Welcome to the incremental settlement

Long version

Short version

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 as well as a greenfield context.

An incremental settlement development process can be broken into five phases as described in the phases section below. 

You can also use the MLS (Managed Land Settlement) story section to follow the fictional story of Pamela and her family as they follow this incremental settlement process. To watch an animated film on Pam’s Managed Land Settlement story see the longer video above.  

The managed land settlement comic found here provides a useful summary of the incremental settlement development process.  


MLS-phase-1.pngPhase 1: Bulk Preparation

Initiation and management

People demand incremental settlement after a flood


Role-players understand their role at the start and in subsequent stages of the incremental settlement process.

Summary actions

The community or government (local or provincial) takes the initiative to get a managed land settlement process going.

This can either be demand driven, where communities call for land and housing, or supply driven where government recognises the need to make more land available.

Role-players clarify who will be the developer at different stages of the process, with different role-players possibly taking on this role at different stages.

Bulk organising

The community elect a committee


The role-players are structured appropriately and have the necessary systems and capacity in place to be able to drive and participate in the development process.


The community organises itself so that they have a recognised and legitimate representative structure to represent the community in the broad development process. The municipality organises itself so they are able to undertake an incremental settlement project with a lead department taking the lead and clear inter-departmental coordination within the municipality and between levels of government. The community and the municipality organise themselves so that they are able to interact with each other through some form of steering committee.

Key decisions

  • How will the community and municipality be organised?
  • How will the role-players communicate and make decisions?
  • Who will take the lead in initiating the project?
  • Who will act as the developer during different stages of the process?

Visit Organising sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk land

The community engages with the municipality to get land


The land is bought by the developer or the land owner and the developer agrees that the land can be developed under certain conditions.


The developer negotiates with and enters into a sales agreement with land owner and/or enters into a land availability agreement that specifies the price to be paid within a specified time period, and the conditions that need to be fulfilled before the transfer can take place.

Key decisions

  • What land will be developed?
  • Who will pay for the purchase of the land if necessary?

Visit Land and Planning sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk planning and environment

Municipal Studies conducted to determine suitabiliity of land


The land to be developed is identified and fits within the municipality’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and Spatial Development Framewwork (SDF), a neighbourhood plan is developed for the land and the necessary environmental approvals are obtained


The developer identifies the land and makes sure it is in the municipality’s IDP and SDF The developer creates superblocks in which managed land settlement (MLS) can occur and also sets aside land for other land uses like schools/ clinics, health centres, business, industry, urban agriculture, etc. The developer gets the necessary environmental approvals for the neighbourhood plan.

Key decisions

  • Is the land suitable for development?
  • What will the neighbourhood plans look like?
  • Who will pay for the feasibility /preliminary and other planning?

Visit Land and Planning sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk services

The municipality arranges the bulk services


The bulk and connector services (for water, sewer, road, electricity etc.) are available to the site or at least a basic level of bulk services are available, with plans for these to be upgraded.

Summary actions

The developer ensures that bulk services are available or arranges for bulk services to be provided prior to the development of the land or in phases as part of the development of the land.

Key decisions

  • What level of bulk services will be acceptable before the land is developed?
  • Who will pay for the bulk services?

See Services and Facilities sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk access

Public transport 


Road, rail and other public transport infrastructure links the settlement to the broader environment.

Summary actions

The municipality ensures that the road infrastructure is of a standard that allows the area to be easily accessible to the broader environment, and public transport systems are put in place.

Key decisions

  • What is the form of public transport? (trains, busses, taxi, etc.)
  • Who provides the public transport? (Municipality, national government, private sector, etc)

Visit Access sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk allocation

The community and municipality allocate people to the plots


The role-players know who is allocated to the land or at least agree on what process will be followed to allocate people in need of land and houses to the land

Summary The role-players involved, determine in a participative and transparent manner, the steps or process that will be followed to reach agreement on how allocation will be undertaken and the criteria that will be used to make a decision on who will be allocated to the land.

Key decisions

  • How will people be allocated to the land?
  • Who will be allocated to the land?

Visit Tenure sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk financing

Finance is secured for provision of bulk products


Finance is secured for provision of bulk products.

Summary actions

Appropriate role-players (developer, municipality, community, etc.) secure funding (state, private, community) for bulk products (land, planning, services, etc).

Key decisions

  • Who will secure finance?
  • What will the finances be needed for?
  • What type of finance will be secured?

Visit Financing sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

MLS-phase-2.pngPhase 2: Basic Product

Basic organisation

Community members are trained in construction


Households that are allocated to the land are organised into a (semi-) formal structure with rules that are represented by a democratic committee.


Households agree on rules to govern their organisation, and elect a committee to represent their needs throughout the incremental settlement development process.

Key decisions

  • What organisational forms will be found at the block scale?
  • Who will represent the community at the block scale?

Visit the Organising sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Basic planning / demarcation

Marking Plots

Output Summary

Plots within the block are demarcated on the ground and on a plan in a way that represents both community and government needs.

Action summary

The developer, with the support of planners and others, working in a participative manner with households allocated to the plots (if they are available), plans where the plots will go in the block and/ or demarcates plots on the ground.

Key decisions

  • Where will the roads and open space be provided within the blocks?
  • Where will the households plots be located within the block?
  • Who will do the basic planning and plot demarcation and what support will they get from whom?

Visit Land and Planning sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Basic tenure

Households get basic tenure

Output summary

Households have basic tenure security.

Action summary

The developer, working in a participatory and transparent manner, arranges for households to get tenure security, with evidence kept by both household and local authority, that outlines clear rules on what tenure rights and responsibilities are involved.

Key decisions

  • Who will manage/ administer the local tenure system? (The community, municipality, or other?)
  • Who will keep what evidence of tenure?
  • What local rules will apply – roles and responsibilities/ rights and obligations?
  • What procedure will be used for administering tenure?

Visit Tenure sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Basic services

Households get basic services

Output summary

Households have access to a basic level of services.

Action summary

The developer provides a basic level of services (water, sanitation, roads, storm water, electricity, refuse removal, etc)) prior to or immediately after households move onto the land.

Key decisions

  • What level and quality of services will be provided?
  • Where will these services be located?
  • When will these services be provided?
  • Who will provide the services?
  • Where will the money come from to provide the services?

Visit Services and Facilities sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Basic facilities

The multi-purpose hall and builders yard are built

Output summary

Households have access to basic set of facilities.

Action summary

The developer provides a basic set of facilities (community hall, open space, post, fire, etc) at the neighbourhood level prior to or immediately after households move onto the land.

Key decisions

  • What set of facilities will be provided?
  • To what level will these facilities be provided?
  • Where will these facilities be located?
  • When will facilities be provided?
  • Who will provide the facilities?
  • Where will the money come from to provide these services?
  • What plans for on-going management and maintenance will be put in place?

Visit Services and Facilities sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Basic access

Taxi’s help people access amenities


Households have access to local public transport nodes (from which they can access opportunities at the municipal scale) and environment pedestrian friendly.

Summary actions

Municipality provides local public service facilities like taxi bays and bus stops. Municipality and/ or developer provide pedestrianisation facilities.

Key decisions

  • What local public transport facilities will be provided? (bus stop shelter, taxi stops spaces, etc.)
  • Who will pay for pedestrianisation?

Visit Access sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Basic financing

Finance is secured for provision of basic products


Finance is secured for provision of basic products.

Summary actions

Appropriate role-players (developer, municipality, community, etc.) secure funding (state, private, community) for basic products (tenure, services, organisation, etc).

Key decisions

  • Who will secure finance?
  • What will finance be needed for?
  • What type of finance will be secured?

Visit Financing sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

MLS-phase-3.pngPhase 3: Aided Self Development

Aided organisational development

Aided organisational development

Summary output

The local community is improving its ability to organise to address local needs

Summary actions

Community undertakes additional activities to make itself more accountable in response to its members needs. Role-players provide capacity building and support to improve the organisational capacity of community.

Key decisions

  • What additional issues can the community organise themselves around?
  • How can the community organise itself to address more needs, and be more accountable to its members?
  • What support can external role-players provide the community to improve its organisational capabilities?
  • Who pays for the support to local community organisations?

Visit the  Organising sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Aided local resource mobilisation

Savings Group


Households are using local resources to build their own houses.

Summary actions

Households save money and provide each other micro loans to build houses; and organised communities draw on local skills to help with housing development.

Key decisions

  • Are people expected to save for housing, how much do they save and how are savings collected and managed?
  • What skills are available in the community and how can these local skills be used?
  • What roles do external role-players (e.g. government, employers, etc. ) play in supporting people to mobilise local resources?

Visit the Organising sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Aided local tenure administration

Aided local tenure administration


Households have secure tenure, based on locally agreed principles, and there are clear rules in place for how to adminsiter this tenure (eg. transfer tenure rights, deal with defaulters, manage home improvements, etc)

Summary actions

The community and/or the municipality put in place a mechanism to maintain local tenure. Households make use of the locally administered tenure system to keep their tenure records up to date.

Key decisions

  • What rights and responsibilities does the local tenure provide to households?
  • What roles and responsibilities does the municipality play in this tenure system (is the tenure administered by the community, municipality, some other structure or a combination)?

Visit Tenure sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Aided self build

Building Permanent Structures


Households are building their own houses, with or without external support.

Summary actions

Households arrange for the building of their own houses on land allocated to them. The external role-players (e.g. government) provides technical, financial, organisational, etc. support to households and organised groups to help them to build their own houses.

Key decisions

  • What type of house will households build? (What will the houses look like, what material will be used etc.)
  • How will households build their houses?
  • What role do outside role-players (e.g. government, employers, etc) play in supporting people to build their own houses?
  • Who will pay for this support?

Visit Housing sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Aided self growing

Urban agriculture in community gardens


Households who want to, grow and/or rear food on their plot, in their block or on land identified in the neighbourhood for such a purpose for self-consumption and/or for sale.

Summary actions

Members of households who are interested, arrange for the production of food on land identified for that purpose at the house, plot, block and neighbourhood scale. The role-players (like government, employers, etc.) support households to grow their own food.

Key decisions

  • Who will grow food?
  • Where will food be grown?
  • At what scale will the growing occur? (household, block, neighbourhood)
  • What support will households/ growers get?
  • Who will pay for the support?

Visit Neighbourhood Development sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Aided self work

Small businesses operating from home and public space


Households who want to, are running local businesses from home, within the block or from land identified in the neighbourhood for that purpose.

Summary actions

Members of households who are interested start and continue to manage businesses, on land that is within the plot/ block and or on a neighbourhood scale, through small businesses selling and providing services to clients. Role-players (like government, employers, etc.) support households to start businesses for economic growth and activity.

Key decisions

  • Who will run small businesses?
  • Where will small businesses be located?
  • What support will small businesses receive?
  • Who will pay for this support?

Visit Neighbourhood Development sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Aided health and safety

Community Policing Forum


People live in a safe and healthy environment.

Summary actions

Role-players encourage community participation so households have a sense of ownership and belonging. Defensible space principles are used; and the community organise to keep community safe.  .

Key decisions

  • How can spatial layout support health and safety?
  • What can the organised local community do to promote health and safety?
  • What support can outsiders provide to promote health and safety?

Visit Neighbourhood Development sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Financing aided support

Finance is secured for the provision of aided support


Finance is secured for the provision of aided support and it is also secured for self-support.

Summary actions

The State provides finance for support to building, growing and working; and households secure finance for their own self-development

Key decisions

  • What support will be provided by whom?
  • How will this support be financed?

Visit Financing sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

MLS-phase-4.pngPhase 4: Upgrading

Upgrade tenure

Households are given title deeds


Households have a form of tenure that suites their needs (e.g. individual ownership).

Summary actions

Community organisation decides what form of tenure it shall be and the developer arranges for land to be surveyed, rezoned and for property to be transferred (if the aim is for individual ownership).

Key decisions

  • What form of tenure will households upgrade to?
  • Who will act as the developer for the upgrade process?
  • Who will pay for the upgrading of tenure?

Visit Tenure secor for more information and discussion on this topic.

Upgrade services

Upgrading Services


Households have access to an improved level of services (water, sanitation, local roads and storm water, refuse removal, etc).

Summary actions

Developer upgrades the internal services.

Key decisions

  • Who will be the developer for upgrading services?
  • What level of services will there be?
  • What will government servicing subsidy money be used for?
  • What government programmes will be used to pay for the upgrading services?

visit Services and Facilities sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Upgrade facilities

Community facilities are upgraded


Households and communities have access to improved community-wide facilities (health, education, public transport, etc)

Summary actions

Tthe Developer upgrades the community wide facilities

Key decisions

  • Who will be the developer for upgrading facilities?
  • What will government servicing and facilities subsidy money be used for?
  • What government programmes will be used to pay for the upgrading facilities?

Visit Services and Facilities sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

MLS-phase-4.pngUpgrade access

Access to amenities upgraded


The public (and private) transport system is upgraded and improved to a better quality and level of service and convenience.

Summary actions

The municipality upgrades the road and rail infrastructure, including the routes and nodes within the system. Public and private mass transport entities improve the service they provide to commuters.

Key decisions

  • What type of public transport system will be used?
  • How will the public transport infrastructre be paid for?
  • What fees will be charged for the use of the public transport system?

Visit Access sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Upgrade house

The municipality and community upgrade the houses


Households have an improved housing product.

Summary actions

The developer, using government subsidy, arranges to upgrade the community houses or households arrange to upgrade their own houses.

Key decisions

  • What will government money be used for?
  • What government subsidy will be used to upgrade the house?
  • Who will be the developer or client in terms of upgrading the houses?

Visit Housing sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Financing upgrade

Community and municipality negotiate for upgrading of houses and services


Finance is secured for upgrading products.

Summary actions

The state provides finance for upgrading tenure, services, facilities, houses, etc

Key decisions

  • What support will be provided by whom?
  • How will this support be financed?

