Sustainable Settlements

The purpose of the programme is to ensure that low-income households have access to appropriate and secure land for settlement development. The aim is to ensure that well-located land for settlement development is made available timeously and affordably and that municipalities are planning for and supporting low-income settlement development interventions.


South Africa is struggling to house its citizens. The development of land for settlement is not keeping pace with the demand. Housing is often developed on inappropriate land (e.g. far from opportunities) and good land is unaffordable for the poor majority.

Communities in need of land are capacitated to engage in participatory planning processes to ensure that their needs are taken into account when decisions are made on settlement development.

Communities are supported to develop advocacy and lobbying campaigns motivating for land to be made available for settlement development.

Previous housing programmes of government (which emphasised the provision of a complete housing product), have resulted in many people having to wait many years, even decades, before government builds them a house.

The incremental settlement approach (where people are supported to settle on new land – or land they already occupy – and build temporary accommodation, with access to basic services, facilities and tenure security) is provided as an additional approach that can assist the country address its constitutional mandate to provide its citizens with land, services and housing in a progressive basis. Communities and government are advised and supported in their efforts to plan and implement incremental settlement approaches, and lessons are learnt and shared from these approaches.

Consultancies and Special Projects

The National Development Agency (NDA) is an agency of government established through an Act of Parliament under the Department of Social Development to contribute towards poverty eradication through strengthening civil society organisations (CSOs). As part of its processes of building the capacity of CSOs, the NDA contracted Afesis-corplan to render training to a number of organisations across the Eastern Cape Province on the following topics:

  • Financial Management & Basic Book keeping
  • Conflict Management
  • Project Management
  • NPO Governance
  • Managing Projects
  • Sustainable organisations
  • Communication skills for managers

This project was in line with Afesis-corplan’s strategic goal of contributing to building a stronger civil society in the Eastern Cape Province.

Afesis-corplan in partnership with the Mvezo Development Trust submitted a proposal to the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund to construct an Interpretative Centre in Mvezo, the birth place of former President Nelson Mandela. The purpose of the Interpretative Centre is to preserve the legacy and cultural richness of the Aba Thembu people.

The project had two phases where phase 1 was the construction of the Interpretative Centre (the museum) which was concluded and duly opened by the Honourable President Jacob Zuma on 18 July 2014. The second phase of the project comprised of the construction of the Welcome Centre. This phase of the project commenced in January 2017 and is still underway.

Past Projects

An external consultant was appointed to evaluate Afesis-corplan Managed Land Settlement (MLS) pilot projects and a final draft of the evaluation report was completed. According to this evaluation, the MLS approach has great potential to help the country address its land and housing needs.

“The Managed Land Settlement (MLS) project at Cwili under the Great Kei Local Municipality shows every sign of being a very successful pilot project involving incremental land settlement and development. The MLS model appears to work in practice and requires little adjustment if any at all. What may be needed is more aggressive advocacy of the model in the context of a much more favourable policy and institutional environment nationally and locally. There are still many obstacles to the delivery of viable human settlements. In the right circumstances, MLS presents a novel solution and delivery method.”

Click here to read more on the Managed Land Settlement

This article is drawn from an external review conducted in late 2012 by Mike Kenyon on Afesis-corplan’s land access work.

“Since 1994, more than 2.3 million housing units have been made available for nearly 11 million people. The scale of government housing delivery is second only to China, as the Banking Association of South Africa has pointed out (DHS, 2010). However, the housing backlog has grown in leaps and bounds from 1.5 million in 1994 and now stands at approximately 2.1 million.”

Click here to read more. 

In 20014-2015 Afesis-corplan, in partnership with CS Consulting, Bigen Africa and others, as part of a National Upgrading of Informal Settlement (NUSP) funded project, assisted the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality to develop, using participatory methods, an Upgrading of Informal Settlement Policy and Strategy and upgrading plans for 32 informal settlements.  See here  for more information on this project.
Afesis-corplan is one of only a handful of organisations that has been involved in the development and promotion of housing co-operatives in South Africa.  From 1998 to 2008, with the support of the Swedish Co-operative Centre, we conceptualised, planned, piloted and advocated for housing cooperatives.  Afesis-corplan, working closely with the East London Housing Management Co-operative, the Buffalo City Municipality, the Provincial Department of Housing and others developed one of the few housing co-operatives projects in South Africa (in Amalinda, a suburb of East London) that combines government’s Institutional Subsidies with the Peoples’ Housing Process Subsidy.  For more information on housing co-operatives and Afesis-corplan’s housing cooperative experience see information on Housing Cooperatives.

More Programme Information

For more information on one of Afesis-corplan’s initiatives please visit our incremental settlement website.

Incremental settlement is a pro poor approach to settlement development that is being promoted and advocated for by Afesis-corplan.

Incremental settlement is the process by which legally recognised settlements are created over time in an incremental manner through the involvement and actions of a range of role-players including government, communities and the private sector. It includes the development of such settlements from:

  • an in-situ context where people have already occupied the land in an illegal manner and the area is then formalised and upgraded over time (This is called upgrading of informal settlements UIS); as well as
  • greenfield context where the land is undeveloped and the area is prepared for future settlement and upgraded over time (this is called Managed Land Settlement – MLS).
View Website

Learning Briefs and Publications

Lessons Learned and Learning Brief Index


The Sustainable Settlements Programme has produced numerous documents and made a number of policy submissions over the years.  The following are examples of some of these documents and reports.

Policy submission examples

Learning brief examples

News from Sustainable Settlements

Learning Brief #12: Equitable Access to Land

Land redistribution is a hot topic in South Africa. Some are saying that the constitution needs to change so as [...]

A new framework law for land reform

The much anticipated Report of the High level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental [...]

Comments on the Communal Land Tenure Bill

The emerging Land Governance Transformation Network ( LGTN), of which Afesis-corplan is a member, has made a submission on the [...]

View Archive