partnerships’ introduced on the first day had been broadened out to include People-Public-Private Partnerships, in which communities become central role-players in project preparation (community driven savings, data collection and planning) as well as implementation. As the Alliance continues to seek out a partnership the municipality, the exchange indicated a growing awareness concerning the significance of community-driven process and collaborative partnership between stakeholder sectors.

Leave a Reply