Habitat for Humanity South Africa Archives - SASDI Alliance

Urban Sector NGOs comment on Human Settlements Draft White Paper

By CORC, Press No Comments

By Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), Development Action Group (DAG), Habitat for Humanity South Africa, Isandla Institute, People’s Environmental Planning (PEP), Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU)

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The National Department of Human Settlements is currently in the process of developing a new White Paper on Human Settlements. This process offers a unique opportunity to address the shortcomings of existing policy and to influence the future of human settlement development in South Africa.

We – a collective of six urban sector NGOs – have a vested interest in the outcomes of this process. We are thus committed to engaging critically with the discussion document developed by the National Department of Human Settlements, and to advocating for the adoption of a more progressive version that recognises the role of communities, and informal settlement upgrading in human settlements development.

On 4 February 2016, we shared an initial commentary on the discussion document at an engagement hosted by the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements. It summarises our collective position and is intended to serve as the foundation for a more in-depth submission:

Commentary on the discussion document ‘Towards a policy foundation for the development of human settlements legislation’

1. The document ‘Towards a policy foundation for the development of human settlements legislation’ seeks to provide a comprehensive approach to the complexities of human settlement development and planning, based on a detailed analysis of the achievements and limitations of current HS programmes.

Positive features of the document are, amongst others, the acknowledgement that by and large, communities and civil society organisations haven’t been meaningfully involved in processes of human settlement development to date. This admission brings attention to the need for well-designed participatory processes and partnership approaches. The explicit reference made to spatial planning, and its roles in the creation of sustainable and integrated human settlements, is also appreciated. The recognition of the importance of monitoring and evaluation as a strategy for tracking government’s progression towards the realisation of its goals is also considered to be a positive step towards a more grounded and accountable practice.


2. However, in our considered view, the proposed solutions to address the shortcomings identified are not dynamic enough and are insufficiently rooted in local practice around human settlement development. The document also does not reflect the depth of inequality or the seriousness of the current fiscal realities, and what these factors are likely to mean for the human settlement sector. Instead of the ‘business as usual’ approach, we expect the new policy to reflect more deeply what a ‘business unusual’ scenario means for human settlements policy and practice.

3. Our main concern is with the state-centric orientation of the document and the centralising tendencies that the document reflects (implicitly and explicitly). While we appreciate that a public policy document will be inherently biased towards the roles and responsibilities of the state, other stakeholders (including local communities, NGOs and the private sector) are an integral part of human settlement development processes. The document fails to adequately reflect what a partnership approach entails for human settlements policy and practice.

Even in its state-centric orientation, the document reflects a predisposition towards national government (and particularly the department of human settlements) as the critical actor in transforming human settlement realities. National government undoubtedly has an important role to play in determining human settlement outcomes, providing policy guidance, developing coherent programmes, providing effective fiscal instruments, addressing institutional blockages, and monitoring progress, amongst others. However, it is primarily at the local sphere where the complexities of human settlement development need to be navigated.

4. We believe that the primary objective of a policy on human settlements needs to be local enablement – enabling local actors (municipalities, communities, civil society organisations, private sector, etc.) to choose the institutional arrangements and programmatic responses that best suit local conditions, and enabling other spheres of government to offer the necessary oversight and support in this regard. Municipalities are not merely implementation agents of national human settlements programmes; they need to assemble the requisite partnerships and processes to effectively manage the challenges, trade-offs and contestation inherent to human settlement development, and to do this in an accountable and transparent manner.

Co-planning and preparing for informal settlement upgrading plans

Co-planning and preparing for informal settlement upgrading plans

5. The role of communities in determining the development agenda, implementing development strategies, and monitoring development interventions must be reflected in the policy vision and intent. The document is disproportionately concerned with the ‘culture of entitlement’, implying that (poor) citizens lack a sense of responsibility about their own development. This individualised notion of citizens as ‘responsible consumers/end-users of public services is problematic, particularly as it is not complemented with a recognition of the agency of civic actors and local communities in human settlements processes (including planning, implementation, maintenance, co-financing and self-help options, and monitoring and evaluation).

