This Frequently asked Questions section answers most questions you may have about the upgrading of informal settlements in South Africa including why is it needed and how does it work.

Informal settlements are places where people who don’t have a house build temporary houses for themselves on land that they do not have formal permission to use and there are no proper roads, water or toilets in the area.

Informal settlements usually start when people can’t afford to buy their own land and houses and there are not enough government subsidised houses available. These people then occupy, without permission, land that they find and build their own houses.

Government has acknowledged that informal settlements are a reality and they recognise that in-situ upgrading is a necessity.

The upgrading of informal settlements is where government helps people living in informal settlements to improve their living conditions over time on the land where they are already living.

Upgrading of informal settlements does not include the upgrading of shacks in backyards.

Also, if government moves people out of an informal settlement into a new RDP (government subsidised) house this is not the upgrading of an informal settlement because you are not improving the settlement over time where people are living.  This is called building new government subsidised housing.

The United Nations defines informal settlements as “residential” areas where:

  • inhabitants have no security of tenure in relation to the land or dwellings they inhabit, including squatting and informal rental housing
  • the neighbourhoods usually lack, or are cut off from, basic services and city infrastructure and
  • the housing may not comply with current planning and building regulations, and is often situated in geographically and environmentally hazardous areas.

This can be summarised as settlements where people:

  • do not have a right to stay on the land
  • do not have proper water, sanitation and other services
  • live in a house that does not have planning and building approval

If any of these applies then that settlement can be categorised as an informal settlement:

  • No land – bad services – bad house
  • No land – bad services – good house
  • No land – good services – bad house
  • Land – bad services – bad house
  • No land – good services – good house
  • Land – bad service – good house
  • Land – good service – bad house

An informal settlement is no longer an informal settlement if it has:

  • Land – good services – good house

There are two main reasons for why we need the upgrading of informal settlements:

  1. We need upgrading of informal settlements because there is not enough money in government’s budget to build everyone a nice RDP house within a short period of time. It has been estimated by the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP) that it will take more than 32 years for government to build RDP houses for all the people that were living in informal settlements in 2018 with the money that is available.  This does not take into account any new households that will need to get a house over this period.
  2. The constitutional court has ruled in cases like the Grootboom judgement of 2000 and the Joe Slovo case of 2010 that government must make sure that everyone has access to at least basic level services of water and sanitation and that over time peoples’ conditions are improved until everyone has access to adequate housing.

These constitutional court cases are based on the constitution of South Africa.  There are a number of clauses in the constitution which lead the constitutional court to make these judgements.

SECTION 9 (1) says that everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. (2) Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms.

Informal settlements example: We cannot have situations where some people benefit from having access to toilets where others don’t.

SECTION 10 says that everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.

Informal settlements example: We cannot continue to have people living in undignified situations where they have to defecate in the bush.

SECTION 24 says that everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing, and through reasonable legislative and other measures, the right to an environment that prevents pollution while still promoting justifiable economic and social development.

Informal settlements example: People can’t live in situations where their health is compromised by being exposed to faeces and other pollutants in the air, water and soil.

SECTION 25 (5) says that the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to foster conditions which enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis.  SUB-SECTION (6) goes on to say that a person or community whose tenure of land is legally insecure as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to tenure which is legally secure or to comparable redress.  SUB SECTION (9) says that Parliament must enact the legislation referred to in SUB-SECTION (6).

Informal settlements example: Government must have a programme like the upgrading of informal settlement programme and use it to help people get land in a fair way.  Government must also find ways to increase tenure security over time.

SECTION 26 (1) says that everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing and SUB-SECTION (2) says that the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.

Informal settlements example: The constitution realises that it is unlikely that government will have enough money to make sure everyone has adequate housing all at once so it says that government can work in a progressive, phased and step by step basis to achieve adequate housing.  In informal settlements this step by step – or incremental – process which involves starting to provide basic water, sanitation and other services and then over time improve the quality of these services and look to help people get adequate housing.

SECTION 26 (3) says that no-one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions.

Informal settlement example: Government must follow law (like following the procedures found in the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and unlawful occupation of Land Act, no. 19 of 1998.) when it comes to removing people from an informal settlement.

SECTION 27 (1) (B) says that everyone has the right to have access to sufficient water;  and SUB-SECTION (2) says that the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.

Informal settlement example: Government must use what resources it has to ensure that people have at least some basic minimum level of water and then over time, in a progressive, phased and step by step basis, incrementally improve the quality and level of access.

An often overlooked clause in the constitution that is relevant for informal settlements SECTION 28 (1) (C) which says that every child has the right to shelter.  It is interesting to note that the word shelter and not housing is used, and that this clause is bound by the requirement to provide such shelter on a progressive basis within available resources.

Informal settlement example: Government must make sure that shelter is provided to households with children (defined in the constitution to be people under the age of 18 years).

In normal RDP housing subsidy projects people must qualify to get a RDP house.  For example, they must be South African, earn more than R3 500/ month, and not have owned a house before, to name just a few.   (See next section for more detail on these criteria)

The upgrading of informal settlements programme is different in that anyone who lives in an informal settlement is able to benefit and get access to services and to piece of land from which they cannot be evicted.  This includes people in households that earn more than R3 500/ month, people who have received a subsidy before, single households and even foreign nationals (although the names of these people are supposed to be handed over to home affairs).

It must be noted that only people who qualify for a housing subsidy can get government funds to build a top structure (or house), and also get title deeds to the land they occupy.  This is explained further on in this FAQ.

To qualify for an RDP house and to get title deeds you must meet the National Housing Subsidy Scheme criteria. This means you must be:

  • A South African citizen
  • Over 21 and mentally competent to sign a contract
  • Married or living with a partner, or single and have dependants (single military veterans or aged people without dependents also qualify)
  • Earn less than R3,500 per month per household (so if two people in your family earn and these earnings amount to more than R3,500 per month you will not qualify)
  • A first time government subsidy recipient
  • A first time home owner
  • If you are disabled you are supposed to be given preference and your house is supposed to be adapted to meet your needs.