Visit Financing sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

 MLS-phase-5.pngPhase 5: Maintenance and Improvement

Continue with aided self development

Households live in houses and maintain and upgrade them.


Houses and gardens are continually maintained and improved and community structures are continually improving their capacity to address community needs.

Summary actions

Appropriate role-players continue to provide support to households to improve houses, gardens and jobs and these role-players continue to provide support to community structures in addressing their community needs.

Key decisions

  • What improvements and maintenance will households make?
  • What support will government continue to provide?
  • How will this support be funded?
  • What improvements and maintenance will communities make?

Visit Housing sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Continue with government services

Government maintenance and improvement continues


Government managed services and facilities are continually maintained and improved.

Summary actions’

The municipality continues to maintain and improve the public spaces, facilities and services; and other government entities continue to maintain and improve other government managed services and facilities (e.g. post offices, resource centres etc.).

Key decisions

  • What services and facilities will be maintained and expanded?
  • Who will be responsible for this maintenance and expansion?
  • What role will communities play in this process?
  • Where will the money come from?

Visit Neighbourhood Development sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Diagnosis and planning

All future interventions are made after careful reflection


All future interventions are made after careful reflection of the success of previous interventions.

Summary actions

Households, community and government use the diagnosis and planning cycle to determine what further interventions are required at each stage of the process.

Key decisions

  • What issue/ elements will be diagnosed by whom?
  • What criteria will be used to evaluate the issue/ element?
  • What measures will be put in place to improve the situation?

Visit Land and Planning sector for more information and discussion on this topic.

Affordability and sustainability

Households afford to live in houses and government can sustain neighbourhood.


Households and users of facilities and services can afford the on-going costs associated with living in the area; the government is able to continually maintain the service; and the community and is able to provide additional support to develop the area.

Summary actions

Government collects fees and charges, and/or arranges subsidies to pay for the products and services it provides, it also provides discounts to households that cannot afford the products and services that it provides.

Key decisions

  • What fees will government charge?
  • What subsidies and discounts will be provided by government?

Visit Financing secor for more information and discussion on this topic.

Replication and expansion

Community organises to address other needs


All the role-players are able to replicate the process using available financial and human resources, and the products provided by role-players are provided at an increasing pace that eats into the backlog and future demand. The experience gained by role-players is used to help address other needs of the community.

Summary actions

Government, communities and private sector initiate and manage further incremental settlement projects and government creates an enabling environment for further incremental settlement to take place.

Key decisions

  • What changes to legislation etc. are needed to support replication and expansion?
  • How can the incremental settlement development process be promoted within government and communities?

Visit Organising sector for more information and discussion on this topic.



Initiation and management

Many households are living in very poor conditions in existing informal settlements, back yard shacks and overcrowded houses. Many have been waiting years for government to build them a house.

Some households are realising that if they do not try and do something for themselves to address their need for land and housing, they may have to wait even longer.

A few municipalities are also realising that if they do not make some form of interim arrangement that is more organised than land invasion but less comprehensive than an RDP housing project, it will take them many years to address the land and housing needs of people living in their municipality.

Bulk organising

A MLS project often starts when a group of households come together to address their need for land and housing. These groups often start off as a lose association that elects a committee to represent their needs. The community can also undertake surveys to determine who wants to be part of the managed land settlement process and begin to understand the income status, household size, skills profile and other features of the community.

Municipalities and government also have to organise themselves to be able to participate in incremental settlement processes. It helps, for example that there is clarity as to which is the lead department in the municipality to drive the process. This leadership position may change as different departments get involved at different stages.

Whoever initiatives the process their needs to be some form of collaboration between some type of community structure and the municipality.

Basic organisation

Basic organisation builds on the bulk organisation that occurs during the preparation stage. There is not much difference between bulk and basic organisation. From a community perspective, bulk organisation involves organising to get the land, while basic organisation involves organising to move onto the land.

The community structure can also use this time before people have moved onto the land to send community members on training courses where they can learn skills (like construction and organisation sills) needed during the basic development, self development and upgrading phases.

Aided organisational development

The enthusiasm of the initial phases of getting things going may have decreased slightly by this stage when the reality of the long process of managed land settlement starts to sink in.

Given that MLS is a long process this gives community groups time to also build their own capacity. This includes capacity in how to organise, as well as in understanding the managed land settlement process so the community can make informed choices along the way.

Processes of getting mandates and reporting back to group members can also be worked on. Many problems with development projects occur due to poor communication.

The municipality can also use this time to improve its own internal organisational capacities, by for example getting as many different departments involved in the incremental settlement process.

It is important for the group and municipality to celebrate milestones along the path, like getting planning approval for layout plans, getting funding for basic services, agreeing with municipality on the form that basic tenure will take, etc. and not just wait for celebrate at big milestones like people moving onto the land.

Some groups come together for a particular purpose and then disband when this purpose ends.

Aided local resource mobilisation

Managed land settlement processes rely on the resource inputs from a range of role-players from households, local businesses and government.

It is important not to rely exclusively on government to fund the MLS process. Households can save, role-players with appropriate skills can volunteer their time, local businesses can provide donations and discounts, etc.

Many of these resource mobilising activities, like starting local savings schemes, can be started even in the bulk preparation stage. These funds can be used to show government and others the seriousness and organisational capacity of the group.

Most existing micro loans are geared to adding to an existing house, but innovative products can be developed that look at how local resources can be used to buy the land, undertake feasibility studies, develop plans, put in basic services, build houses in incremental stages (foundations, walls, roof, etc).

Replication and expansion

Most activities outlined in this process relate to following an incremental settlement approach in a single neighbourhood or settlement. This whole process needs to be replicated in many other communities and neighbourhoods. Existing incremental settlement processes can be expanded to incorporate more people and issues like education, health, employment etc.

The lessons from existing incremental processes need to be shared and made available to other communities and municipalities so that those embarking on this process can build on the experiences of those that have been before.

The incremental settlement process as described in this report/ website is just one example of how this process unfolds. The more case studies that are implemented the better we all will become in doing incremental settlement and creating quality environments.

Additional information

MLS-phase-2.pngLand and Planning

Bulk land

One of the fist things that is needed to start an incremental settlement project is to find land. If people have already invaded a pieces of land this land needs to be considered first and an upgrading of informal settlement process can be followed.

If this is not possible then new land will need to be found. This is one of the most challenging stages for many communities, as the good land is hard to find and is usually very expensive.

It helps if government already owns land that can be used. If state owned land cannot be found then consideration needs to be given to buying or expropriating private land.

The municipality or community group needs to either buy the land or obtain a land availability agreement on the land which allows them to purchase the land at a future date once various conditions (like approvals being granted to develop the land) are obtained.

You can find more information related to accessing bulk land at Accessing Bulk Land.

Bulk planning and environment

Whatever piece of land is found it is important to involve the municipality to make sure the development of the land falls within the municipality’s plans for the area.

The Municipal Spatial Development Plan is one such plan that is a requirement of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act. (See SPLUMA for more information)

A broad plan needs to be developed for the piece of land which at least shows the outer boundary of the land that will be used for the incremental settlement.

Various studies are needed to determine the suitability of the land for development, and approvals are required from various government departments and agencies for the development to proceed. Examples of these include environmental impact assessments and township establishment processes that lead to zoning for incremental settlement.

Basic planning/ demarcation

Once the land is secured, the community and/or municipality can start to plan for what the plots will look like within this project area. The community can place more emphasis on creating nice public or common spaces that can be shared by all people in the area. This is a feature that often gets neglected in more conventional township layouts.

If households have been allocated to the land at this stage, these households can participate in deciding where the internal plots and roads should go. It is important that this is done in a way that makes it easy in future to upgrade the area, especially in relation to water and sewerage pipes and storm water.

The outer boundary of the broader development area or blocks will have to be surveyed by a professional land surveyor. In some instances, the community can be involved, with a little support, in marking out their own plots within this broader outer project boundary or block.

Diagnosis and planning

The process of continual improvement, is not just about blindly doing one step after the other, it is more about building on previous steps and continually finding ways to improve the way that things are done and what the environment looks like.

After the basic product development phase, role-players involved should stop, celebrate where appropriate, and reflect on what they have achieved; and draw lessons that can be incorporated into how they can proceed with the next aided self development phase.

In the same way, after making improvements to their house, the household should reflect on how effective these improvements have been and try and make even better improvements next time around.

This is like an ever expanding spiral where at each round of reflection, planning and implementation the overall situation improves from round to round. Over time the environments created become more complex and interconnected as each additional intervention feeds into and builds on previous interventions. This is how truly great neighbourhoods grow organically over time.

At the start of the process the community may have organised surveys to be conducted to determine household needs and circumstances. These surveys can be repeated to determine how household circumstances have changed, and to ask questions to determine what further interventions household and communities would like to make to improve their situation.

In conventional RDP type developments, the neighbourhood and houses are all planned and designed as one complete product. Any mistakes that are made are only picked up after the product has been completed, and there is limited opportunity to make adjustments and modifications as the services and houses are built. The incremental approach by contrast, provides many opportunities for interventions to be modified and tweaked as the process unfolds.

Once basic needs of tenure security and sanitation for example are met, households needs shift to other things like improving their own education, building safe and secure environments, and creating work for themselves or getting a job.

Additional information

You can find more information related to accessing bulk land at Accessing Bulk Land.

More still to come.

MLS-phase-2.png Tenure

Bulk allocation

It is very likely that the land that will be identified for incremental settlement will not be able to accommodate all the people who want to live in that area.

A clear and transparent allocation process and criteria needs to be developed to determine who will be allocated to the piece of land.

It is important to involve the community as much as possible in this process so that they accept and understand how the allocation will occur.

The number of people allocated to a piece of land will have implications on how big the plots can be.

Basic tenure

When people move onto the land there needs to be some form of recognition from an authority structure that they can stay on the land.

This could, for example, take the form of an occupation certificate issued by a municipality that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the occupant and the municipality in relation to using the land.

Usually, after the neighbourhood has been planned, the roads and open space are owned and managed by the municipality. However, there may be some instances, like when a community group buys a private piece of land that these spaces remain or become the property of some form of community structure, like a cooperative or home owners association.

Local tenure administration

Getting some form of tenure security at the end of the basic product stage is just the start of the process of incrementally improving tenure.

There needs to be a system in place that administers this tenure so that changes to who has rights to undertake certain activities on a piece of land can be administered and maintained. Procedures to deal with things like what happens when a person dies or wants to ‘transfer’ their tenure rights to someone else need to be agreed, put in place and maintained.

The form of tenure can also be incrementally modified over time, with for example: more rules and regulations being put in place; or moving from a recognition that a person can stay in a broadly defined block to one where the actual plot within the block is determined; or from a situation where a person has a simple occupation certificate to one where they have some right under a particular piece of legislation.

Tenure can be administered by either the community itself, who then keeps records, or by the municipality, or some other recognised authority (like the police or a church).

Upgraded tenure

Over time government can come back and, in consultation with the community, provide funding support to convert the initial basic tenure to individual title (or to rental, cooperative ownership or some other form of tenure that the households decide.) Some households may even decide to stay with some form of basic tenure.

If the plots are not yet formally surveyed, this will need to be done at this stage and a township register opened, so that the ownership of the land can formally be converted from the municipality (or other entity that owns the land like a church or community group) to individual title.

The funding for the purchase of the land, land surveying and conveyancing can be funded from the governments housing subsidy. Households who do not qualify for housing subsidies (e.g. they earn over a minimum amount), or have received subsidies before will have to use their own money to pay for these activities, if they want to ‘upgrade’ to individual ownership.

The tenure arrangements of common space areas, community halls, community gardens, etc. may also need to be upgraded. For example some form of home owners association may need to be established to take ownership of any common spaces that will not be owned by the municipality.

Additional information

You can find links to additional information related to this topic by following the following links:

Thought piece: Basic tenure

UN Habitat web site: Secure Land and Tenure work area

UN Habitat: Publication on tenure security called Secure land rights for all or [1]

UN Habitat: Global Land Tools Network

GLTN Resources:  : Monitoring tenure security in cities. : Land Rights recording and registration

Cities Alliance: The Case for incremental housing: Makes the case for incremental housing strategies

Smit, D and Abrahams, G. 200 An approach for incrementally securing tenure in South Africa, For Urban LandMark. THIS OFFERS A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO INCREMENTALLY SECURING TENURE IN INFORMAL SETTLEMENT UPGRADING

Shisaka. 2011. Investigation into the delays in issuing title deeds to beneficiaries of housing projects funded by the capital subsidy: Final Report. For Urban LandMark. THIS ONE HAS A VERY SIMPLE TOWNSHIP ESTABLISHMENT PROCESS DIAGRAM

Shisaka. 2011. Housing subsidy assets: exploring the performance of government subsidised housing in South Africa: Overall analysis. For Finmark.

Rubin M and Royston L. 2009. Scoping Study: Local land registration practices in South Africa. Urban LandMark. THIS SCOPES DIFFERENT PRACTICES AT LOCAL LEVEL ABOU LAND RECORDS / REGISTERS AND MAKES SOME OVERALL COMMENTS ABOUT HOW THEY WORK

Rubin M and Marc C. 2008. The social and economic impact of titling in selected settlements in Ekurhuleni Metropolitan area: synthesis report. THIS LOOKS AT THE IMPACT OF TITLING

Kingwill 2011 Family title: title deeds, ownership and “law”, in Transfomer, Afesis Corplan. THIS LOOKS AT THE MEANING OF OWNERSHIP AND HOW IT FITS AND DOESNT WITH OUR DOMINANT WESTERN LEGAL CONCEPT OF OWNERSHIP IN SA

MLS-phase-2.pngServices and Facilities

Bulk services

Another important consideration in the preparation stage is to make sure that there is sufficient bulk water, sewerage, electricity and road infrastructure connecting the piece of land to the municipalities infrastructure.