Instead, the new policy should work towards enabling communities to participate as active citizens, and to co-create – in partnership with government and other stakeholders – sustainable, integrated and resilient human settlements.

6. As organisations with a particular interest in informal settlement upgrading, we are especially concerned with the weak articulation of informal settlement upgrading as a core human settlements strategy. The suggestion that only those settlements located close to job opportunities will be considered  for upgrading is both exclusionary and short sighted. Economic opportunities are not static and over time may show movement across a city or town. Moreover, instead of focusing exclusively on job opportunities it would be more helpful to develop proactive approaches in support of local livelihood strategies.

Informal Settlement Upgrading

Informal Settlement Upgrading

7. Signatories to this commentary will make a collective effort to develop a more robust submission that deals with the following issues:

  • Deeper understanding of the role of communities and institutional arrangements required to support meaningful community participation and co-creation approaches to human settlement planning and development
  • Financing mechanisms, such as community savings schemes, and self-build approaches that enable communities to participate in the housing market
  • Strategies for releasing and managing well-located public land for human settlements development
  • Partnership modalities for human settlement development, including the roles and responsibilities of government and other stakeholders
  • Outcome-driven monitoring and evaluation strategies that shift emphasis from compliance to the achievement of progressive goals

8. In the meantime, we call on the national department of human settlements to publicise what its ‘extensive consultative process’ (as noted in the preamble) entails, to commit to further and deeper engagement with all relevant stakeholders (including civil society organisations and community groups) in the finalisation of policy and legislation on human settlements, and to be transparent and accountable in how it deals with comments received during the course of the policy development process.

Launch of Upgrading at Flamingo Crescent with Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille

By CORC, FEDUP, iKhayalami, ISN, Press No Comments

Authored by CORC

“People said Flamingo Crescent [Upgrading] will never happen. But today is here and this is the proof that it has happened – one cannot do it alone we need to work as a collective!”

Melanie Manuel, Informal Settlement Network (ISN) Co-ordinator

Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, with Flamingo Crescent Community Members, SA SDI Alliance, PFO's and City Officials

Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, with Flamingo Crescent Community Members, SA SDI Alliance, PFO’s and City Officials

Last week’s upgrading launch at Flamingo Crescent informal settlement celebrated the completion of re-blocking, installation of water, sanitation and electricity services for each of Flamingo’s 104 households, the unveiling of Flamingo’s first formal street names and opening of the settlement’s own crèche, Little Paradise. Moreover it marked a milestone in an ongoing upgrading process, showcasing what is possible when communities, intermediaries, governments and stakeholders form partnerships.

Delegates from community organisations and networks, the Mayor of the City of Cape Town, delegates from various government departments, ward and sub-council politicians, NGOs and support organisations gathered in the Lansdowne Civic Centre from 11:00 on Monday 10 February.

The re-blocking project is lauded as a successful demonstration of community-led, participatory planning, collaborative implementation and improvement of informal settlements. The uniqueness of the project was that despite the settlement’s density no one was displaced and grossly inconvenienced during the implementation of upgrading 104 structures.

ISN & FEDUP welcome the Mayor to the launch at Lansdowne Civic Centre

ISN & FEDUP welcome the Mayor to the launch at Lansdowne Civic Centre

First engagements around Flamingo Crescent 

First engagements began in 2012 after the City of Cape Town signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the SA SDI Alliance around joint community-led upgrading of 22 informal settlements, of which Flamingo Crescent is the third, having built on the experiences of Mtshini Wam and Kuku Town. It differs 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 Informal Settlement Network (ISN) facilitated implementation and engagement between the City and the community.

Melanie Manuel (Flamingo Crescent ISN facilitator) shared,

“When we started the partnership with the City of Cape Town in 2011 in Vygieskraal it was a day of celebration and no one knew the hardships that would lie ahead. As time went on we realised we fundamentally believe in community participation, a bottom up approach because we know communities understand their settlements best.”