There  are four key features:

  • Incrementalism
  • Tenure security
  • Participation
  • Partnerships

Incrementalism

The upgrading of informal settlements happens incrementally in a step by step process over time.  For example at the start, communal water and sanitation ablution blocks can be provided for every 20 households and then, over time, more ablution blocks can be built so there is one ablution per 5 households. In the long term, the intention is to get to one toilet and water connection per household.

Tenure Security

Building on the concept of incrementalism, the upgrading of informal settlements does not necessarily mean that people will immediately get title deeds.  Over time, government will find ways to improve people’s land tenure security, where they are able to stay in the informal settlement while at the same time knowing what they are able to do on the land and knowing that they will not be removed from the land without government following proper legal processes to move them.

The National Upgrading Support Programme identifies three categories of tenure recognition that can be seen as part of a continuum, moving from less tenure to more secure tenure.

  • Local recognition refers to local practices that have been developed by the community over time to control who can live in the informal settlement such as keeping a community list.
  • Administrative recognition is, for example, where the municipality uses its administrative systems to create a list by doing a shack count and painting numbers on shacks.
  • Legal recognition is where government uses legal procedures like the town planning and land surveying laws to establish settlements and then provide lease agreements or even title deeds.

See question “What other forms of tenure can be used within the process of upgrading of informal settlements?“ to see more examples of tenure security.

Participation

The community must be involved in all phases of the upgrading of informal settlements- from the planning of how the settlement will be upgraded to monitoring that the upgrading process is implemented according to the plans.

Partnerships

All structures and organisations must work together to support the upgrading process.  The Municipality must manage the whole process.  Government departments must bring water, roads, refuse collection services, recreation facilities, small business support, and other support. NGOs and the private sector must do what they can and communities must participate in all phases of the upgrading process.

The national department of human settlements, through the NUSP have identified the following four principles that guide upgrading of informal settlement:

  • Care about the people
  • Listen to and understand the needs of the people
  • Upgrade informal settlements for health, safety and dignity
  • Act swiftly using resources available

The upgrading of informal settlements programme is designed to achieve the following objectives:

  • Tenure security – through formalising the tenure rights of informal settlement residents, so as to enhance the concept of citizenship
  • Health and security – through the provision of affordable and sustainable basic municipal engineering to the residents of informal settlements, which allows for the scaling up in future.
  • Empowerment – through the promotion of social and economic integration, building social capital though participative processes and addressing the broader social needs of the communities, so as to promote social and economic inclusion

Stay or Move

The first categorisation involves identifying those informal settlements where people will be able to stay on the land they already occupy, and those settlements where the people will need to move to a new piece of land as the land is not suitable for long term occupation.

Timeframe

The second categorisation then involves looking at how quickly the settlement will be upgraded where it is (if it can stay) or how quickly it will be moved.

When combining these two categorisations one gets a table with the following four categories.

Stay Move
Now/ Soon Category A Category C
In future Category B1 Category B2
  • Category A: The people can stay on the land and can also get a full level of services and strong tenure security now or very soon on this land.
  • Category B1: The people can stay on the land, but they initially only get basic interim services and basic tenure recognition, with full services and strong tenure security provided later on this same piece of land
  • Category B2: The people can stay on the land in the short term with access to basic emergency services and basic tenure recognition; but in the medium to long term they will be moved to more appropriate land where they could either get basic services and basic tenure recognition or they could get full services and strong tenure security.
  • Category C: The people are moved as soon as possible onto a new piece of land. On the new land people could either get full services and strong tenure security straight away or they can get interim services and basic tenure recognition.

Another way to think about upgrading is to think about how many times a household will need to move during the upgrading process.

  • No moves: This can be called ‘pure’ upgrading where the roads and services are built in-between the existing shacks and people do not have to move. This usually happens in a low density informal settlement where shacks are built far apart.
  • One move: This is also called re-blocking where the government and community try and lay out the new plots and roads in a way that only requires people to move their shack once to the piece of land that has been marked out in the original informal settlement. This is usually found in medium density informal settlements. Full re-blocking is where the whole settlements has to shift their shacks once to a new location to bring in services.  Partial re-blocking is where only some of the shacks need to shift to make space for roads and pipes etc.
  • Two moves: This is also called upgrading via a Transitional Relocation Area (TRA) where the government moves people into temporary accommodation on a new piece of land while they create plots and put in the services on the original land the person occupied. Once this is complete the household is moved back onto the original piece of land.  The TRA can ten be used by people from another informal settlement for upgrading via a TRA.   This is usually found in high density informal settlements where the shacks are all very close to each other.
  • Jump: This approach refers to households that have to move to a new piece of land.  They have to ‘jump’ to a totally new piece of land and either build their own houses (temporary or permanent) on a piece of land that is allocated to them or move into a formal house built for them (if they qualify).

The upgrading of informal settlements programme involves three phases.

  • Phase 1: Application
  • Phase 2: Project Initiation
  • Phase 3: Project Implementation

In summary:

  • Phase 1 – The (project) application phase is where the municipality motivates for upgrading of informal settlement funding.
  • Phase 2 – The project initiation phase focuses on the provision of interim or emergency basic services and some form of basic administrative tenure recognition for all B1 and B2 categorised informal settlements.
  • Phase 3 – The project implementation phase focuses on the provision of full permanent engineering services, and improving tenure security (such as pegging plots and rezoning the land) can be taken for B1 informal settlements. For B2 settlements, alternative land is identified and then at least basic interim services and administrative tenure recognition can be provided on this alternative land.