The municipality has a long list of priority bulk infrastructure projects it wants to implement and the bulk infrastructure for the piece of land identified may not be on their priority list.

If the area is to be developed incrementally, some of this bulk infrastructure may only be needed in future when the services are upgraded in future.

Basic services

When people move onto the land there should also be some basic services that households can use for water and toilets.

This could for example, take the form of communal standpipes every 200 meters, and a VIP latrine for every 4 households.

It’s important to design these services with possible future upgrading in mind, like for example putting in bigger diameter water pipes so that the system can accommodate more water usage in future.

A plan needs to be in place for how these services will be managed and maintained.

Basic facilities

If possible it is preferable that some form of basic shelter or community hall be provided even before people move on to the land. This space can provide a space from which to organise future upgrading and household and neighbourhood improvement activities.

These spaces can start off very rudimentarily, as a shelter under a tree or a converted container. Plans need to be agreed on with the community and land owners (e.g. municipality) as to how the space will be managed and maintained.

Schools and clinics and other social facilities and services can also start off with, for example a mobile clinic that comes once a week, or a few temporary rooms and converted containers that can be used as classrooms and offices.

Every effort needs to be made to make sure that these facilities and services are provided as early as possible in the settlement development process, so local inhabitants do not suffer from lack of access. The incremental settlement approach is based on the assumption that government needs to focus its effort in the initial phases of a project on ensuring that facilities and services are provided that households would not be able to provide for themselves. This means that funding should not be channelled so much to the provision of top structures but rather should be used to provide for social and other facilities and services.

Facilities should be located in places that contribute to the creation of quality public spaces. Limited resources can be used to provide solid paving so areas are not muddy when wet and have good lighting so they are safe at night.

Upgrade services

The governments housing subsidy can also be used to upgrade water, toilets, roads and storm water. Separate funding is available to upgrade the public and private electricity

Communal standpipes, for example, can be upgraded to water per house, communal pit latrines can be upgraded to waterborne toilets per house (if the bulk infrastructure is in place), and gravel roads with unlined storm water drains can be upgraded to tar with lined storm water drains. The environmental features of these services need to be considered, so for example, rainwater tanks could be provided, and waterborne systems can feed into reed beds for sewerage treatment.

It is likely to be much cheaper to upgrade an incremental settlement that has started as a Managed Land Settlement project on a greenfield piece of land then if the area is being upgraded from an existing illegal and unplanned settlement. There will not be as many bends in the roads and pipes.

The bulk services may also need to be upgraded, so for example, maybe some form of composting toilets had to be used in the basic development phase as bulk sewerage was not yet available, but over time as the municipal waterborne sewerage system expands the area may fall within the municipal outfall sewer system.

Upgrade facilities

The basic facilities provided during the basic product phase can be upgraded over time, both in what they look like and how they are managed.

Social facilities can be upgraded from a roof on poles structure that is used as a community hall and meeting space, to a more formal multipurpose hall, managed by the municipality for community meetings, school and other social functions. The upgrading of economic facilities can involve, for example, the upgrading of converted containers that were used as a housing support centre and builders yard, to a more formal brick structure that is used as a small business support centre and ‘incubator’.

Serious consideration needs to be given to the development of multipurpose facilities, so that limited resources can be shared between departments. This does however pose management and maintenance challenges. The use of mobile facilities and services can also be considered so resources are shared between communities over time.

The bulk planning exercise would have ensured that sufficient space set aside in new developments for schools, clinics and other social facilities. The upgrading of schools may involve upgrading from container and temporary classrooms to brick and mortar schools. The clinic may be upgraded from a mobile clinic to a formal clinic building and health service.


Bulk access

In the past many housing projects were build in areas that were far from job and other opportunities.

It is therefore important that land is used that is on an existing transport route or forms part of future transport networks.

The planning and development of an adequate public transport network needs to occur at the same time as the planning and development of the land.

Initiatives to bring employment and other opportunities closer to where people are living also contribute towards improving access.

Basic access

Within the neighbourhood priority needs to be given to creating a pedestrian friendly environment. This can be achieved, for example, by ensuring that street blocks are not too large so people don’t take short cuts through people’s property, providing shelter from the elements and a sense of security around public transport nodes, and the provision of traffic calming measures along busy streets.

This pedestrian network needs to link into the public transport network that is discussed in the bulk preparation phase.

Private motor access should take last place in influencing what the neighbourhood environment looks like and how it functions.

The provision of space for social facilities (schools, clinics), shops and employment facilities at the neighbourhood scale also goes a long way to improving access.

Upgrade access

Upgrading access involves upgrading the broader public transport network (increasing routes, frequency of trips and stops, the quality of busses used, the quality of bus stop facilities, etc.) as well as upgrading the local pedestrian network of pavements, shaded walkways, etc.

Access not only looks at how to link people to the facilities, services and opportunities found in other parts of the municipality, but also looks at bringing these opportunities closer to where people are living and increasing the density of population so catchment areas for these facilities are smaller.

Decentralising opportunities and creating a more mixed and finer grained environment also contributes to increasing access. Neighbourhoods that look in on themselves like gated communities also make it harder for people outside these areas to access opportunities inside and those inside to access opportunities outside the gated community. It is therefore preferable to promote more ‘extroverted’ communities where people from inside and outside the community are able to interact and engage in commonly accessible spaces and facilities.

The development and support of activities around identified activity corridors also makes it easier for people to start new businesses etc. within these areas. There are more points along these routes where activity can take place, compared to more nodal development forms where activity is concentrated around one centre.

A challenge for low income households is that well located areas are by their nature expensive, and the poor could be ‘pushed’ out of well located areas as accessibility is improved and they become gentrified. Government needs to look at how it can use financial (e.g. taxes) and regulatory tools (e.g. building codes) at its disposal to ensure that areas remain accessible for the poor over time.

on on this topic.

MLS-phase-2.pngNeighbourhood Development

Aided self growing

Once people are able to move onto their plot they should also start to create gardens for food and small animals (e.g. chickens). Households will know that they have tenure security so are likely to be more willing to start investing time and money in creating an effective food garden.

The use of grey water from the house and roof and storm water for gardening can be planned right from the start. Composting systems can also be put in place. Any house upgrading can then add to these systems.

Depending on how the plots have been laid out gardening can also occur at the block scale and neighbourhood scale. Block gardens could be like community gardens located separately from the house but with houses surrounding it providing visual and physical security. Neighbourhood plots would be community gardens and/or small scale agricultural plots.

Aided self work

Tenure security also provides households with the incentive to start using their plots for income generating activities, like opening a small shop, providing a hair salon service or sewing new clothes.

The aided element of self work includes skills training in business and technical skills, access to local micro business start-up and expansion loans, marketing advice and support, etc. These support services can be provided from a local multipurpose hall, or as part of a mobile service.

It is important for the incremental settlement zoning category to make it easy for households to get permission to undertake these types of activities, while at the same time protecting neighbours from noisy and polluting activities that some may want to undertake.

The way that infrastructure is sourced and implemented can also contribute to local work. The community works programme could work well in an incremental settlement process. A group of people decides what type of work will be undertaken in an area and people are paid a minimum wage for a day or two a week to undertake this work.

Aided health and safety

Safety includes local community policing forums and neighbourhood watch schemes.

The concept of defensible space can also be incorporated into the design of the neighbourhood, so for example houses can be located around child play areas or community gardens, with the main living area windows looking onto these spaces for visual protection. Fencing and changes in paving and signage can also be used to show where public (open to everyone), common (open to those within the group) and private (open to households) spaces end and start.

Health involves making sure that environmental health is promoted, with for example, proper drainage around communal taps, and good lighting around communal toilets.

The organisational capacity and sense of community that is created through an ongoing incremental settlement process can also be used to organise local care givers for the sick, young and aged.

Mental health is fostered though creating nice and safe environments thereby building a sense of belonging to place and community.

Continue with government maintenance and improvement

In the same way that households have to continually maintain and upgrade their homes and plots, so too does government need to maintain and upgrade the public spaces, roads, and community facilities and services that it has been involved in developing.

From a government perspective the incremental process can be seen as one where; • during the bulk preparation phase, government helps in identifying appropriate land and getting the necessary approval to buy and develop this land for incremental settlement; • during the basic product stage government provides what limited resources it can afford to use to do some basic planning and demarcation of plots, put in basic services, provide a basic form of tenure, provide community facilities, and ensure that the public transport system services the area. • during the aided self development phase government support may be limited, leaving the development up to the households themselves; unless government takes it upon itself to provide various forms of aided support, like through housing support centres, agricultural expansion services and/ or small business advice offices. • during the upgrade phase government returns to the area and provides additional funding that can be added to what communities and households have started to do themselves, to convert to ‘upgraded’ forms of tenure, upgrade the level of services, upgrade the home, and upgrade other community facilities and services.

The municipalities and governments role does not end here. Refuse has to be removed, streets have to be cleaned, schools have to be painted, equipment in clinics has to be upgraded, etc.

Additional information

You can find links to additional information related to this topic by following the following links:


Aided self build

When people initially move onto their land at the end of the basic product phase, it’s likely that they will quickly build some form of temporary structure to provide basic shelter, but that over time the household will want to continually improve this home.

Consideration needs to be given to the upgradeability of the initial house. This includes how the house can be physically expanded over time, as well as how government funding can be used to top up on what has been built already. For example it is unlikely government will allow their grant money to be used to build walls on a foundation that has not been approved.

The concept of elemental houses can be considered where households use available resources to build some of the more formal elements of the house (like foundations, walls, columns/poles, roof, facades, wet cores, etc.) while using less formal material like corrugated iron and wood as infill. Over time more formal elements can be added.

Municipal building regulations will need to be adhered to when building any formal structures or formal elements of structures.

Government and communities need to consider the establishment of housing support centres where people are provided with examples of building plans and technical building advice, and are supported in arranging for group bulk material purchases. These housing support centres could be linked to local land administration offices, skills training centres, municipal payment points, etc. and become multipurpose centres in the community.

In higher density contexts, with smaller plots, more investigation is needed as to how households can be helped to build incrementally at higher density like, for example, providing shared ablutions, shared side fire walls, double story platform houses, etc.

Upgrade house

The upgrading of the house is only a small component of the much larger process of incremental settlement development. Settlement development is seen as the provision of good public transport facilities and services, and the provision of social and economic facilities and services. Government no longer predominantly emphasis the provision of the house or top structure.

The use of the upgrading of informal settlement grant, following the peoples housing process, is the most likely scenario to be followed when it comes to upgrading houses.

As hinted at in the aided self build activity, government money for housing upgrading does not have to be used just for the development of a new stand alone RDP type house. Given that households have started to build their own house using their own funds the new housing grant can be used to build a new house next to their existing house, add new rooms to an existing house, add additional features to an existing elemental house (like adding on walls to a roof on poles around a wet core house). It is likely that only in a few circumstances will households knock down their old house and build a totally new house.

Houses that are developed in a more incremental way also tend to be more varied and you do not land up with a whole neighbourhood of houses all looking the same. The houses more reflect the needs, personalities and aspirations of those living in the houses. This contributes to people feeling a greater sense of belonging to their neighbourhood.

Continue with aided self development

To recap, the process so far has been one where communities and government have organised for land to be made ready for incremental settlement. Government (and communities) have provided a basic level of planning, services and tenure so households can move onto the land. Households then, on their own and/or with support, use their own money to build temporary and/or permanent homes on this land. They can also if they want grow their own food and run their own businesses. After a period of time (that can be short or long depending on local circumstances) the government comes back and provides additional funding so that tenure, services and houses can be upgraded and improved even further. This is not however the end of the process. The incremental settlement process never ends.

Many of the initiatives that were started during the self development phase, like for example housing support centres, small business advise offices, gardening extension services, etc. can continue into the future.

As households circumstance change (e.g. they have more children, the children move out, properties are sold and new people move into old houses) so too do households continue to modify their environment. New rooms get added and the use to which rooms are used gets changed from bedrooms to offices, etc.

Continuous maintenance is needed by households to prevent them deteriating with weeds and broken windows etc.

The incremental settlement process is different to the RDP housing approach in that settlement development is seen as a continuous process and not a once off project or event. The interaction between government, households and communities continues into the future.

Additional information

You can find links to additional information related to this topic by following the following links:

Architecture for a Change


Bulk financing

Most of the funding for all the activities involved in the preparation stage will come from government. The Municipal Infrastructure Grant, for example, can be used to provide much of the bulk infrastructure.

It is highly unlikely that low income households will be able to pay the land purchase price so government grants will be needed to buy the land. Government needs to give this far more attention than it has in the past as more focus is now being given to finding land that is well located.

The community group could use some of its own savings to initiate some of the preliminary feasibility studies, but this needs to be done with caution so the community does not waste its money on studies for land that is found to be unsuitable for development.

Basic finance

The broad concept behind the basic product phase is to see how many priority activities can be provided at the least cost.

It is possible to conduct basic planning within identified areas and provide some form of basic tenure and services, without using government housing subsidy funds. At the moment there is no obvious government funding source tailor-made for this basic product stage, but it is possible to use municipal and other emergency or bulk infrastructure funding for much of this phase.

It is also possible for some of the community and households savings to be used for some of these activities like, for example, putting in a water standpipe. At least by this stage it is known that the development will take place, unlike the preparation phase where sometimes land is found to be unsuitable for development.

It must be remembered that generally basic products are provided without transferring title to individual ownership so households involved are not captured on national housing data bases that they have owned property before or received a housing subsidy..

Financing aided support

Most of the funding and resources for the self development phase comes from households themselves. When people feel secure in an area they are more willing to invest in that area. They no longer sit back and wait for government to provide them with everything and they start to do things themselves and/or organise with others to do things together.