Read more background here.

Flamingo Before Upgrading

Flamingo Before Upgrading

The Launch: Messages on Upgrading and Inclusion in Services

At the launch, the first speaker, Councillor Anthea Green shared,

“Since 2012 I have said that we need to upgrade Flamingo Crescent, despite resistance from the rate payers and residents’ groups. We were committed to work with the community, and now this is a transformed settlement”.

Informal settlements not only face substandard basic services like water, sanitation and electricity but are also cut off from functions of city administration such as receiving a residential address. The re-blocking project allowed the City and the Post Office to give Flamingo Crescent street names and addresses, after the community made this requirement upfront in their development plan.

Gerald Blankenberg, regional director of the Post Office, said that the Post Office Act and other regulations require the post office to expand addresses to underserviced communities.

“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.

In the keynote address, Mayor Patricia de Lille emphasised the significant role of Flamingo community’s steering committee, the Alliance’s ISN and Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) in the success of the project. She, however, expressed concern about the slow pace of project implementation, emphasizing the need to boost municipal and community capacity to ensure the roll out of more projects in the City’s 200 informal settlements.

“The aim of re-blocking is the improvement of informal settlements while people wait for a housing opportunity”, she observed.

In closing of the ceremony, the Mayor handed over certificates of tenure to community members, ensuring formal recognition of residence and tenure security.

Mayor, Patricia de Lille with Flamingo Community Leader, Maria Matthews

Mayor, Patricia de Lille with Flamingo Community Leader, Maria Matthews

The Impact of Upgrading : Before and After

Before re-blocking, the community of 405 residents had access to only 14 chemical toilets (of which 7 were serviced) and 2 water taps. There was no electricity so that contained fires in tin drums dotted the settlement’s dusty pathways. The community was especially concerned about the safety of its children playing in the busy street.

Re-blocking restructured space in the settlement, opening courtyard areas and clearly designated access roads, enabling the City of Cape Town to install individual water, sanitation and electricity services per household. What sets Flamingo apart from previous projects are its paved pathways, with official road names as well as the construction of a crèche.

The community contributed 20% to the cost of its structures through community-based daily savings. During the implementation phase, 20 jobs were created through the Expanded Public Works Programme.

Before upgrading

Before upgrading

After upgrading

After upgrading

Into the Future: Community voices on Partnership and City Fund

“Since 2010 we have been thinking about improvements in our settlement. This is when 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”.

(Maria Matthews, Flamingo Community Leader)

Through the SA SDI Alliance the community additionally partnered with several organisations. iKhayalami supported the community, ISN/FEDUP and CORC around training community members and top structure construction. The community established the re-blocked layout and community-based maps in partnership with students from Cape Peninsula University of Technology and support staff from CORC. With the support of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI, USA) the community drew up plans for the crèche. Habitat for Humanity South Africa contributed to construction by supplying the roof sheets and windows. The Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD) donated funds to build the crèche. CECD will also support around the training and registration of the crèche.

From Melanie’s speech it was clear,

“This project is successful because of the methodologies we use. We allow communities to do their own designs. The community also made a [financial] contribution [in a settlement] where 95% of community members were unemployed. How do we change the mind-sets of people who are still waiting for adequate housing? Let’s change the way we are living now while we are waiting for housing to come.”

(Melanie Manuel, ISN Facilitator)

Melanie Manuel, ISN Co-ordinator in Flamingo

Melanie Manuel, ISN Co-ordinator in Flamingo

As important as settlement improvement is in itself, the methodology is just as significant. Moreover, Flamingo Crescent serves as a precedent for informal settlement upgrading on a larger scale. The day ended with the community leading the Mayor through their settlement, unveiling Flamingo’s new street names and officially opening the Little Paradise crèche together. It is Melanie Manuel’s closing words that speak of the future:

 “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. In Flamingo the Aliance’s Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) helped us match the 20% that each community member contributed to their structure. 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!”