What is called phase 4, the consolidation phase, is not really a phase of the upgrading of informal settlement programme but it is an additional phase where houses are built and title deeds are provided for those people who qualify for a housing subsidy once they have been through the previous phases. For B1 settlements this will be on the land they originally occupied and for B2 settlements this will be on the new land identified for relocation.

There is also what can be termed a pre-phase (or phase 0) where the municipality does the necessary investigations to get to a stage where they are able to categorise all informal settlements in a particular municipal area, and can then start with phase 1 knowing if the settlement is a category A, B1, B2 or C settlement.

One of the unique features of the upgrading of informal settlements is that all informal settlements (besides those few that are categorised as A or C) will get either basic interim services (for B1 settlements that will stay in future), or basic emergency services (for B2 settlements that will move in future).

Examples of basic interim or emergency services include, but are not restricted to:

  • Mobile water tankers
  • Communal water standpipes
  • Communal containerised toilets
  • Communal free standing toilets
  • Basic lined storm water channels
  • Paved pedestrian paths
  • Basic gravel road access routes
  • Communal refuse collection points
  • Fire hydrants accessible to all shacks by fire hoses
  • Pre-payment electricity meters to all shacks

Interim and emergency basic services do not have to be restricted to this list. Other types of services and facilities can also be provided as part of an incremental step by step process over time.  Examples include:

  • Basic fenced play areas with some form of level playing surface
  • A basic structure to be used as an interim or emergency community hall (it could even just be a roof on poles)
  • A containerised temporary office (to be used for housing support services)

It is up to the community and municipality to motivate for and plan for more interim and emergency basic services and facilities.

The Department of Water and Sanitation (2017) in its report ‘National norms and standards for domestic water and sanitation services – version 3 final’ [1] set targets for what minimum standards are for water and sanitation.

Toilets

For interim communal toilets [2] target is one toilet seat per 50 people.  So assuming 4 to 5 people per household this is about one toilet seat per 10 to 13 households.

The ultimate target by 2030, when interim sanitation services should be phased out, is one toilet per household, but in instances where toilets are shared by indigent households a situation of one shared toilet per 20 people (or 4 or 5 households) can be accommodated.

Water

For water, the national norms and standards are 1500 litre of potable water per household per month, that is within 100 meters of each household [3].

In situations where water-borne toilets are used, it would make sense for a water connection to be linked to each toilet.

Refuse removal

The national target for refuse removal is that at least one 100 litre refuse container should be available per 10 households; and that all waste generated by populations living in settlements shall be removed from the settlement environment a least once a week.

Electricity

The ultimate target for electricity connections is one pre-payment electricity meter per household, including households living in informal settlements  (with access to 50 kwh of free electricity per household per month[4][5]

[1] Available:  https://cer.org.za/wp-content/uploads/1997/12/National-norms-and-standards-for-domenstic-water-and-sanitation-services.pdf [available 18 February 2020]

[2] interim communal toilets are where “[p]eople access a pleasant, safe, reliable and well-maintained improved toilet and hand washing facility in close proximity for a period of time until a[n] … [improved] level of sanitation service can be established.”

[3] National norms and standards for domestic water and sanitation. page 44.

[4] Department of Energy. 2018. Informal settlements policy guidelines for integrated national electrification programme. http://www.energy.gov.za/files/policies/electrification/Informal-Settlements-Policy-Guidelines-for-INEP.pdf

[5] http://www.energy.gov.za/files/faqs/faqs_freebasic.html

Different municipalities can set their own norms and standards.  For example The City of Cape Town aims to provide one toilet per every five families, one water tap for every 25 families within a 200 m radius, and one refuse removal per week[1].

Many municipalities however, including, for example the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, do not have clear norms and standards for basic services particularly related to informal settlements.

Many municipalities are discussing what would be a suitable minimum standard for provision of emergency and/or temporary basic services in informal settlements, especially in category B1 and B2.  The following provides  a draft example of what some municipalities are considering:

  • Potable water: Shared water point collection point within 25 meters of all dwellings. Overflow water captured in sewers or storm water pipes.
  • Fire: Access ways provide 2.5 to 3 meter wide fire breaks and evacuation routes within 20 meters of all dwellings. Fire hose connection points /hydrants provided within 50 m of all dwellings).
  • Sewerage: Local shared toilets located within 35 meters of all dwellings.
  • Grey water: Household grey water disposal inlets within 35 meters of all dwellings
  • Storm water: All main storm water channels are identified and protected.
  • Access paths:5 to 3 meter (minimum) paved pedestrian paths with staircases and street lighting within 25 meters of all dwellings. Storm-water management infrastructure within 25 meters of all dwellings. Local overland flow routes are channelled onto the storm water system
  • Solid waste: Central refuse collection point/transfer station (concrete slab and screening or skip). Community based waste transport system like Wheelie bins, wheel barrows, etc.
  • Electricity: Poles and street lights on the main access routes. Local formal distribution system installed but designed to allow future repositioning of individual dwelling units without significant abortive costs.

[1] SERI, 2018, Informal Settlements and Human Rights in South Africa. Available:  https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Housing/InformalSettlements/SERI.pdf

For informal settlements that are to remain where they are into the future (B1 category) it is useful to give careful attention to where the basic services are located in phase 2 so that when the area is upgraded to more permanent services during phase 3 the need to remove basic services infrastructure is minimised.

For low density settlements where the shacks are located further apart and there are wider paths within the settlement, this is normally much easier as there is enough space inside the settlement to bring in water and sanitation pipes and put in communal toilets and water standpipes.

For medium to high density settlements where the shacks are much closer together and the paths between shacks are often narrow, it is much harder to find space to bring interim services into the settlement.

One option is to locate the communal water standpipes and communal/ shared toilets on the edge of the settlement.  This makes it easier for the municipality to bring these services and does not disrupt shacks within the settlement.  The problem is that people who live in the middle of the settlement will have to walk further to get to the services.