The basic / incremental tenure mechanism does not lead to households names showing up in the national subsidy data base and deeds registry, so households can start to use their own money to start to build more formal structures and start to make a life for themselves in their communities, without worrying that they will not qualify for further housing subsidy funding in future.

Once a person has tenure security it will be much easier for an employer to provide some financial or material support to enable households to incrementally improve their houses and neighbourhoods.

There are some government programmes that support gardening and local food security, or small business support, or home based care. These services can all be provided as part of a comprehensive programme to support people to do their own agriculture/ gardening, undertake their own businesses and look after the vulnerable members of their community.

In the housing sector, government support is not geared towards aided support. The government grant is a once off grant, and there is no funding for longer term housing support facilities and services. If the incremental settlement process is to be up-scaled this is an area where serious changes in government policy need to be considered.

It is important however, for communities to continue to put pressure on government to continually, as per the constitution, progressively improve people’s housing and living conditions over time with available resources. The provision of basic products and services, and aided support is not the end of the process. Government must continue to provide funds to upgrade these incremental settlement areas.

Financing upgrade

The most likely source of funding for much of the upgrading phase will be from governments upgrading of informal settlement grant. This grant is specifically geared for more incremental settlement development approaches.

It does not matter if an incremental settlement area starts off from a context where people are all living in shacks or it starts of from a context where the land is empty and people move onto the land in an organised manner. In both contexts the incremental settlement process involves first providing basic services and tenure to households in the area, so they can start (in a greenfield context) or continue (in an in-situ context) to use their own resources to improve their houses. The governments housing subsidy is then seen as just a small intervention in a much longer process of continuous improvement.

The funding for the upgrading of public spaces, schools, clinics, multi-purpose halls etc. will all have to be sourced from the various government programmes set up to provide these types of facilities and services.

One of the challenges of government funding for upgrading of settlements is the need for coordination between the different departments. There may be a need for some form of committee, made up of government, the community and other role-players, to take responsibility for coordinating this upgrading process and for keeping the pressure on government so that the areas further upgrading does not get neglected.

Affordability and sustainability

Affordability refers to how households can afford to live in the houses and neighbourhoods that are developed. One of the main aspects of affordability is the ongoing fees associated with living in an area, including rates and services fees to the municipality, repayment on loans used to improve the house, and maintenance costs associated with normal wear and tear.

Affordability can also be addressed by reducing the level of service provided, designing the product/ service for durability, providing subsidies to reduce costs, or increasing incomes so households are able to afford these ongoing fees and costs. None of this is easy and requires on-going and dedicated work over a long period of time to make progress in any of these areas.

Financial sustainability refers to how the municipality can continue to sustain the environment over time (paying for its maintenance and upkeep) and provide support to all who need it across the country. The incremental settlement approach is designed to be one where limited government resources are strategically used to provide a basic product at the start and then as government is able to afford it to continue to upgrade these areas.

The broader aspect of sustainability refers to economic, social and environmental sustainability. It is no use developing houses and environments if, for example, they need electricity to continually keep them cool in summer and warm in winter, or people to have their own cars in a global context of rising fuel costs and climate change. It is also not worth developing a neighbourhood if people do not want to live in the houses for cultural or other reasons.

Additional information

You can find links to additional information related to this topic by following the following links:

MLS story

MLS-phase-1.pngStory 1: Bulk Preparation

This is the story of how Pam and her family and friends were involved in building houses and a neighbourhood for themselves. It starts with Pam and some of her friends starting to save for their future housing needs, and then, through the contacts that they made, finding land that a church was willing to donate to them. It also identifies all the processes that they needed to follow to get this land ready for development, including getting planning and environmental approvals.

Initiation and management

The flood: The flood in Squatter Camp that destroyed some of Pam’s friends shacks and started the whole managed land settlement story

My name is Pamela, or Pam for short, this is the story of how I build a home for myself and a neighbourhood for my family, my neighbours and my friends.

The story started about 10 years ago when I lived with my partner Temba and our two small children in a two room corrugated iron shack in a Squatter Camp, an informal settlement on the edge of Eden Ridge Township, a suburb of Dale View, a medium sized town in South Africa. We had to rely on family in the nearby four roomed houses for water and a toilet; or sometimes we just used the bush.

Temba used to work at a local supermarket and I did a little sewing with my mother-in-law to get a little extra money.

I had heard for years about plans the municipality was making for moving our, and other, informal settlements to a new RDP housing project beyond Eden Ridge Township. But every time there was a community meeting to report back on progress there was always another excuse, like that the land was owned by the prison service and it was taking longer than expected to transfer it to the municipality.

In the end, the municipality did manage to organise a new housing project in that area but I do not know how the people who were allocated to this new RDP housing project were identified. All I know was that none of the people I knew were lucky enough to get one of those houses.

At the time, like many of us in the Squatter Camp, I was a member of the local Congregation Church. The church wanted to help people like us, who lived in informal settlements, but they were not sure how they could do this.

About 9 or 10 years ago a flood washed away about 15 of the shacks in Squatter Camp. My family was lucky not to be badly affected. These flood victims were desperate, and had nowhere to go.

The Congregation church owned a large piece of land about 5 kilometres outside Eden Ridge Township. Prior to the flood the church had participated in an emergency housing project which was organised by the municipality. The church had agreed with the municipality that in the event of a housing emergency, an old unused sports field on its land could be used to house the people affected by emergencies (like the flood) on a temporary basis. About 15 of those people affected by the flood moved to this temporary relocation point on the Congregation Church land.

There was very little planning done for these flood victims and they just had to do the best they could under the circumstances. The Municipality was supposed to find alternative land for these flood victims, but it was clear to all involved that this was not going to happen quickly. The church also did not want an uncontrolled settlement to grow on their land, so they set up a committee (with the municipality and flood victims) to find a better long term solution for these temporarily displaced persons.

Visit Organising for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk organising

Voting: Pam and other members of ‘We Can Savings Scheme” hold elections to vote for a committee

A year before this flood, a few of my neighbours and I visited a savings scheme we had heard about in one of the other townships in Dale View. Here we heard about a Savings Schemes Network, a membership based organisation with groups in many part of the country that encouraged and helped people like us to organise ourselves into small savings schemes so we could start to save and organise to address our own development needs. We also heard about Development Support Organisation, an NGO that helped these savings schemes.

When we returned to Squatter Camp, about 20 of us started our own savings scheme – “We Can Savings Scheme”–and joined the Savings Scheme Network. We Can Savings Scheme members used to meet monthly and each of us deposited about R50 into a bank account. I was elected the secretary of the savings scheme. The scheme’s main objective was to save and plan for housing, but we were also able to help some of our members with some of their other needs (like getting ID documents, and supporting others to get their children into the local school).

After a year, there were 3 other savings schemes in other parts of Eden Ridge Township, each with between 15 and 30 members, who also started schemes because they also wanted houses.

Visit Organising for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk land

Negotiating for land: Representatives of the savings schemes visit the municipality planning department to ask for their help in developing the land.

After the flood victims had moved onto the Congregation Church Land, I met with the leadership of Congregation Church and explained what the savings schemes were doing. The church liked the fact that the saving scheme members were not waiting for government to give them houses and were taking matters into their own hands.

After a few months of negotiating, the 4 savings’ schemes (the scheme I was in and the 3 others from Eden Ridge Township that had started at that time) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the church, that we would work together to see how some of the vacant Congregation church land could be donated to members of the 4 savings schemes and used for housing.

Many other people heard about the agreement our savings schemes had reached with the Congregation Church, and over the next few months more savings schemes were established in Eden Ridge Township.

When Development Support Organisation, the NGO supporting the Savings Scheme Network, heard about this MoU, they visited our schemes and the church and advised us to pilot what they called a Managed Land Settlement project, on the Congregation Church Land. A planning working group was established that was made up of the church and savings scheme leadership and Development Support Organisation to start planning for this Managed Land Settlement Pilot Project. I was elected into this working group.

One of the first things the planning working group did was to visit the municipality to see how the municipality could help us develop on this church land. The Municipality told the planning committee that they could not provide too much support as the land did not belong to them, and that the municipality had other priorities.

The good news we heard at this meeting was that the area where the church land was located, was part of the municipality’s long term Integrated Development Plan and was just on the urban edge, on land earmarked for residential development as part of the local Spatial Development Framework. This meant that we would not have to spend time motivating for the area to be incorporated in the municipalities’ long term plans.

Visit Land and Planning for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk planning and environment

Preparing the development plan motivation: Planning and Environmental consultants appointed by Development Support Organisation working on a motivation to the municipality to develop the church land.

When we met with the Municipality they also told us that the church, as land owners, had to arrange to submit plans to the municipality to get approval to develop this church land as a managed land settlement project.

As a member of one of the savings schemes that were allocated to the church land (see the section on bulk allocation below) we agreed that we would use half of our savings to pay for some basic plans to be done. Development Support Organisation also donated some money and appointed a town planner, an environmentalist, engineer, and land surveyor that they had worked with before in other parts of the province who had some understanding of the managed land settlement approach.

The town planners held a workshop with members from the savings schemes and we all agreed on a broad framework layout for the church land. The planners called this plan a ‘sub divisional area plan’. The plan showed were the main access road was on the church land as well the where the 5 blocks would be located next to this access road.

The church would retain a piece of land for its own use. The space where the people who were affected by the flood were allocated to, would also be developed in a similar way as the other blocks. A new piece of land would be set aside on the church land for a new temporary relocation area that would be used to house people in potential future emergencies on a temporary basis. The understanding with this plan is that this land would only be used only if the municipality knows where these people will be housed in future, on a more permanent basis.

The town planners, appointed by Development Support Organisation, used the draft framework plan we had developed and applied to the municipality for this area to be rezoned from institutional (church) zoning to a sub-divisional area. This was a rezoning application to the municipality, based on the Land Use Planning Ordinance. The sub divisional area plan included the following information: • The broad spatial framework plan showing the main access roads and superblocks; • The number of residential plots that would be built in each superblock (the residential density) • The zoning that would be used for each block or portion of land within the sub divisional area.

The town planners had to zone the superblocks as a special zone for incremental settlement. This would allow us to build incremental houses on the land. If the land was zoned as residential we would not be able to build temporary houses. It was also indicated in the sub divisional plan motivation that in future the intention would be to zone the residential areas a residential zoning (for normal suburban residential areas.

Our application had to motivate for why we wanted to go the route of a rezoning like this, rather than the township establishment process which is the route normally followed. For us, this was one of the legal options available to us for a managed land settlement project; we took the advice from our planners in selecting this particular rezoning plan. We also had to detail the “basket of rights” – rights, densities and feasibility of providing services, public open space, etc.

The application had to be advertised for comments from the public. We were told at the time that it would take up to one year to obtain approval. Because of this we could not settle until this approval was obtained. At first we thought we might have to wait until a general plan was approved for the superblocks, but instead we managed to get permission to settle on the land with a draft general plan. Luckily there were no objections so we were able to get approval in less than a year. The Municipality did not have to submit the draft general plan to the surveyor general at this stage as we were not creating formal residential erven (or plots) at this stage. Once the framework layout (or sub divisional area plan) for the church land was developed, the environmentalists, that Development Support Organisation appointed for us, had to produce an environmental study and a heritage impact assessment also had to be carried out as there was uncertainty with regards to graves in the area.

Both the Environmentalists and Town Planners (as part of the rezoning and land development process) had to conduct a public participation exercise. The municipality and the Department of Environmental Affairs agreed to cooperate and allow the church, as land owners, to conduct one public participation process for both the planning and the environmental approval processes. This involved putting an advert in the paper, holding a public meeting and putting notices up on site, informing people about the development and giving them an opportunity to comment.

Luckily, given the fact the main neighbouring land owner was the municipality; there were no objections to the development. This was an important moment for us because it meant that our settlement had some legal recognition. Development Support Organisation explained that having the area approved by the municipality as a sub divisional area and with an incremental zoning meant that we were secure as our settlement had been “legally declared”. This meant that the municipality could “see” us, instead of us being informal.

Visit Land and Planning for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk services

Installing bulk infrastructure: The Municipality slowly expanding their bulk water system out towards the church land so that the area could be upgraded in future

The bad news we heard from the municipality when we first met with them, about developing the church land, was that there was no bulk water and sewerage system in the area, and the likelihood was that there would be no development in the area at least within the next 5 to 8 years. The process would have to wait for the municipality to slowly, year by year, expand its bulk services infrastructure out towards the church land.

The church knew that there was quite a good borehole in the area that had not run dry in living memory. We agreed, as savings schemes, that we would be prepared to use this water for communal standpipes if it was found to be suitable. We were also prepared to consider alternative sanitation options like composting toilets.

Visit Services and Facilities for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk access

Linking into municipal bus routes: A municipal bus that passes the church land on the route between Eden Ridge township and some communal villages

Although the church land was 5 km’s further out of town, it was also (as per the municipalities Integrated Development Plan and their strategic transport plan) part of a future development corridor that linked Eden Ridge Township and some communal villages and lands that started about 20 kilometres further out of town. This road was already, at the time, fairly heavily trafficked with taxis and cars. There was also a new proposed industrial area nearby, that the municipality was considering developing as part of its Special Development Zone plans.

Visit Access for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk allocation

Determining who is allocated to the land: Savings scheme members, the church and Development Support Organisation discussing who should be allocated to which piece of land

As part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the savings schemes and the church it was agreed that only the first 4 savings schemes would be able to move onto the church land. It was agreed that the church land would be divided up into 5 blocks, with each of the savings scheme allocated to one of the blocks. The 5th block would be left for the original flood victims who were already on the land in the temporary relocation area. Each block would then be able to determine how they could develop ‘their’ block. The allocation list was therefore effectively made up of members of each of the savings schemes.

The outer boundaries of each block was planned so that each block was just big enough to accommodate all the savings scheme members at a plot size that was acceptable to the members. The good thing about this arrangement was that when we all moved from Squatter Camp to Twin Oaks we already knew each other from working together in the ‘We Can Savings Scheme’.

