1. Launch Date 


2.    Location

Flamingo Crescent is situated between Lansdowne’s industrial warehouses and timber depots on a street by the same name. After upgrading, residents renamed the settlement ‘Flamingo Heights’. Its strategic location – close to industrial hubs and convenient transport routes (a major motorway) – offers beneficial access to surrounding industry, job opportunities, social amenities, public transport routes other hubs of economic activity.

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3. Project in Brief

The incremental re-blocking of Flamingo aimed to reconfigure the spatial layout of the settlement to ensure the provision of services and the formalisation of roads. This involved: upgrade existing structures with fire-retardent klip-lok material, provision of basic services such as installation of water, sanitation and electricity per re-blocked structure (1:1 ratio), paved access roads throughout the settlement, road names and postal addresses, refuse removal, and the construction of a centrally located creche and multi-purpose centre.

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4.    Implementing Organisations


City of Cape Town


Habitat for Humanity South Africa (HFHSA)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI, USA)

Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)

Early Childhood Development Centre (ECDC)

ISN and FEDUP facilitated the interaction between the community and City of Cape Town. CORC provided social and technical support in terms of exchanges, settlement data collection (profiles and enumerations), planning, implementation and documentation. The City of Cape Town, through the Informal Settlements Management Unit, provided project management and funded the installation of basic services (water, sanitation, electricity) and road works. The City’s Expanded Public Works Program (EPWP) also employed 13 community members during construction. iKhayalami supported the community and SA SDI Alliance with top structure construction and assisted in training community members in construction skills. CPUT students from the Department of Town and Regional Planning supported the Alliance in planning and mapping the re-blocked layout with the community. The community worked together with students from WPI to draw up plans for the crèche, construct it and establish a play park. The CECD donated funds to build the crèche. Habitat for Humanity South Africa contributed to construction by supplying roof sheets and windows.

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5.    Basic Funding Details 

Community contribution: 20% cost of structures

CORC contribution: 80% cost of structures; social facilitation. The project was approved by the Alliance’s Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) in 2013.

City of Cape Town contribution: service delivery (water, sanitation, refuse, electricity), road works and paving

Habitat for Humanity Contribution: cost of roof sheets and windows

Centre for Early Childhood Development: funded cost of creche

6.    Partnership representatives

Flamingo Steering Committee: Maria Matthews (Community Leader)

ISN facilitators: Melanie Manuel & Terence Johnson

CORC facilitator: Sizwe Mxobo & Aditya Kumar

City of Cape Town Project Manager: Leon Poleman

7.    Context

Flamingo was created in 2007 when the City of Cape Town relocated people living on streets and under bridges in Constantia, Wetton and Lansdowne to a vacant plot of municipal land in Lansdowne.

By 2012, the community had grown to 405 people who resided in 104 structures. Residents shared 2 taps and 14 chemical toilets (of which 7 were in working condition) and which were serviced three times per week. All residents used contained fires in tin-drums as a source of light and heat due to the absence of electrification.

Structures consisted of a patchwork of old wood, cardboard, plastic and aluminum pieces – these materials posed fire hazards in summer and flooding and drainage problems in winter. Structures were situated around a broad u-shaped pathway, intersected by smaller, narrow footpaths leading to more densely situated structures.

According to the settlement’s enumeration and profiling (socio-demographic) data, 95% of Flamingo’s working population was unemployed with 40-45 children who did not have a safe place to play on the settlement’s streets.

Flamingo is one of 22 pilot projects supported by the City of Cape Town for community-led informal settlement upgrading. For more background click here. Flamingo built on the experiences of previous joint upgrading projects in Mtshini Wam and Kuku Towninformal settlements. Flamingodiffers from the previous two in the severity of its socio-economic challenges: high levels of crime, unemployment, violence and poverty. Given these circumstances the Alliance’s ISN facilitated engagement and implementation between the City and the community.


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8.    Project Description


First engagments between the community, SA SDI Alliance and City of Cape Town began in 2012 after the Alliance’s MoU with the City. During first meetings ISN introduced community members to upgrading and the use of savings contributions and settlement data collection as community organization tools for joint planning, implementation and leveraging further partnership and support.

Maria Matthews, Flamingo community leader, explains: 

“[In] 2010 … we got in touch with ISN, who introduced us to CORC, and we then made a partnership with the City [of Cape Town] We explained what we wanted from the city – our own taps, toilets and electricity. But we needed to come together and draft our own plans”.

Once the general community agreed to upgrading, it elected a new steering committee of 9 people that would make use of the Alliance’s methodologies. This established a basis for engaging partners and for steering committee members to become central actors in the process.


Exchanges to other upgraded settlements (e.g. Kuku Town and Mtshini Wam) presented tangible examples of upgrading. They offered direct learning opportunities about the upgrading process, successes, challenges and timeframes involved. Due to the expectation of government subsidised huosing, community members were initially sceptical of contributing 20% to the cost of their strucures (R1000 for a 20sqm strucutre). Through going on exchanges, however, the community slowly changed its mind.


In 2012 Flamingo’s residents began saving to make a 20% contribution to their structures. By December 2014 residents had saved R 90 000. Payment was made to the treasurer of the steering committee who recorded each transaction in the community savings book and counter signed the community member’s personal savings book. Upgraded structure sizes generally corresponded to a household’s previous structure size. The Alliance’s Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) covered the remaining 80% cost for structures up to 20m2.