Another option is to identify a grid or frame of potential future main paths through the settlement and then route pipes along this frame and locate communal taps and toilets within this grid.  In many instances this may require some shacks to be shifted or even moved completely out of the settlement to widen the paths along the frame and open up space for communal water and toilets. This is sometimes called partial re-blocking and may be a challenge to organise but it is easier to move a few people at this stage rather than moving the whole settlement.

For category B2 settlements that will move in future, it is not as important to position emergency basic services in a way that allows for future upgrading as these settlements will be relocated.  What is more important is to provide basic services that minimise the abortive costs when the settlement is moved.  In other words rather provide a containerised communal toilet that can be moved when the settlement is moved.

Government has a constitutional obligation to address people’s dignity and progressively realise their right to water, a healthy environment and housing. This means that government must start by providing people with access to basic emergency and temporary services. Progressively, in a step by step manner, as resources become available, government can improve the level of services and tenure security of these people and work towards the achievement of adequate housing.

This means that even if the people living on the land or government do not own the land, government is still constitutionally obliged to provide access to emergency or interim basic services.

The housing subsidy phases are designed in such a way that government can provide emergency and temporary basic services in phase 2.  More detailed planning and land surveying only happens in phase 3 after the basic services are provided.  More permanent services are also only provided in phase 3.

When installing the basic services, the municipality must consider the need to remove these services (for category B2 settlements) or somehow include the use of these services within the upgraded settlement. This means, for example, that modular and temporary sanitation and other services should be used where possible so they can be moved if needed. However, it is recognised that in some situations there will be the need to remove previous services if these services are located in an area that proves not to be suitable after more detailed planning is conducted. This would not be seen as wasteful expenditure as it was installed to address a basic constitutionally guaranteed need.

If the municipality puts basic services on land it does not own it must be able to show the courts, if the existing land owner objects, that the:

  • municipality has a long term programme to address informal settlements in a systematic way, over time. This includes, for example, categorising all informal settlements and showing which settlements will be provided with basic and emergency services first as part of phase 2 of the upgrading programme and when they will move to phase 2.
  • existing occupiers of the land have participated in and been kept informed about what plans are being developed for the informal settlement.
  • existing owners of the occupied land have been informed of what the plans are for either upgrading the settlement where it is or relocating the settlement to a new piece of land when the alternative land is ready.

According to the upgrading of informal settlements subsidy quantum from April 2018 there is just less than R30,000 per household available for phases 1, 2 and 3 of the upgrading of informal settlement programme.  There is also an additional about R1,500 per household to assist with relocation of households where necessary (meaning, for example, paying for transport costs to move peoples building material and household goods if this is needed).

Other housing programmes like the enhanced Peoples Housing Process and the Integrated Residential Development Programme can be used to buy the land transfer title deeds as well as build a house. The subsidy quantum amount is just under R117,000 per house to cover the cost of building the housing top structure.

The Finance Linked Individual Subsidy can also be used to buy the land and build houses but in this situation the subsidy amount depends on the household income and ranges from just over R121,000 per household (if the household earns just above R3,500 per month), to around R28,000 per household (if the household earns just below R22,000 per month).

For those people who don’t qualify for top structure subsidies (because, for example, they have already owned property, or they earn more than R3,500/ month), they have to use their own funds and resources to buy the land and build their own houses.

The two main programmes for funding upgrading of informal settlements are using funds from

  • The human settlement development grant (HSDG) that local municipalities can access.
  • The urban settlement development grant (USDG) that metropolitan municipalities can access.

This Human Settlements Development Grant (HSDG) is given by the national Department of Human Settlements to provincial Departments of Human Settlements. Provincial departments will then decide how much of this HSDG grant will be spread between projects from the Integrate Residential Development Programme, Rural Housing Programme, the Enhanced Peoples’ Housing Process, Social Housing and other housing subsidy programmes, including the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP).  For now Provinces are required to ring fence a percentage of these HSDG funds for the UISP.

A local municipality then submits a motivation for an upgrading of informal settlement programme grant. These projects must be part of the projects that have been categorised by the municipality and it is clear if the settlement is an A, B1, B2 or C settlement.  For those projects that are approved by province, the municipality receives funding in tranches as per the phases outlined in the motivation. Category B1 and B2 settlements can then start to put in basic temporary or emergency services.

After a certain date, yet to be confirmed, national government will establish a special dedicated programme called the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Partnership Grant (UISP Grant) – or something similar – that municipalities will have access to from the provincial department of human settlements. The upgrading of informal settlements programme will no longer be a sub component of the HSDG but will have its own dedicated programme for which provinces and municipalities will have to account.

The Urban Settlement Development Grant (USDG) is given to metropolitan municipalities directly from national treasury.  It is put into a ‘big pot’ by metros that the metros then have to use to cover a whole range of activities ranging from installing and maintaining the bulk water and sanitation infrastructure, the building and maintenance of all municipal roads, and the provision of basic water and sanitation services in informal settlements. Over the last few years the national electrification programme funds for metros were also added to this USDG pool of funding.  This includes funds to electrify informal settlements.  In summary, almost all departments of the metro make claims on this pool of funding to carry out their work.

The human settlements department of the metro municipality, working in partnership with the various line departments like town planning, roads and storm water, water and sanitation, refuse removal and others has to submit an upgrading of informal settlements motivation to the metro managers office that is responsible for allocating USDG funding between departments in accordance with its Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and Built Environment Performance Plans (BEPP).

When considering which upgrading projects to fund from the USDG, the metro managers office must also consider if the informal settlement has been categorised as part of a metro wide informal settlement categorisation programme and if it is in line to receive funding at this time compared to other informal settlements that are earmarked to receive some funding at a later date.