Each savings scheme was asked to give their block a name. As ‘We Can Savings Scheme’ we decided to call our block Twin Oaks as it had two oak trees growing on it. We also gave this new community the name ‘Bongweni’ which means ‘the place where people have pride’.

While the savings schemes that were allocated to the church land were planning and getting ready to move onto the land, the other savings schemes that had not been allocated to the church land continued negotiating with the municipality to try and find some land for them to do something similar to what we were doing.

These were quite protracted negotiations, as there were many people that the municipality had to find land for, but after about a year and a half these other savings schemes agreed with the municipality that some of them would be allocated to a small part of the municipal land, which was next to the church land that we had been planning for. The Municipality would use the rest of this land it owned next to the church land for other people from their waiting list and informal settlement relocation plans.

Visit Tenure for more information and discussion on this topic.

Bulk financing

Securing project finance: A delegation from Development Support Organisation and the savings schemes going on one of their many trips to meet government to try and get money to help develop the church lan

It was very difficult for the savings schemes and the church to find money for these preparation activities. If it was not for the generosity of the church in donating the land, and the Development Support Organisation in donating funds for the necessary planning and studies, the pilot managed land settlement project on the church land would have likely not have been possible.

There were also sympathetic and open minded officials within the planning department of the municipality, who gave valuable advice and helped get the plans through the complex bureaucratic system.

As savings schemes we decided not to use our own savings for some these studies and rather decided to use our savings for putting in some of the services during the next basic product stage.

The provincial department of human settlements also commissioned an independent study to draw lessons from the experience of getting this land ready for development (see analysis and review in phase 5 for more on this).

One of the key recommendations coming out of this study was that government needed to give far more attention to funding the feasibility and preparation phases. Being unable to access land on which incremental settlement (and other forms of settlement development) can occur is one of the main bottlenecks in being able to address the land and housing challenges of the country.

The municipality also picked up on some of the lessons emerging from this study and decided to change its approach to the development of the municipal owned land that was adjacent to the church land from a conventional RDP housing type approach that would take years to implement, to a managed land settlement (MLS) approach similar to our MLS pilot project on the church land.

For the municipal owned land most the money for much of their preparation phase came from the Municipal Infrastructure Grant that was spread over a number of years.

Visit Financing for more information and discussion on this topic.

MLS-phase-2.pngStory 2: Basic Product

Pam and her friends from the savings schemes now have approval to undertake a Managed Land Settlement pilot project in Bongweni on the church land.

Attention now shifts to planning what the blocks will look like, how tenure will be secured and how to get some basic level of services onto the land.

Basic organisation

Learning new skills: Themba learning how to lay bricks on construction skills course funded by the department of labour.

One of the most exciting times of the whole development was when I heard that the municipality had approved the development of the church land. It had taken us about a year from when the church and savings schemes signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to when the municipality approved the framework plan (or sub divisional area plan) that created the superblocks.

During this time, while the planners, engineers and other professionals were doing all the things outlined in the Bulk Preparation phase, our savings schemes had not been idle.

We managed to arrange for some of our members, including my partner Temba, to attend a training course in construction skills, like pipe-laying and bricklaying so that we would have labourers from our community to work on any construction work that was needed in future. This was paid from the Department of Labour.

While we were still living in Squatter Camp and other areas of Eden Ridge Township, the Development Support Organisation organised a skills training course for our savings schemes on leadership skills and how to run meetings, get mandates and report back to members. We gained some useful basic knowledge at these training sessions that helped us run our organisations more efficiently.

Visit Organising for more information and discussion on this topic.

Basic planning / demarcation

Marking out plots: Themba, as part of the pegging task team, marking our plots on the sites on the church land

The Church, on the advice of Development Support Organisation, arranged for a professional land surveyor to mark out the outer boundaries of the blocks as per the sub divisional area plan that was approved at the end of the bulk preparation phase.

One of the most uplifting experiences I had throughout the whole development process was when Temba and I (and the other savings scheme members) participated in a two day workshop, organised by Development Support Organisation and the planning working group that we established in phase 1,to develop layout plans for household plots within each of the blocks. We had organised taxis to take us to this workshop which happened at Congregation Church on the church land.

Development Support Organisation had produced a manual on how to layout plots, which they presented at the workshop. This was the first time that I was able to really think about what type of neighbourhood I would like to live in. I was able to think about how to make my dreams come true.

  • At the workshop we broke up into groups according to our savings schemes/ blocks.
  • We then walked to our actual blocks and looked around to see what was there. Big flags had been placed at the corners of the superblocks so we could see exactly where the blocks were.
  • We then went back into the church hall, and brainstormed what type of environment we would like to have. These ideas were presented back to the other schemes and other role-players present and comments and suggestions were made.
  • We were then given a large aerial photograph of our piece of land and used tracing paper and paper squares, cut to the size of an average house on the aerial photograph, to look at different ideas as to how we would like our houses to be laid out in the block.

After the workshop the planners contracted by Development Support Organisation copied the provisional house positions we had shown on the aerial photograph. They then used this to make rough plot and street plans on another large aerial photograph.

A pegging task team, that included Temba, was elected and came back later and marked out the plots on the ground, using a tape measure, pegs and string. A few minor adjustments had to be made so that things like storm water gullies did not run through the middle of a person’s plot. This opportunity gave Temba much more confidence that he would be able to tackle almost any challenge that came to him in future.

Visit Land and Planning for more information and discussion on this topic.

Basic tenure

Receiving occupation letter from the Church: Themba receiving a letter from the church confirming that he has the right to stay on the church land on a particular plot

At the end of the bulk preparation phase the church land was rezoned to a sub divisional area with special zoning for incremental settlement. This already started to give us tenure security as the land was properly planned and shown in the municipality’s plans as an area where people could live.

Now that we knew who was going to be staying in the different blocks in the Bongweni community, the savings schemes began to discuss what people would be able to do on the land. Development Support Organisation held a few meetings with the savings scheme members to discuss this as well as what rights they would have on the land, how they could be protected from eviction and how land use would be administered.

It was agreed that Congregation Church would initially keep ownership of the land and in future, when government housing subsidies were obtained, those people that wanted individual ownership could then get their plots transferred into their names. But the church did not want to play a significant role in managing people’s rights and uses. It was important to them that the number of houses to be built in the area, should be limited to the number of plots decided upon Prior to anyone moving onto the land in the Bongweni community, the planning working group with the support of Development Support Organisation conducted a survey to determine what rights people expected to get once they settled on the land. This was presented at a workshop. The following points came out of this exercise:

  • Everyone agreed that we have a right to settle on the land and we called this a an occupation or a use right
  • Everyone wanted to be able to build a house and we called this the right to make improvements on the land. We were less sure about whether building plan approval for a formal house was needed (i.e. one made from bricks)
  • eople wanted to be able to pass on their land to their children and we called this the right to bequeath our land
  • Everyone would need to pay a small fee to the savings scheme to administer things. We were lucky that the Church, as land owners, did not require any fee or rental. We agreed that payment of this charge (to the savings schemes)would be one of the obligations that come with the rights to occupy/use, make improvements and bequeath. People agreed that the savings’ scheme has the right to make this charge.
  • People wanted to be able to run small businesses on their sites but we agreed that they would need permission first, not from the municipality necessarily but, firstly from their block committee (which was created from the same people as the original savings schemes), and then from the church. Usually the church would ‘rubber stamp’ the block approval, unless there was a dispute of some sort, in which case the church would try and mediate. These are use rights. While the first right is a right to residential use we understood that this right is for non-residential, economic uses.
  • We were undecided about whether people should be allowed to sell their properties but in the end we agreed that for as long as the church owned the land, it would be unfair to make a profit if you need to move. However, if you have built a house then you have a right to recover the costs of that. This made us realise the importance of administering tenure rights, otherwise people might land up being insecure because things become unclear. We understood this to be all about processes and procedures, rules and monitoring.
  • A register would be kept of who has rights and obligations and where they have them. The register would build on the allocation list (see section on bulk allocation in bulk preparation phase) and contains names and a plot number so that we have a way of identifying who has rights and where they have them
  • We also came up with some neighbourhood rules – quite like house (or block) rules of occupation – that looks at issues such as what to do if you want to rent out a room or a backyard structure, or if you want to put relatives in your place if you need to leave). We decided to also put dispute resolution procedures into our resident’s association rules in case there are conflicts. We felt that the Congregation Church might be able to play a role in supporting conflict resolution, but we decided we would develop the procedures over time.
  • We also agreed that the occupation register would need to be managed and that the rules would need to have a clear authority ‘person’ or structure to back them up. So we agreed that we would make this the job of the residents’ committees of the blocks.
  • The register would record both the husband and wife (or co-habitors if not married) so as to ensure that both the man and women would have tenure security. Children’s names would also be kept on the register.
  • Development Support Organisation clarified for us that these two things together – the register and the procedures – will give meaning to what we call tenure security, as long as they have support and legitimacy.
  • However, some people in the workshop were unhappy that they would not be receiving a piece of “paper” of their own proving that they have the right to stay on the land, so we agreed that we would ask the Congregation Church to write a letter to each household saying that they agreed to their settlement on the church land, provided that no additional plots were demarcated and more households moved into the block.

See the section on aided local tenure administration in phase 3 (aided self development) to see how we managed our local tenure system for both the plots and the common space.

All households signed the occupation register kept by the residents committees of the blocks just before we moved onto the land and the church gave them their occupation letter. We had a big party after this was done. It was a big milestone for all of us who had been working for so long on this project. These celebrations played an important part in keeping us all involved and motivated to keep going thought this long process.

Visit Tenure for more information and discussion on this topic.

Basic services

Using basic services: Households from Twin Oaks residents association using the communal taps that were installed in their block

At a workshop, organised by the engineering consultants appointed by Development Support Organisation with the savings’ schemes/ blocks; it was explained that waterborne sewerage would not be possible as there was no bulk infrastructure.

The following services were agreed to for all the blocks as a start:

  • One composting toilet for every 4 houses (the engineers called it a double vault urine diverting composting toilet).
  • At least one communal standpipe (or tap) per block with soak away pit for waste water coming from the tap (or within 200 meters from the furthest house). The water would come from a borehole on the site.
  • Lined storm water drainage at the main crossing into the block. No work would be done on the roads at the start.

The savings schemes all agreed to use their savings money to put in these communal water pipes, communal toilets and lined storm water.

Development Support Organisation later helped us negotiate a big discount for a solar light for each communal toilet.

A local gardening club also agreed to provide a zero interest loan to the savings schemes to provide a package that included poles, corrugated iron roofing sheets, gutters and a water tank for each house. Households interested in the package took out loans, at very reasonable interest, from the savings’ scheme to get this package. Most households took this loan and the material was stored in a shed at the church. Our family took out one of these loans and we started to pay this loan back even before we moved into the houses. (See the section on Aided resource mobilisation for more on this)

There was concern, from the start of discussions, about communal toilets – over who would clean and maintain the toilets. I knew, along with the other women, that this job would probably fall to us, and we were a little worried about how many activities we were taking on, throughout the development process. But in the end this did not become a problem as, after about 6 months, one of the households that were doing agricultural activities on nearby land (see the ‘self growing’ section, in phase 3 aided self development) arranged to collect all of this human compost themselves for their community garden orchard.

The Development Support Organisation helped us as the savings’ schemes to enter into a combined contract with a local builder for installing the basic services. The contract stipulated that local labour would be used. Each block nominated a builder and the flood victims also nominated a few labourers. Most of these labourers had attended the skills training we had organised earlier. The plots were marked out and ready to move onto before the basic services were put in. We arranged with the original flood victims, who were already on the land, for some of our savings’ scheme members to stay with them for a few days so, that these people could build the basic services without having to travel between Squatter Camp and the church land every day. This way we were all able to move onto a site in the Bongweni community that was pegged and had basic services ready for us.

See the section on Aided Local Tenure Administration, in phase 3 (aided self development) for a discussion on management of monthly fees for water and common space maintenance.

Visit Services and Facilities for more information and discussion on this topic.

Basic facilities

Using the multi-purpose hall: Members of Twin Oaks Residents’ Association meeting in the roof on pole structure that was used as a community hall

There were no community facilities in the area prior to and immediately after people moved onto the land. We were lucky that we could use a room in the church for meetings.

This church room was not ideal, as it was small and often used by the church, and so fairly soon we decided to build a roof-on-pole structure for a multi-purpose meeting space and builder’s yard. This was built used using some of the money we had saved when we changed the design of the communal toilets to make them cheaper. Members from Bongweni community also volunteered their time and labour to build this structure.

One of the main problems for us however, was that there were no schools and clinics in the area. The children had to catch a taxi to get to school in the old community. It was only 2 years after we moved onto the church land that the Department of Education built and staffed a small primary school in the area (see upgrade facilities section in phase 4 (upgrade phase).

In future, if we had to do this project again, we would work harder to try and get a primary school in the neighbourhood at the same time as the people moved into the area.

We were able, with the support of the ward councillor, to get a mobile clinic to visit us once a month. This clinic was also used by some of the neighbouring farm workers.

Visit Services and Facilities for more information and discussion on this topic.

Basic access

Walking to local taxi stop: Taxi stop near Twin Oaks residents association used by residents living on the church land

Most of us had to rely on public transport to get to opportunities in other parts of the town. Very few of us had our own cars.

When we had the workshop on what we would like our neighbourhood in Bongweni to look like, there was a lot of debate about cars and how the streets would look. It was decided that we would make the street like a big communal room, with the sky as the roof and the houses and trees as the walls, where children could play and adults could socialise. This was more like what we were used to in the informal settlements, old townships and rural areas. We did not want a normal suburban street where cars made it dangerous to walk and play in the street. The planners called this a ‘woonerf’ or ‘living plot’.