As the majority of Flamingo’s population is old and unemployed savings collection proved challenging: initially contributions were low but when construction started the community saved more because they could see that something was happening.

“Some like Ouma Sarie managed to save the entire amount. She started with one packet of cigarettes and sold each cigarette one by one. In June 2014 she had saved R860 and only had another R200 to go.”

(Elizabeth Rantoetse, Steering Committee member)

Other residents saved money through working through the City’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

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Data Collection, Planning and Mapping

The community enumerated its settlement in 2012, using the outcome as an entry point to negotiating an improved layout with the City. Over one week, community members gathered socio-demographic data about their settlement in terms of population, number of structures and households, service provision, the spread of employment and reasons for moving to Flamingo.

In 2013, the community, with students from CPUT and CORC technical staff verified enumeration results, surveyed the site and designed its re-blocked layout. Later that year students from WPI (USA) assisted in conceptualizing plans for a crèche and a play park.

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Service Provision and Partnership

The re-blocked layout opened up access roads and courtyards which enabled successful negotiation with the City agreeing to install 1:1 water and sanitation points and electrifying the entire settlement.

The City paved all main access roads and built a partnership with the Post Office which resulted in the official naming of Flamingo’s streets and the provision of recognized postal addresses, a requirement the community had stipulated in its development plan.

“Informal communities are often times socially and economically disconnected from basic administrative functions, and therefore a residential address will give the Post Office an opportunity to serve the community with dignity”, he said.

(Gerald Blankenberg, regional director of the Post Office)

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Implementation occurred on a cluster-by-cluster basis (7 clusters in total). During break down and construction of structures, residents stayed with neighbouring households which enabled upgrading to take place in-situ. This minimised disruption and built community cohesion.

Project implementation began in May 2014 with all structures erected and re-blocked by December 2014. The City laid ground works, levelled settlement surfaces and conducted regular site meetings with the steering committee. The steering committee and ISN managed physical implementation. By December 2014, electricity and individual household services were installed and access roads paved. The creche was completed in mid December 2014 with the support of a further group of WPI students.

The Alliance, together with the City of Cape Town and Mayor Patricia de Lille, launched the project on 10 February 2014. It was lauded as a successful demonstration of community-led, participatory planning, collaborative implementation and improvement of informal settlements.

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9.    Impact

Social Impact

  • Increased community’s self-reliance and capacity for community organisation
  • Skills Capacitation through community driven data collection, community management of implementation and EPWP work.
  • Increased community cohesion facilitated by in-situ nature of upgrading
  • Changes in mindset and conception of ‘the future’ facilitated through increased self-reliance and an ability to plan for the future
  • Site of horizontal learning exchanges for other informal settlement leaders
  • Improved safety and education for children through attending Little Paradise creche
  • Formation of partnerships between different sectors, impacting physical (creche, road names etc) and social outcomes (stronger relationship with government reflected in visits by Cape Town Mayor and Western Cape MEC for Human Settlements)
  • Sets a precedent for informal settlement upgrading on larger scale

Physical Impact

  • Reblocked spatial layout, increasing open spaces and improving safety within settlement
  • Upgraded structures
  • Upgraded water and sanitation services on a 1:1 basis
  • Settlement wide electrification
  • Paved Access Roads
  • Official Road Names
  • Individual Post Addresses
  • Little Paradise Creche
  • Stronger tenure security for settlement residents
  • Registration of every community member on city database

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10.  Constraints  & Lessons learnt 

  • Constraint: delay between pre-planning (2012) and implementation (2014) due to lengthy contractor procuremen affected pace of savings and initial community-morale
  • Constraint: High degree of unemployment, crime and substance abuse affected social facilitation and implementation
  • Constraint: Ratepayers and industrial lobby opposed to project
  • Constraint: Use of G5 fill material to level settlement not conducive to growing plants and trees
  • Lesson: Value of continuous, detailed communication between Alliance and community
  • Lesson: value of proactive partnerships and synergies between differnet organisations
  • Lesson: value of strong communication and accountability between city and community, i.e. city kept community consistently updated
  • Lesson: value of phasing and clustering in enabling smoother implementation
  • Lesson: value of paved streets in adding homely feel to neighbourhood
  • Lesson: value of enumeration in addressing broader socio-economic needs: e.g. accomodating young children in community managed creche
  • Lessons: special in-house access to toilets provided for people with special needs

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11. Projected Outcomes

  • Continued engagement on upgrading as determined by residents
  • Project opened opportunities for continued collaboration with the City
  • Establishing a City-wide upgrading Fund
  • Potential for future densification with multi-storey dwellings
  • Strengthening leadership structures through training programs and skills development to address social issues

In speaking about the future of Flamingo, Melanie Manuel (ISN) shares,

“We need to look at a holistic plan for the metro. Let’s look at how we can reach basic services much quicker and how we can scale up. The Alliance projects do not only focus on reblocking but on basic services in every form. The Alliance has designed a City Fund with which communities can directly access money for upgrading in Cape Town. This kind of facility on a city-level will go a long way – we challenge the City to continue partnering with us and match our contributions in the City Fund”

Flamingo community members in front of the newly constructed creche

Flamingo community members in front of the newly constructed creche