If USDG funding is granted then the relevant department, such as the water and sanitation department, will be responsible for arranging for the instillation of the communal water and sanitation services as part of the incremental and phased approach to upgrading.

Line departments can no longer just decide on their own, without reference to any metro-wide upgrading programme, where they will provide basic services like communal water toilets and electricity.

After a certain date, yet to be confirmed, national government will establish a special dedicated programme called the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Partnership Grant (UISPG) – or something similar – that metros will have to access to if they want to upgrade informal settlements.  The provision of basic services and upgrading of informal settlements will no longer be just one part of a much broader USDG programme but will be a dedicated UISPG that metros will have to account for separately.  In this way metros will no longer be able to use funding that is supposed to be for upgrading of informal settlements for some other purpose such as upgrading major access roads within the metro.

The upgrading of informal settlements is not just about land, engineering services, tenure and houses.

Other elements associated with the upgrading of informal settlements includes:

  • The provision of bulk water, sanitation, roads and electricity services
  • The planning and construction of public facilities like community halls, schools, clinics, police stations etc
  • On-going maintenance and cleaning costs associated with the basic temporary and emergency services and facilities provided.
  • The provision of small business development and support facilities and services as well as the operation and maintenance of these.
  • The provision of a range of skills training courses ranging for adult literacy classes, to small business development, building construction skills, and many others.
  • Social facilitation for community participation throughout the whole upgrading process.

It is up to the participants involved to identify what other services, facilities and elements could be provided as part of the upgrading process and seek funding for these.

The Community Work Programme is very applicable within the upgrading of informal settlements process.

The CWP is a national programme overseen by the Department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs. NGO site agents are appointed to manage sites (which are usually municipal areas). The site agents, working with the municipality and the community establish a committee to guide the implementation of the CWP. This committee identifies various work tasks that will be undertaken on a site. Once one set of work activities are completed the committee can identify more work activities.

A group of local community members are employed for two days a week to undertake agreed work while another group of community members are employed for another two days a week. CWP participants can also be trained in life skills, adult literacy, business start up skills and other skills so that they are more likely to be employed in the more formal economy.

The following provide examples of the activities that can be undertaken:

Physical construction and maintenance

  • Building communal ablution blocks
  • Installing communal standpipes
  • Construction of basic storm water channels
  • Maintenance of communal ablutions and water standpipes

Social:

  • Provision of home based care to the aged
  • Establishment and management of community gardens

Environmental :

  • Cleaning rubbish
  • Removing alien vegetation

Land tenure is about the relationship people have with the land where they live. When people have insecure land tenure this means that they face the threat of removal and eviction from the land.  When they have stronger land tenure security it means that they are more able to defend against being unfairly evicted or removed from the land they occupy.

In the same way that water, toilets, roads and other engineering services can be upgraded over time from one were people start with basic services, move through various intermediate levels of services through to having a full level of services; the upgrading of informal settlement process also provides an opportunity for tenure to be improved, step by step, from one were people have weaker land tenure security to one where they have much stronger land tenure security.  Private land ownership (with title deeds) is just one way to arrange the relationship people have with the land in a way where people have stronger land tenure security.

The following are examples of how land tenure can be secured as part of an upgrading process.  It is up to the municipality and community to come up with further innovative ways to manage land tenure within the upgrading of informal settlements process.

  • Communities can try to increase their tenure security is by establishing an informal settlement residents committee that takes responsibility for creating and maintaining a list of all people living in the informal settlement. In this way, if someone wants to remove them they at least know who is living in the area and can organise to resist.
  • If the municipality recognises this community list, this will significantly increase the land tenure security of the people living in the area. The ward councillor may for example, refer to the list when signing an affidavit that the person actually lives on the piece of land. These affidavits are often used to open an account at a furniture or other shop.
  • Tenure security can be increased even further if the municipality develops an interim land tenure policy for informal settlements which state that the municipality, working with the community, will maintain a list with the names of people living in a shack, linked to a GPS coordinate of the front door of the shack. This policy should also outline the procedures that a community member needs to follow to change the names on this list of the people living in a particular shack.  The municipality could also give the occupants an official stamped certificate verifying that the person’s name is recorded on the municipal list.
  • An interesting option of recognising land tenure is for the municipality to take a council resolution whereby they agree to use the geo-referenced location of pre-payment electricity meters, if these are provided to informal settlements, as the mechanism through which the municipality recognises that people are staying in the area. In this way, people living in informal settlements can start to buy and sell the rights to use pre-payment meters in a similar way they would use title deeds to buy and sell the rights to stay in a particular house.
  • Even if people don’t get electricity from the municipality, the municipality can still give people electricity accounts and charge them R0 per month, just to show that the municipality recognises that the person is staying in a particular shack.
  • Over time, as part of a step by step process of providing increased tenure security, the municipality can mark out plots on the land and then enter into a lease agreement with the occupant of the land whereby the occupant agrees to stay on the land and follow municipality rules such as not making a noise after certain hours and not transferring occupation rights to the land without informing the municipality.
  • In future the municipality can then transfer ownership of these plots to the person living on the land and give them title deeds to prove that they own the land. It needs to be remembered that if government housing subsidies are used to pay for the land and pay for the legal costs of transferring the land then the people living on the land need to qualify for a housing subsidy.  If they don’t the person living on the land will have to use their own money to buy the land and arrange for the legal costs associated with getting title deeds.

Interventions by government to address upgrading of informal settlements must not just focus on individual informal settlements at the project scale. They also need to focus on interventions at the scale of whole municipality, metro and/or district. These broader municipal wide interventions are called a programmatic approach to upgrading.