We also planted some trees and made a small shelter were the taxis could stop so we could wait out of the sun and rain. The place where the taxis stopped was not planned but just grew as commuters and taxi drivers found it convenient to stop in one particular place.

Visit Access for more information and discussion on this topic.

Basic financing

Funders launching new project: Representative from the church officially opening the Managed Land Settlement project on the land they have donated

When we started this project it was not clear where the funding would come from to put in the basic level of services and provide us with basic tenure.

As savings schemes or blocks we had to rely on donations and our own savings to be able to get to a stage where we could move onto the land. This meant that what we were able to put in was very basic; but we knew that this was only the start and we would find money from others and the government to make the area much better over time. At least we had somewhere to stay and were no longer living in the poor conditions of Squatter Camp and other informal settlements. We also knew we would not be kicked off the land.

The evaluations that were done on the project after we moved onto the land by the provincial government, the Development Support Organisation and also by some students highlighted that this bulk and basic financing issue was an area where government needed to direct a lot more financial support.

Most of us from informal settlements and in other poor living environments are prepared to start off with just a well located piece of land with basic tenure and services as long as we know that there are plans in the long run to improve the area. (See section on Diagnosis and Planning in phase 5 (maintenance and improvement)

Visit Financing for more information and discussion on this topic.

MLS-phase-3.pngStory 3: Aided Self Development

Finally Pam, her family and other savings scheme members are now on the church land in Bongweni, in blocks, with basic services and tenure, and with access to opportunities beyond the neighbourhood. Their challenge now is to create a good home and neighbourhood for themselves.

Aided organisational development

Self study group learning about organising: Members of Twin Oaks Residents association using group study guides provided by Development Support Organisation to improve their organisational management skills

When we were still back in Squatter Camp we had to deal with lots of other issues, like eviction threats, drunkenness, flooding, etc. and could not put all our attention into planning for the future we could only dream about. Once we were living on the land and in our self built temporary shelters we were able to organise ourselves much better.

We had achieved a lot through our organisation, and realised that if we were a bit more organised we could achieve even more.

We decided to keep the We Can Savings Scheme separate from the Twin Oaks Residents Group we had established (see section on aided local resource mobilisation for more on this).

When we moved onto the land, Twin Oaks was just a name we gave to the block of land that our savings scheme members moved onto. We decided to formalise this group a bit and create something like a Home Owners Association for Twin Oaks. The Development Support Organisation gave us a very simple example of a home owners association that we modified to suite our needs and created Twin Oaks Residents Association. This constitution did not cover every possible eventuality, so often we had to make up rules as we went along.

We tried to run our association using consensus decision making. This required some long meetings into the night where we discussed issues trying to reach a win-win situating for everyone. I can only recall a few occasions where we had to agree by consensus to use a secret ballot and majority vote to decide on an issue. One of these was were some people wanted to change the original rule that no one could build a solid boundary wall to a rule that would allow these walls to be built. (See the section on safety and security for more discussion on this)

One of the people from one of the other blocks attended a study circle leader’s course and encouraged us to set up our own study groups on topics that we identified. She was able to get access to study guides on topics like how to run your organisation. I was surprised at how much knowledge and ideas there were in our community. We learnt about things like conflict resolution skills and negotiation skills which helped us a lot in the development processes that were to follow.

The 5 blocks on the church land in the Bongweni community also participated in an upgrading steering committee with the church, Development Support Organisation and the municipality to discuss future development and upgrading of the neighbourhood. Initially the municipality was not very active in this committee, but over time, especially when they were making progress with planning for their neighbouring municipal land, their involvement in this committee become more active. It was usually the municipal upgrading officer who attended these meetings but other municipal departments like planning, engineering, agriculture, disaster management, finance, environmental health, etc. attended meetings as required.

Visit Organising for more information and discussion on this topic.

Aided local resource mobilisation

Savings deposits in savings scheme: Members of “We Can Savings Scheme” continue to save money to be able to improve the houses they are developing on the church land

The savings schemes we started at the beginning continued to function after people moved onto the land. There were lots of other newer savings schemes that were still waiting for the municipality to arrange land for them and others that had not yet been able to identify any land.

As We Can Savings Scheme, with the support of Development Support Organisation, we have organised a few more financial products for our members.

Some of us are putting aside savings every month that we all can withdraw in December for Christmas and in January for back-to-school expenses. Most of us have also joined the ROSA (or ROtating SAvings) product which is like a stokvel, where 10 of us save every month (except December and January) and each month one of us gets the full lump sum deposited for that month. This is used to buy building material so each recipient can improve their house. Other ROSA members also help with labour and other things if they can.

The Development Support Organisation also managed the loan product that was set up with the funds from the local church gardening club that provided those who wanted with roof sheeting, poles, guttering, and a water tank. (see the section on basic services in phase 2 basic product). To receive this product households had to form groups of 3 households each. One household from the group was then provided with the building material package. The household then had to pay this money back over a number of months, after which the next household in the group could receive the material and pay back for the last group member to receive his/her material. The second and third person could only receive the material if the first one had paid back. Usually all members of the group helped pay back the loan so it could be paid back quicker.

The Development Support Organisation has also arranged a savings and loan product for members of all savings schemes. Savers are able to take out loans at a ratio of 1:3. Meaning that if you saved R200 you could get a loan for R600 and pay it back with interest. Once this is paid back you can get another loan at a ratio of 1:4 and the next at 1:5. A few people have made use of this loan to help them start their own businesses.

As savings schemes we negotiated with banks to see where we could get better interest rates and cheaper fees for our savings deposits.

Our savings schemes are now talking to the National Federation of Savings and Credit Cooperatives to set up a Savings and Credit Cooperative (also known as a Credit Union) for people in our town. This will help us a lot in being able to organise better savings and loan products, but I know that I will continue with our ROSA and Christmas savings as the peer pressure of savings each month ‘forces’ us to save consistently.

Most the households are also collecting building materials and getting ready for future home improvement. We sometimes find good, cheap, second-hand building equipment that we store at our houses. We all know who has collected what material so it’s very difficult for anyone to steal each other’s material.

We have also updated our records of who has got what skills. This includes relations and friends of households who do not necessarily live in the community. This has helped us a few times when we needed to maintain some of our property or negotiate with the banks.

Visit Organising for more information and discussion on this topic.

Aided local tenure administration

Household transferring basic tenure rights: Incoming household receiving keys and church letter of consent from outgoing household

Each block or residents association (see aided organisational development section for more on this) was responsible for keeping a record of who has the right to which plot within the block, and administer any changes to these rights. The rights we had agreed on in the basic tenure stage were rights to occupy, bequeath and improve the land (see section on basic tenure in phase 2 on basic product). If people wanted to use the site for other, additional uses, they would have to obtain permission from the Twin Oaks Residents Association. The role of the municipality in this process of approving alternative land uses was never fully resolved.

The church agreed to keep an occupation register in its office (on behalf of the 5 residents committees in the Bongweni community), listing who had the right to occupy which plot. Members of Twin Oaks Residents Association (or of other residents associations for the other blocks) had to go to the church office if any changes were made to the register. A committee member of the Residents Association would make the changes with a representative of the church witnessing this change. We tried to get the municipality involved in this register updating process but they claimed that as it was church land they did not have be involved.

Households were given a letter from church when we settled on the land, which gave us permission to occupy it. This was important to us because it is like our title and it means that we have some proof of where we live.

After we had been living on the plots in the Bongweni community for a year, one of the households was transferred to a job in another city and his whole family moved with him. This forced us to revise our rules of occupation. I think I would have put in another family member to look after my place for me but they decided to leave permanently. At the start no one was allowed to sell their property, but we decided to change the rules so that the person could sell their right to occupy the plot to someone from one of the other savings schemes that had not yet been allocated land. They weren’t selling the land because the church owned it, but they were selling their housing structure as well as the claim they had to the future development of the area.

Offers were made and the outgoing household accepted the highest offer. Each party signed an affidavit, which was witnessed at the local police station, saying that they had agreed to sell/buy on these terms and at this price. The outgoing resident also handed over the letter consenting to occupation they had received from the church to the new person and the church representative changed the name and signed the change. We did mange in the few cases where plots were transferred to get the ward councillor to also witness this transfer to give the transfer more legitimacy for extra security.

One of the ideas that we considered in relation to transferring rights to occupy plots -that I liked but we did not implement- was that the residents’ association would determine a price for the improvements only (excluding the price of the land). They would then offer the plot to other savings scheme members at this price. Those new savers who were interested to buy this occupation right would put their name down and there would be an open raffle to identify who from the list would get the plot. The outgoing household would not be able to negotiate to get the highest price. The advantage of this is that a balance is found between keeping the price of well located land down for future inhabitants, while at the same time providing an incentive for households to make improvements and be compensated for money they invest in their property when they leave.

The evaluation exercise that occurred about 3 years after we moved onto this land identified this as an area needing more attention. This was so because there was confusion as to how to value the property, given that the person was not actually selling the land but just the right to occupy the land and the improvements. I think that people are in fact selling the land, even if we don’t say so because you can’t have a house without the land underneath it.

Each block or Residents Association also had to take responsibility for keeping the internal spaces in the block clean and maintained. They could also ‘control’ what happened in the block. I was worried that this would be a problem as there was always rubbish in the streets and open space back in Eden Ridge Township, and did not know how we would control rubbish in our new neighbourhood. So far we seem to be managing this quite well. What helps is the pressure we put on each other when one person is not participating. We also organise clean-ups every Sunday morning and most people participate. You have to provide a good excuse if you cannot be there.

Another area that has been difficult to deal with is monthly fees for water and maintenance of the internal paths etc. The water for the communal standpipes was obtained from a borehole on the church land. Each household from all the blocks was supposed to pay a fixed monthly fee to the block and this was supposed to be combined to pay for fuel and maintenance of the borehole pump and system. Some people in the blocks paid and some did not and over time most people stopped paying.

The borehole machine broke and there was no money to fix it. After much discussion and investigation it was decided to change the taps to a trickle tap system so that only a little water came out of the tap at a time making it difficult for people to waste water. This reduced the costs of fuel for the borehole pump and the amount that needed to be collected each month.

It was also decided that a list would be posted on a notice board at the multi-purpose community hall. The list would provide the names of those that were not up to date with their monthly financial contributions. This was very effective in embarrassing households and most of them did then pay their outstanding monthly fees. We call this naming and shaming and I think it works very well.

We did not want to switch the water off the blocks for not paying, as we knew that some of the people in the blocks were paying; we did not want them to suffer by not having water or pay extra for pay for those that were not paying. One of the other things we have done is to arrange with the savings schemes not to offer loans to any households that are not paying their monthly fees, but this is not a final solution as not all households are still members of savings schemes and taking out loans.

Visit Tenure for more information and discussion on this topic.

Aided self build

Building houses: Themba and friend building his family’s house using material bought through savings

When the households first moved onto the land in the Bongweni community, all of them built a temporary structure with metal and timber.

A series of workshops were organised by Development Support Organisation where it was explained to us that if we wanted to build anything more permanent we needed to get permission from the municipality. It was also explained to us that if in future we wanted to use government subsidy money to add to the house we had already started this original house had to have a building plan approved.

During the house-building workshops it was also advised that we build our temporary house towards the front or back boundary so that a more permanent house could be build on the remainder of the plot.

It was also advised that we consider getting municipal building approval to build elemental houses. This idea of elemental houses was a new idea for us and the municipality but it looks like it has potential to be a house-building approach that can be replicated and improved in other areas.

What it involves is breaking up a house into pieces or elements, like foundations, floors, columns, facade walls, side walls, wet core (toilet, basin, shower, etc), roof, window/door fittings, etc. The municipality then agrees on this set of elements.

The household’s money then gets used to build an approved permanent structure made up of elements that they can afford. Temporary material like wood and corrugated iron is then used to add to this basic structure. As more money comes (either from savings or loan or from the housing subsidy) then the temporary parts of this elemental house get removed and replaced with more permanent features. For example the corrugated iron walls get removed and cement block walls get built, or the temporary roof sheeting gets removed and replaced with a cement tile and roof truss system.

Most of the households had taken out a loan to build a roof on poles with water harvesting at the start of the project, so these were treated as the start of their elemental house. A proper floor and foundation was then added as people had money, proper walls were then built between the poles, etc.

Some people also built a wet core, but because we had limited borehole water they could not connect into the main water system and had to rely on water from their roof runoff tanks.

My family has built a double-urine diverting compost toilet as part of our own wet core. This was linked to our house so we didn’t have to go outside to go to the toilet. We maintained it properly by throwing organic matter, like saw dust, into the chamber after each time we used it. We have had no problems with smell or anything like that. The municipality originally did not want to approve this wet core building plan but after the engineers working with us gave the municipality more information they were happy.

At the start most households worked alone to try and build their houses, but after a while people started to find ways to work together and help each other.

  • The savings stokvel (or ROSA) described previously is one example, where people save for material.
  • I joined a bulk buying club that arranged to get larger amounts of building material we all needed at discount from bulk material warehouses.
  • This bulk buying club has also arranged a mutual building scheme where all club members agree to offer 6 hours of labour a week – the club decides what work will be done each week. One week the club members work on one of the members houses, and then the next week they all work on someone else’s house. We are considering expanding this and recognising child care, making meals, transport to collect material, etc all as labour that can form part of this labour stokvel.

It has been amazing to see the different things that people have been able to do for their houses. One household even built one of their walls with old bottles, creating what looks like a stained glass window.

Most of the money for this came from the households themselves. There was almost no additional money provided for people to build their own houses. The support from outside for this house construction was limited.

It was said that people should remove their shacks when they built more permanent houses, but this did not happen. It was very difficult to tell people to take down the temporary building they were using for other purposes. It was only at the upgrading phase that we managed to negotiate some form of arrangement with how to deal with temporary houses. (see phase 4: house upgrading section)

The incremental settlement project organised by the municipality on the neighbouring land came up with more support systems to help people build their own houses. This included:

  • Providing households with examples of house plans and how they can be built in stages
  • Arranging larger and more organised bulk buying clubs so people could negotiate discounts as a group with material suppliers.
  • Having a more permanent building advisor in the community who households can go to for advice in how to build their own house

On the municipal land they arranged for a permanent upgrading office that included spaced for the building advisor (who also acted as a building inspector). Funding for this upgrading office was obtained as a result of conditions that the municipality attached to approval to build a new shopping centre in the area. The shopping centre had to pay each month into a housing upgrading fund and the municipality used this money to establish and staff the housing support centre.

Up to now I have described self building of houses on peoples’ plots. There is another element of self build that we also worked on, that is the self build of the services and facilities that are found off each person’s plot. These include amenities like water pipes, roads, storm water channels, etc. This ‘common’ self build only started towards the end of the aided self development phase. Basically government provided guaranteed work at below market rates, for 1 day a week for a fixed number of labourers who put their names on a list. This is called the ‘community works programme’. The community (in our case the blocks) could decide what type of work these people did. We used most of this money to build gravel roads within the blocks and create storm water channels.

We also arranged for the power utility company to come and put in some more street lights and to provide pre paid electrical connection to each house at a subsidised fee (see the upgrading of services section in phase 4 for more on this)

Visit Housing for more information and discussion on this topic.

Aided self growing

Household growing their own food: Pam’s sister working in her garden in twin Oaks Residents Association

The gardening club, that is linked to the church, held a workshop towards the start of the project with some of the households on permaculture and homestead gardening. Permaculture is a way of gardening that is in harmony with nature.

My sister, who is also in our block (plus a few others), attended this course and she has encouraged me (and others) to really take gardening seriously.

My sister has a very good vegetable garden that produces more than enough to feed her family and our family with food to spare that she sells to others. I have planted a large banana circle and small orchard on my plot. A banana circle is where you dig a hole and fill it with branches and leaves and other garden and household scraps. Grey water from the sink and the shower etc is then also thrown into the hole. I planted bananas and pawpaws around this circle which get their nutrients and water from this hole. I also dug a swale (which is like a ditch running along the slope of the ground) and the fruit trees were planted on the down slope of this swale. Storm water collects in this ditch and seeps into the ground and roots of the trees.

My plot is now full of fruit trees, berries and nuts. We have more then we can eat and my sister has started to bottle, dry, and make fruit juice out of this excess. She is also doing the same from the excess food of other people in the block. Luckily, we have access to the common space or road space where my children can play, as there is nowhere to play on our plot anymore!

My sister has also set up a chicken coop in the common space. We all help look after it because we know that we can get cheap eggs and chickens from her. Her husband wanted to have pigs in the common space but we stopped that idea very quickly as we did not want the smell of pigs. We were able to help him negotiate with the church to use another piece of land that is set aside in the area for community gardens, for his pigs.

Visit Neighbourhood Development for more information and discussion on this topic.

Aided self work

Household using plot for business: Residents using spaza shop established with community approval in Twin Oaks Residents Association

When people moved to the church land, they knew that this was going to be their home for the foreseeable future and many began to look at ways that they could start their own businesses on their plots.

My mother-in-law moved in with us and we made a room for her where she could carry on with her sewing business. She was able to get a loan from the savings’ scheme to get more up to date equipment to help her expand her business a little.

If someone wants to start their own business on their site, the house (or block) rules of occupation state that you have to get permission from neighbours and the municipality. This approval is usually given but there have been a few times when this was rejected, like when one person wanted to open a panel beater business on their plot. The neighbours objected to the noise.

The following are some examples of other businesses that have been established: • spaza shops • a tavern (the tavern was only allowed if the person involved swopped his plot with someone who lived on the edge of the block, so that the people who visited it would be on the edge and not in the middle of the block. The block has also put strict rules on this, like closing at a reasonable time). • Hair dressing salon • Cell phone air time sales and mobile phone repairs • Crèche • Draftsperson (drawing plans for new houses)

One issue that was controversial was letting out parts of or the full plot to others to make money. At the start we said that this was not allowed as we were worried that it would create ugly back yard shacks and create a problem of overcrowding. However it has proven to be very difficult to stop people from trying to make a little bit of extra money by renting out a room or two.

It also put pressure on the communal water standpipes, but we got around this by stating that anyone that rented out a room or had more than a certain number of people living on their plot could only do so if they expanded their roofed area and put in another roof water tank.

The savings and local resource mobilisation initiatives that we have started have also helped more people start their own business (rather than wait for someone else to give them a job).

Building on the experience we gained in organising people to get training in construction businesses, we have also arranged for people to get training in other skills, like running a small business, electronics, bookkeeping, etc.

We also convinced the municipality to establish a small business support centre and incubator next to the new bus rapid transport interchange that was going to be built on the larger municipal land project.

The nearby Special Development Zone that the municipality has been working on for years is slowly starting to attract a few industries and provide a few jobs, but most of the people in our neighbourhood have realised that they can’t wait for some big business or the government to give them a job; they need to find ways to create their own jobs.

Visit Neighbourhood Development for more information and discussion on this topic.

Aided health and safety

Reporting to community police forum: Member of Twin oaks residents association reporting to local community police forum office on church land

Crime used to be a big problem for us when we used to live in Squatter Camp, but now that we are in Twin Oaks block in the Bongweni community we all feel much safer.

One of the reasons is that when we designed the blocks we made sure that the houses were all looking onto the common space. We originally banned people making solid walls around their houses and only allowed fences, but after some heated debates this was modified. I felt safer when I could see what was happening in the street and I knew others we looking after me when I was in the street. Luckily, there are usually enough houses without large walls and usually lots of people in the street so we are able to keep an eye out for each other. It’s very easy to see who we feel should not be in our block and neighbourhood as we all know each other. In this way it’s difficult for outsiders to get up to mischief in our block.

As we have been an organised group we have been able to set up our own neighbourhood watch. We all have whistles that we can blow if we feel vulnerable, and we know that others will come to our help. The solar lights we spent a bit more on at the start were a wonderful investment – it made us feel safer, more so at night when using the toilets.

The basic sanitation and water has improved the environmental health conditions and no one ever gets sicknesses caused by poor environmental conditions anymore.

One of the residents of our block has become a care giver to orphaned children, and the rest of us in the block all feel like an extended family for these children. They have become like part of our Twin Oaks ‘block’ family.

Visit Neighbourhood Development for more information and discussion on this topic.

Financing aided support

Crèche: Crèche built in Twin Oaks Residents Association with funds donated by a local club

It was not easy to pay for this aided self development. The first set of challenges we faced revolved around households and small businesses trying to secure finances from their own savings or from banks, employers or others.

There were a few households that did not have the resources at the start to be able to build any significant structure, but after a month of us moving onto the land there were no plots that did not have some form of structure and presence on the plot. People found the resources to at least get onto the land.

The second set of challenges we faced with financing the aided self development was finding funds to pay for the services of the organisations that were offering the aided support. There were a few times during the process where Development Support Organisation nearly had to stop supporting us because they did not have funds to support us and we could not afford to pay them for all the support they gave us. Luckily for us, because it was a pilot project, and there were dedicated individuals in some of these support organisations, we were able to receive some good support.

Examples of aided support that were provided include the following:

  • The church provided one level of support, in terms of motivation and advice.
  • The Development Support organisation, as an NGO that was assisting us, was another important form of aided support. Development Support Organisation has said they would like to help more people develop their settlements, but they just don’t have the money and resources to help everyone that needs help. We were lucky that we were identified as a pilot project. The training organisations also provided aided support in the extra training they provided
  • The garden club provided training in gardening and permaculture, etc.
  • The community works programme provided a large element of support in terms of wages and organisational support for the upgrading work (see more discussion on this in the funding upgrade section)

Examples of other aided support that came later included:

  • The housing advice and upgrading office that the municipality created as part of their incremental settlement project on the neighbouring municipal land.
  • The housing support centre and incubator that was also established as part of the municipal managed project.

One of the lessons from the evaluation exercise is that this aspect of aided support needs far more attention from government and others. Government must not just plan to give everyone a house, rather they also need to provide us with support so that we can build our own houses. There may be a few cases where people can’t build their own houses. In these cases – let’s call them welfare cases – the government will need to just provide the full completed house.

Visit Financing for more information and discussion on this topic.

MLS-phase-4.pngStory 4: Upgrading

Pam and her neighbours have achieved a lot in the 7 to 8 years that they have been on the land in Bongweni without much government support. They have used what money and resources they could get to build themselves some very nice homes, even if these houses were not complete.

The housing process has been turned upside down from one where people used to wait for government subsidies to come first and then use their own money to add to what government provided; to one where they first used their own resources (with a little support where possible) to build and create houses and neighbourhoods they could afford and then used government money to add to what they had already started.

We now turn our attention to how government money and resources can be used to add to what people have started for themselves.

Upgrade tenure

Household receiving title deeds: Pam and Temba receiving title deeds after land formally transferred from church to residents

About 8 years after we moved onto the church land the municipality was ready to help us upgrade our settlement.

By this time the households that had moved onto the neighbouring municipal owned land that was also developed as a managed land settlement project, had also been living on their land for about 2 years.

When the municipality started to plan for the development of the neighbouring municipal owned land, using a similar managed land settlement approach, we (as residents associations on the church land) negotiated with the municipality that when they upgraded the tenure, services and houses of people living on the municipal land we would also form part of that upgrading process.

When the Municipality was ready to start the upgrading of the new settlement on their land they arranged a workshop with us (the blocks on the church land) and explained how the upgrading was going to happen.

Remember that before we settled on the church land, the church land had been sub-divided into about 5 blocks and the area zoned as a sub-divisional area. The sub-divisional area plan (or draft general plan) had been approved by the municipality but a general plan had not yet formally been submitted to the Surveyor General for approval. This meant that we had legal status and that the municipality could “see” us.

Now it was time to formally subdivide the land into individual plots for each household. We had to have our technical experts brought in to explain how our rights needed to be upgraded from the “basket” of rights we held in our sub-divisional areas to rights we would hold as individuals.

As residents associations or blocks in the Bongweni community, we agreed with the church that the municipality would be the best placed to take responsibility for managing the whole land transfer process. It was easier for the municipality to get funds to pay for the land surveying and conveyancing involved then for the church to do this (see financing upgrade section below for more on this). A development agreement was signed between the church, ourselves, represented by Twin Oaks Residents’ Committee (and other associations for the other blocks), and the municipality, where the church (as the land owner) and the resident associations agreed that the municipality would be responsible to manage the tenure upgrading process. This agreement gave the municipality power of attorney to act on behalf of the church when it came to land transfer. (A similar agreement was also signed for the municipality to take responsibility for upgrading the services – see the next section on services upgrading).

This land transfer process involved a number of steps.

  • The land surveyors appointed by the municipality, as per the agreement with the church, came and used their special equipment to mark out the corners of the plots we had marked out by tape measure at the start of the development process. They called this a ‘tacky’ or tachometric survey.
  • Town planners appointed by the municipality (as agreed with church) obtain formal sub division consent from the municipality. This activates the residential 1 zoning that was specified in the original sub divisional zoning motivation, made in the bulk land preparation phase, as the ultimate zoning of the property.
  • The land surveyor then prepared a general plan based on this on-site tacky survey mapping. The general plan was based on the way we had settled already. The original draft general plan (or sub divisional area – or framework – plan) prepared during the bulk preparation stage had only marked out the outer boundaries of the blocks and had not been formally submitted to the surveyor general. The new general plan that was prepared at this upgrading phase showed each individual plot on the plan.
  • The land surveyor then sent the general plan to the Surveyor General for approval and each plot was given an erf number.
  • The conveyancer (also appointed by municipality as agreed with the church as land owner), took the approved general plan and opened a township register in the deeds office (with each erf belonging to the church).
  • The conveyancer then had to arrange to legally transfer the land from the church to someone nominated by the household to take ownership of the plot. There were a lot of forms that had to be signed at this stage and at the end of all this, the households were given title deeds. This was quite a complicated process and for much of it we had to trust our advisors and the conveyancers involved. Each household was then given title deeds to their plot or erf and the roads and open space was then transferred to the municipality for those blocks that wanted this.

There was some complication when it came to how land transfer would happen for those households that did not qualify for a government housing subsidy, as they had to use their own money to pay the transfer/ conveyancing fees. The church had donated the land to us (and had not stipulated that only housing subsidy qualifying beneficiaries could be allocated), so there was no land price but there was a legal transfer cost.

Most of the blocks agreed that the municipality would take over ownership and responsibility for the roads and common space within the blocks, but our block and another block decided to keep group ownership of this space so we could control what happens on this space. We had to establish a home owners association, with its own constitution, to take ownership of this space. This was easy for us as we had already been operating like a home owners association with Twin Oaks Residents Association. The home owner association rules were based on the rules we were already using in the residents association. We also included some cooperative clauses like one member one vote in the home owners’ association constitution. The conveyancer then had to transfer the common space (internal roads, etc) from the church to the home owners association.

We were worried how we would be able to force households to pay the home owners association monthly levy, so we arranged with the municipality to reduce our refuse charges as we were going to continue to collect this refuse ourselves and place it in a central point. The remaining refuse funds that we would have paid to the municipality, had we paid the full refuse charge, would be paid to the home owners association. In effect households still paid the full amount for refuse, but the municipality then refunded the home owners association a small amount. As a home owners association we were able to decide how we wanted to use this money to maintain the common space.

We considered setting up a cooperative to own all the land collectively, including each of the plots, but in the end decided against this as we did not know enough about how this would work for each plot. Having a cooperative-like home owners association was good enough for us to keep our sense of belonging as a group.