The following are a few examples:

  • Conduct a study to categorise all informal settlements into category A, B1, B2, and C categories
  • The development of a municipal policy on local and administrative tenure recognition for people living in informal settlements.
  • The development of a special land use management or zoning category that allows for people to build a temporary shelter
  • The development of a special municipal programme to respond to fires within informal settlements. This could include training of informal settlement residents on how to respond to fires and the acquisition and use of special fire equipment that can access dense informal settlements.
  • The development of a new technology to provide pedestrian paths and storm water within informal settlements across the whole municipality.
  • The development of modified norms and standards that apply to the self-help construction of temporary and permanent housing.
  • The planning and establishment of a housing support programme to be linked to a city wide upgrading of informal settlements programme. This could include for example:
    • developing information material on how to build a temporary house
    • the maintenance of a data base of builders and material suppliers that self help builders can utilise to help the build their own houses
    • the provision of training on how to build temporary houses
    • the facilitation of a bulk material buying programme where government supports the community to negotiate with material suppliers to access cheaper prices if by buying in bulk
    • the provision of subsidised office space for community based initiatives like local stokvels where community members save money towards the purchase of building materials.
  • The negotiation with those responsible for the Community works Programme in the municipality to make use of the CWP within informal settlements across the municipality.

As you can see there is a wide range of programmatic interventions that government can do to support the upgrading of informal settlements. It is up to the parties involved to be creative in identifying what will be appropriate in each situation.

Spatial transformation is about changing the spatial patterns of our settlements from what they are now to an improved pattern.

For example, apartheid planning resulted in racial groups being segregated and separated from each other as well as different land uses (jobs, work, shopping) being separated. Now we want to transform our cities, towns, settlements and regions to be one where racial and income groups and uses of the land are integrated and mixed.  In other words we want to transform our settlements from ‘separate development’ to ‘integrated development’.

Many informal settlements, by being located on small infill pieces of land within or close to higher income areas, helps contribute towards integration.

Another example of spatial transformation is that most of our settlements are built at a much lower density than many examples of settlements around the world. This means that people have to travel further and spend more money and time on travel.  It also means that more valuable agricultural and conservation land is taken up by roads, houses and other urban land uses.

Many informal settlements are located in infill areas close to existing urban opportunities. This contributes to densifying our settlements.

Yes, the upgrading of informal settlements programme in the housing code says that the programme “will also apply in cases where communities are to be relocated for a variety of reasons. … The provisions of this programme are equally applicable to both the upgraded settlement and the relocation site.”   (s2.2 bullet two)

This means, for example, that government can put communal toilets and water standpipes on an empty new piece of land and mark out plots for people to then move onto in order for them to start building their own temporary houses. In this way both the people who stay in an informal settlement and the people who move to a new piece of land start from the same level with basic services and basic tenure.

It is not very clear on whether the Upgrading of informal settlements programme can be used to accommodate people on an empty piece of land if they are not already living in an informal settlement. However, it can be argued that in an attempt to ‘get ahead of the problem of informal settlements’ and make land available for people to occupy in a managed and organised way, the UISP subsidy can be used by government to at least provide temporary basic services and administrative tenure recognition to people who move onto this land.

Some call this managed land settlement or MLS.  You can find more information on MLS at http://afesis.org.za/managed-land-settlement/

When municipalities or metros upgrade an informal settlement they upgrade the whole informal settlement. As explained elsewhere in this document, all people living in an informal settlement benefit from the upgrading. No one is excluded from the emergency or temporary services and no one is excluded from receiving some form of basic tenure recognition (that does not include title deeds).

The same argument applies to people from category B2 and C (informal settlements that have to be relocated to a new piece of land).  For example, if the land is on a flood plain, all the people living in this area need to be removed, including those who don’t qualify for a housing top structure subsidy.

This means that there is no need to have a housing subsidy allocation policy for the upgrading of informal settlements on the land people already occupy (category A and B2) and the land where people from B2 and C informal settlements are relocated (as long as they don’t get title deeds and top structures).

It is only when the municipality applies for funds for phase 4 of the upgrading programme to build top structures and transfer title deeds does one have to have a clear housing subsidy allocation policy to make sure that only people who qualify for a housing subsidy receive the subsidy. It would also be best to make sure that people who have been waiting a long time to get a house are the ones that get top structure funding first.

The municipality or metro will however need to have an allocation policy for situations where the Managed Land Settlement approach is used and people are allocated new land from some form of ‘waiting list’.  These people could be, for example, presently living in backyard shacks, overcrowded formal houses, in neighbouring communal land areas and commuting to work every day or in any other intolerable conditions. The allocation policy in these instances will need to ensure that opportunities to gain access to at least a tenure secure plot (without title deeds) with access to (at least) interim basic services  is a transparent and fair policy that accommodates those with the greatest need and who have been waiting the longest first.

National government requires municipalities to include social compacts into the process of upgrading of informal settlements.  A social compact is an agreement signed between identified stakeholders involved in the upgrading of informal settlements and explains each of their roles.

A social compact agreement includes three things:

  • A vision for what the signatories to the social compact would like to see in future
  • Commitments from each of the signatories as to what they will be doing to help work towards the vision; and
  • A management system that explains how the parties will check that the commitments they have agreed to are being implemented

The vision could include, for example, a vision of a settlement that has been upgraded where it has been upgraded on a new piece of land; and where this settlement has been created through an incremental process, where the community plays a key role in the upgrading process in participating in decision making process, and all stakeholders partner with each other to achieve the vision.

Each party will then make commitments which outline the roles they will play in the upgrading process.  For example:

  • Community – informal settlement committee: Participate in the upgrading process, support the municipality when it undertakes upgrading projects, report back on any challenges that are noted during the upgrading process, etc.
  • Municipality – human settlements department: Coordinate the provision of basic services and the whole upgrading of informal settlements process
  • Municipality – municipal mangers office: Coordinate the municipal budgeting process to ensure that budgets for upgrading are made available for each department.
  • Municipality – water and sanitation department: Plan for and implement the provision of basic emergency or interim water and sanitation in the informal settlement.
  • Municipality – roads and storm water department: Plan for and install basic storm water channels, paths and roads in the informal settlement
  • Municipality – electricity department: Plan for and install domestic electricity and public lighting in the informal settlement.
  • Municipality – Local Economic Development department: Introduce and implement small business development support projects for people living in the informal settlement.
  • Community work programme site managers: Introduce the community work programme to the informal settlement residents and facilitate a process of using the CW to implement identified activities.
  • Provincial department of human settlements: Support the municipality to undertake the upgrading process and call on other provincial and national departments to get involved as required.
  • Department of sports, arts and culture: Identify needs within the community and seek funding to build interim recreation facilities and spaces and offer training on identified topics.
  • Local businesses: Provide discounts on identified products and services to people from the informal settlement.
  • Local churches: Provide food and other support to destitutepeople living in the informal settlement.
  • Local NGOs: Provide capacity building and other support to help the community hep itself to improve their own living environments.

It is up to the stakeholders already involved to identify and draw in more stakeholders who can make further commitments to work towards the upgrading of informal settlements.

The management systems that are put in place will depend on the scale at which various commitments are made:

  • A city wide upgrading structure could be created that is tasked with overseeing all upgrading activities across the whole municipality. Such a structure would probably be needed to oversee any commitments that are made in relation to developing and implementing a city wide programmatic approach to upgrading.
  • Neighbourhood or cluster based structures could be established where people from informal settlements in a particular area come together and engage with the municipality to manage and monitor that the commitments are being implemented.

Project steering committees may need to be established for specific projects and commitments such as the provision of small business training in a particular informal settlement, or the construction of more communal toilets.

National government also requires municipalities to include the development and implementation of livelihood plans in the upgrading of informal settlements process.

Government recognises that upgrading of informal settlements is not just about providing services, plots and houses, but it is also about improving peoples social and economic circumstances.

Livelihood is what a person does to survive and hopefully thrive in a particular place and situation. A livelihood plan shows what the municipality, in partnership with the community and other stakeholders, will do to improve people’s social and economic circumstances .  In other words, what will be done to create jobs, reduce poverty, reduce crime, improve education, improve health, support people living with HIV/aids and other diseases, provide food, address gender based violence, protect the environment and many other things.

When developing a livelihood plan the municipality needs to look at the various vulnerabilities and shocks that people living in informal settlements face.

Shocks are sudden events that can impact a person negatively

  • Human shocks – illness, accident
  • Natural shocks – floods, fires
  • Economic shocks – losing a job, having prices of food and transport suddenly go up, etc
  • Social shocks –conflict and violence including gang wars and gender based violence

Vulnerability is understood as the probability of being exposed to risks or shocks.  Vulnarability includes

  • Not having enough money
  • Not having sufficient food and water
  • Having inadequate sanitation, refuse removal and electricity
  • Living far from facilities, jobs and support programmes offered by government and churches etc
  • Struggling to meet ones basic needs
  • Living with a disability

This shows that people face multiple problems on a daily basis, not just problems associated with lack of service and housing. The combination of these problems make it difficult for people to feel that they can achieve a better life for themselves, their families and their neighbours.

When developing livelihood plans the municipality and stakeholders involved also needs to look at what assets and resources people can draw and build on in their attempts to improve their lives.

These assets include material or physical assets as well as non material or social assets. There are at least five assets (or what some people call capitals) that one needs to explore when developing a livelihood plan:

  • Natural assets – land, trees, water, etc
  • Physical assets – water, sanitation, roads, taxis, etc
  • Human assets – skills, knowledge, ability to work, etc
  • Social assets – groups of people, networks, relationships, etc
  • Financial assets – savings, loans, remittances, etc

Informal settlements can improve access to livelihoods by strengthening  assets:

  • Human assets – Health improvements and reduced health risks (e.g. water and sanitation provision). Increased skills and knowledge through participatory processes
  • Social assets – Sense of permanent community through secure tenure; improved access to support services; network building through community participation and empowerment
  • Natural assets – Improved natural environment through the provision of water and sanitation services, refuse removal services, storm-water drains and electrical energy
  • Physical assets – Provision of basic services like water, sanitation, drainage, access to public transport, electricity and area lighting
  • Financial assets – Secure tenure as a focus for investment; a fixed address improves access to banking facilities; improved employment opportunities through provision of transport, local economic amenities, and participatory processes

A person or community with a sustainable livelihood is one that is:

  • able to cope with and recover from shocks
  • not very dependent on external people to do things for them
  • not primarily focused on the problems and things that they don’t have
  • aware of and is building on the local assets that they already have
  • focused on enhancing or at least maintaining their capabilities
  • clear of the vision towards which they are striving
  • working with others in a structured way to achieve their vision.
  • learning from their own and others’ experiences and continually striving to do better by sharing their own experiences and helping others in similar situations and following similar paths

Achieving sustainable livelihoods is not easy and the following points need to be kept in mind:

  • One needs to be aware that there is always competition for limited resources
  • Various interventions to upgrade informal settlements and improve livelihoods favour some and not others
  • Safety nets may be needed for those that are marginalised and most vulnerable

Information drawn for this section drawn from:

The following provides examples for how the upgrading process works in different scenarios

  1. Complete upgrading process for B1 – low density
  2. Complete upgrading process for B1 – high density (shift)
  3. Complete upgrading process for B1 – high density (TRA – two moves))
  4. Complete upgrade process for B2 – later relocation to permanent services
  5. Complete upgrade process for B2 – later relocation to basic emergency services
  6. Development process for C – immediate relocation to permanent services.
  7. Development process for C – immediate relocation to interim services

Phase 1

  • People live in shacks at low density
  • Basic planning happens

Phase 2

  • Basic services brought in
  • Basic tenure recognised

Phase 3

  • Detailed planning happens
  • Plots and/or erfs created
  • Permanent engineering services installed on boundaries

Phase 4

  • For some who qualify, RDP houses with toilets built and title deeds provided; for the rest they use their own money to buy erfs, install individual services and build a house.
  • All people use their own money to continually improve their houses

Phase 1

  • People live in shacks at high density
  • Basic planning happens (frame identified)

Phase 2

  • Shacks shifted or moved to create space for frame
  • Basic services installed (water, toilets, paths, roads, electricity, installed in frame)
  • Basic tenure recognised

Phase 3

  • Detailed planning happens
  • Plots and/or erfs identified within blocks created by frame
  • Plots/ erfs surveyed and pegged
  • Permanent engineering services installed on boundaries
  • Improved basic tenure provided (e.g. link GPS coordinates of plot – to occupation list maintained by municipality according to municipal basic tenure policy – to occupation certificate)

Phase 4

  • For some who qualify, RDP houses with toilets built and title deeds provided; for the rest they use their own money to buy erfs, install individual services and build a house.
  • All people use their own money to continually improve their houses

Phase 1

  • People live in shacks at high density
  • Basic planning happens (frame identified)

Phase 2

  • Shacks shifted or moved to create space for frame
  • Basic services installed (water, toilets, paths, roads, electricity, installed in frame)
  • Basic tenure recognised

Phase 3

  • Detailed planning happens
  • TRA land identified, planned and serviced
  • People move to temporary houses in TRA
  • Plots/ erfs surveyed and pegged on original land
  • Permanent engineering services installed on boundaries on original land
  • Improved basic tenure provided (e.g. link GPS coordinates of plot – to occupation list maintained by municipality according to municipal basic tenure policy – to occupation certificate)
  • People move back to planned and serviced original land and rebuild their own houses

Phase 4

  • For some who qualify, RDP houses with toilets built and title deeds provided; for the rest they use their own money to buy erfs, install individual services and build a house.
  • All people use their own money to continually improve their houses

Phase 1

  • People live in shacks at high (or low) density
  • Basic planning happens (frame identified if high density)

Phase 2

  • If high density, shacks shifted or moved to create space for frame
  • Basic services installed (water, toilets, paths, roads, electricity, installed in frame)
  • Basic tenure recognised

Phase 3

  • Land for relocation identified
  • Detailed planning happens for relocated land
  • Plots/ erfs surveyed and pegged on relocated land
  • Permanent engineering services installed on plot/erf boundaries on relocated land
  • At least an improved basic tenure provided (e.g. link GPS coordinates of plot – to occupation list maintained by municipality according to municipal basic tenure policy – to occupation certificate)
  • People move from original informal settlement to new planned area and rebuild their houses

Phase 4

  • For some who qualify, RDP houses with toilets built and title deeds provided on the new land; for rest they use their own money to buy erfs, install individual services and build a house.
  • All people use their own money to continually improve their houses

Phase 1

  • People live in shacks at high (or low) density
  • Basic planning happens (frame identified if high density)

Phase 2

  • If high density shacks shifted or moved to create space for frame
  • Basic services installed (water, toilets, paths, roads, electricity, installed in frame)
  • Basic tenure recognised

Phase 3

  • Land for relocation identified
  • Detailed planning happens for relocated land
  • Plots/ erfs surveyed and pegged on relocated land
  • Interim basic services (communal water and toilets, roads and storm water, paths, electricity, etc) installed on new land
  • At least an improved basic tenure provided (e.g. link GPS coordinates of plot – to occupation list maintained by municipality according to municipal basic tenure policy – to occupation certificate)
  • People move to new land and start to rebuild their houses
  • Permanent engineering services installed to plot/erf boundaries

Phase 4

  • For some who qualify, RDP houses with toilets built and title deeds provided on the new land; for the rest they use their own money to buy erfs, install individual services and build a house.
  • All people use their own money to continually improve their house.

Phase 1

  • People live in shacks at high (or low) density
  • New land already identified and planning for this new land already complete and all approvals in place (e.g. environmental authorisation, re-zoning, etc.)

Phase 2

  • No activities for this stage in this scenario.

Phase 3

  • Plots/ erfs surveyed and pegged on relocated land
  • Permanent engineering services installed to plot/erf boundaries
  • At least an improved basic tenure provided (e.g. link GPS coordinates of plot – to occupation list maintained by municipality according to municipal basic tenure policy – to occupation certificate)
  • People move to new land and start to rebuild their houses

Phase 4

  • For some who qualify, RDP houses with toilets built and title deeds provided on the new land; for the rest they use their own money to buy erfs, install individual services and build a house.
  • All people use their own money to continually improve their house.

Phase 1

  • People live in shacks at high (or low) density
  • New land already identified and planning for this new land already complete and all approvals in place (e.g. environmental authorisation, re-zoning, etc.)

Phase 2

  • No activities for this stage in this scenario.

Phase 3

  • Plots/ erfs surveyed and pegged on relocated land
  • Interim basic services (communal water and toilets, roads and storm water, paths, electricity, etc) installed on new land
  • At least an improved basic tenure provided (e.g. link GPS coordinates of plot – to occupation list maintained by municipality according to municipal basic tenure policy – to occupation certificate)
  • People move to new land and start to rebuild their houses
  • Permanent engineering services installed on plot/erf boundaries

Phase 4

  • For some who qualify, RDP houses with toilets built and title deeds provided on the new land; for the rest they use their own money to buy erfs, install individual services and build a house.
  • All people use their own money to continually improve their house.

There are only a few websites that collect information on the upgrading of informal settlements in South Africa.  These include:

Please contact info@afesis.org.za if you know of any other places where you can find information on the upgrading of informal settlements.

To return to the main Afesis-corplan page on the upgrading of informal settlements click here.