Now that households had title deeds to their individual plots they could sell their plots like they would in the normal private sector property market. We were told that, with individual title, those households that could demonstrate that they had sufficient income could also use their property as collateral and get a bond. I only know of one person, who got promoted in his job, who has managed to get a bond in this way to be able to build a better house. For the rest of us the banks have not been to keen to give us mortgage loans. There are a few micro finance lenders who are able to give us loans but they do not use housing property as collateral. See section on aided local resource mobilisation in the aided self development phase for more on non mortgage forms of housing finance.

Being able to get loans, using property as security, has some advantages but it also opens up the possibility that households could lose their property to banks if they are unable to pay this loan/ bond back. When we had the right to occupy, banks would not give us loans and we had to rely on micro loans through our savings schemes that were not attached to our property. Households could not lose their home if they failed to pay back the micro loan, they just could not get more micro loans, and there was peer pressure from other members of the savings schemes to pay back.

Visit Tenure for more information and discussion on this topic.

Upgrade services

Upgrading the internal services: Municipality, on instruction of the church, upgrading the roads, water and toilets for residents’ association’s n church land, using upgrading of informal settlement grant money from the department of human settlements

As blocks we also agreed that the municipality would act as the developer for upgrading the services. A three way agreement between the church, ourselves (as residents associations) and the municipality had to be signed for the municipality to act as the developer for the upgrading of the services.

The municipality had by this time finally upgraded the bulk water and sewerage system so they were able to upgrade to water per house and a waterborne sewerage system. Apparently they had installed some form of new biological waste water treatment system that would treat all the sewerage from the church and municipal owned land at a special treatment plant that used reeds and other biological methods to treat the sewerage.

Another workshop was arranged by the municipality to explain to us what options we had for upgrading services. At Twin Oaks we decided to upgrade to water per houses, but we decided not to upgrade to waterborne sanitation, as we had got used to the double pit urine diverting composting toilet. Not all households had built such a toilet on their own plots and were still using the communal toilets per every 4 houses, so the government money was used to provide everyone with this composting toilet.

We also used some of this money to improve some of the roads, pedestrian paths and storm water channels, including the construction of more storm water retention ponds (to hold storm water for a short period of time and let is slowly out) and detention ponds (to keep water permanently stored), that could be linked to some of our agricultural activities.

The Municipality put a clause into the engineering services tender documents for the builder of the services to use the labour teams that had been involved in upgrading some of the storm water systems and roads in the aided self development phase (that had been funded by the community works programme).

After about 4 years of us living on the land, the power utility company using government electricity grants, put in public and private electricity. Each household could buy a subsidised electrical pre-payment meter. The power company workshopped with the blocks where the best place would be for the public lighting. For example, lights were placed at intersections and in the common spaces.

visit Services and Facilities for more information and discussion on this topic.

Upgrade facilities

Hall converted to business advice centre: A new multi-purpose facility that has been built with funding secured from various government departments and agencies on the Church Land

The upgrading committee that we had established during the aided development phase, that involved the church, government and representatives from the blocks, was quite active in the aided self development phase in trying to get all the government departments to provide and upgrade the facilities and services in the neighbourhood.

I was not involved in this committee so I am unable to explain exactly what happened. All I know is that the upgrading committee, working with the municipality, was able to negotiate, for example, for the Education Department to upgrade the primary school. The multipurpose space that was created during the aided self development phase was also upgraded by combining various departmental functions into a nice hall with offices. The Department of Health upgraded the clinic and expanded the household food security/ nutrition centre; the Department of Home Affairs upgraded the welfare pay point office; the police upgraded the satellite police station; and a new post office was built.

Also, the Departments of Economic Development (for a business support centre and advice office), Transport (for bus stops), and Science and Technology (for a pilot resource centre/ computer centre) helped upgrade the multipurpose economic development support centre that was built on the new municipal land near the new BRT (Buss Rapid Transit) stop.

Visit Services and Facilities for more information and discussion on this topic.

Upgrade access

Improved public transport: The new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) bus stop built as part of the development on the municipal land near Twin Oaks Residents association

The municipality had planned for a bus service but this was not started when we moved in. By the time the municipality had made some progress in planning for the managed land settlement project on its land, the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system was being rolled out. We managed to convince the municipality and BRT agency to build the bus stop on the route past our piece of land before people started to move onto the municipal land (as it was on the route anyway and the neighbourhood was growing around it).

The municipality kept some of the properties around this BRT stop for its own use and sold the rest, so it was able to build the small business support centre and incubator next to this interchange which helped small businesses a lot as when the area grew these businesses had a good market.

The new BRT bus stop was a little further away on the municipal land so we had to walk about 10 minutes more to get there, but it was much cheaper than the taxi’s and with one ticket you could go through the central bus stop in town and catch another bus to other parts of the town.

The development of the new Special Development Zone nearby also helped improve access as now there were jobs and shops and other things closer to where we were living and those who had work there did not have to travel long distances to other parts of the town anymore for work.

Visit Access for more information and discussion on this topic.

Upgrade house

Houses being upgraded: Houses in Twin oaks Housing Association being upgraded by Development Support Organisation in partnership with the housing associations using the Peoples Housing process

After years of hard work, and a long process we finally came to the issue that started the whole process; accessing government subsidised housing.

Strangely, this was now a bit of an anti climax as we had been living in houses we had arranged to build for ourselves for about 8 years by this stage.

One of the issues that we had to address was who could qualify for a housing subsidy. Out of the about 100 households on the church land there were about 20 households that did not qualify for a housing subsidy. About 8 of these 20 households had already owned property elsewhere, while the remaining 12 earned more than the minimum subsidy qualifying amount.

The 12 who earned more than the qualifying amount had to arrange for an individual subsidy that provided a subsidy amount for top structures proportional to their income. The 8 that had owned property elsewhere were not given any top structure funding and had to continue to rely on their own resources.

Another issue we had to address was what type of house would be built with the subsidy money and how would it be built.

It was agreed that the houses would be built following the Peoples’ Housing Process. All the blocks agreed to use the Development Support Organisation as our community resource organisation. The Development Support Organisation contracted an engineering firm and a social facilitation consultancy to actually do the project management.

Two workshops were held. At the first workshop we discussed how best to use the government subsidy to add to what we had already started. After the engineers had developed various options based on this discussion they reported back at the second workshop where it was agreed that households would be able to choose from the following list of options:

  • Option 1: Full house: where the support organisation arranges for a builder to build a complete house. Very few people chose this option, but where they did it was usually in front of their temporary house.
  • Option 2: Material and labour: Fees for labour (that were estimated as a percentage of the material used) and vouchers for material from approved material suppliers that only allow subsequent tranches to be made once a building inspector had checked that the housing element (e.g. foundations) was built using the previous tranche.
  • Option 3: Material only: Only vouchers for material as described above; with households having to arrange their own labour.

Some people had collected their own material and wanted to add this to the government material, but in the end, to avoid any confusion, it was agreed that if people wanted to use their own material they could do this on other parts of the house and not on the part that was built with government subsidy money.

Each household had to develop a plan for what they wanted to do with the subsidy money. This was a quite a complicated arrangement for options 2 and 3, but given the experience households had in budgeting and building their own houses it was fairly easy for them to understand all that was involved.

Given that our family (and other families) had obtained building plan approval for elemental houses, we were able to use the subsidy to add to this house. For example, my house had approval for the elemental floor foundations and floor, with roof on poles and with wet core, so we were able to use the government subsidy money to build proper, well-insulated walls and ceilings, and add on more rooms to the side were we previously had temporary rooms.

The Municipality by this time had established an upgrading support office in the area serving the people living on the municipal land. This person (and her team) played an important role in helping to approve these building plan options and administer the process of approving construction completion stages and making payments.

A third issue we had to address was what to do with the temporary houses that people had built in previous stages. We have been unable to reach a clear solution on this and it’s still being discussed. There are not as many temporary structures anymore as people have either obtained building approval for self built houses and elemental houses, and/or they have built approved houses using the government housing subsidy.

It has also been difficult in many instances to differentiate between a temporary and a permanent houses, as some of the temporary structures have been built to very good quality. Most of these have been allowed to stay. The one thing that was agreed is that unsightly temporary structures had to be removed. The municipal building advisor and representatives for the various blocks would approach households who in their opinion had unsightly temporary houses and negotiate with these households for these structures to be removed or improved. Generally households understood this and complied, but there are still a few households where negotiations are continuing.

Visit Housing for more information and discussion on this topic.

Financing upgrade

Completion of upgrading project: The mayor cutting the ribbon on completion of the upgrading of the services and houses in Twin Oaks and other housing association upgrading projects

The funding for the upgrading phase mainly comes from the Governments Upgrading of Informal Settlement subsidy. The services component of this subsidy has been used to upgrade the services for the whole settlement area. It does not matter if some of the households in the settlement do not qualify for a housing subsidy. These services funds were also used to survey all the plots.

The funding for improving each person’s house was from the top structure component of the upgrading of informal settlement funding. Only households who qualified for this subsidy were eligible to access these funds. Those that earned below R3 500 per household per month obtained the full subsidy and those that earned above this, but below the maxim qualifying band of about R7 000/ month, obtained progressively less as their household income increased. As explained in the up grading top structure section, those that had owned property before did not qualify for the top structure component.

Given that the area had been planned previously, this upgrading of services and house was much easier than if the area was upgraded from an informal settlement.

It was agreed that the municipality would upgrade the services on both the municipal and the church land as part of one upgrading process. This process was broken up into phases over a three year period, with our plots on the church land and some of the blocks on the municipal land being part of year one upgrading.

visit Financing for more information and discussion on this topic.

 MLS-phase-5.pngStory 5: Maintenance and Improvement

Pam and her friends have now finally received government housing subsidies which were used to add to what they had already started. This is not the end of the process as incremental settlement never ends. People are always maintaining, modifying and improving their homes to suite their changing circumstances. All of the aided support interventions, started in the aided self development phase, now continue into the future. Lessons continue to be learnt and applied in future phases and projects. The incremental settlement approach is replicated and expanded. Pam’s experience is shared with others in the town, province, country and world.

Continue with aided self development

Painting new room built in house: Themba painting the wall of a new living room extension he has built for his family

Once the government helped us upgrade our houses, this was not the end of the process. We have continued to undertake many of the initiatives and programmes we started in the aided self development phase. For example:

  • Twin Oaks Home Owners Association continues to meet and function. We have used the money we got from the municipality to pave our common street. (See the section on upgrade tenure, in phase 4 upgrading so see how we arranged for the municipality to provide us with some money for common space maintenance).
  • There are still savings schemes in the community, but we are now discussing with the National network of Savings and Credit Cooperatives on how we can join and benefit from their experiences and work.
  • A few of the bulk buying clubs are still operational and even after the houses were upgraded with government subsidies they continue to improve their homes.
  • The permaculture garden group has expanded and is now a model project with visitors from other communities coming to see the gardening and permaculture projects that have been started.
  • Some of the spaza shops and other small businesses have closed down, while others have expanded, and new ones started. With more people in the area now it is easier for people to start small businesses as there is a larger local market.

Much of the experience that the households and leadership of the schemes and associations have gained through this process has been used by people in the households to help them address other needs.

For example I have been told that more parents participate in parent associations in the local school in this neighbourhood than in all the other neighbourhoods in other townships. I think one of the reasons for this is that parents that were and are in committees established as part of the incremental settlement process now have more confidence and skills to participate in these structures.

There is now a group of households who are talking about establishing a garden owners’ cooperative, where they share garden equipment to keep their properties neat and tidy.

I am also involved in an energy cooperative that we have just started, where we plan to use a similar approach to the one that was used for the roof and water tanks to get solar hot water heaters for our homes. There is a company that is willing to provide a start-up grant so that we can establish an on-going loan fund for households to purchase solar hot water heaters. The department of energy is also looking at how they can help us with this programme.

Visit Housing for more information and discussion on this topic.

Continue with government services

Refuse removal: The municipality removing refuse from the residents’ association houses

The municipality has taken on more responsibility for maintaining the infrastructure and services that they provided.

Now that people have got individual ownership, they have to also pay rates to the municipality. They also have had to pay more service fees as they use more water and have access to more services.

Although government has got an indigent discount scheme where people who earn below a certain income are eligible to discounts on their rates and services, many households still struggle to afford to pay for the services provided by government (see section on affordability and sustainability for more on this).

In our block, the municipality collects the refuse from the edge of our block (and from the houses in other areas). The municipality maintains the roads and public spaces, although sometimes people complain about the pot holes. Many of the gravel roads have been upgraded to tar roads. The multipurpose social facility still provides a space for community meetings. The multipurpose small business centre also continues to be expanded.

The schools, clinics and other facilities are also continually being maintained and improved by the respective government departments. However, I hear from my friends involved in these schools and clinics that they are always complaining that they do not have enough money for proper maintenance and improvement.

Visit Neighbourhood Development for more information and discussion on this topic.

Diagnosis and planning

Conducting evaluation survey: Community field workers trained by Development Support Organisation conducting evaluation survey on household perceptions regarding the provision of basic services

This Managed Land Settlement process we have followed in the Bongweni community has been an experiment or pilot project. As explained previously, the provincial Department of Human Settlements has been conducting evaluations throughout the process.

A formal evaluation exercise was done a few months after households moved onto the land after the basic development phase. Lessons from this experience were used to help design the housing project that was built on the municipal land.

As part of this first evaluation, households were asked to give their perceptions on the quality of the development process and the type of houses that were being built. Similar perceptions surveys were conducted in other communities that had received housing through other means like social housing and conventional RDP housing.

Three years later a similar perception survey was conducted in the communities that had been surveyed earlier. The findings noted that although the houses in our managed land settlement project may not have looked as neat as the RDP houses, households in the Bongani community were more satisfied that the houses and environment met their needs than the households in the other RDP housing projects.

There are plans to conduct a third survey now that governments housing subsidy has been used to add to the self built houses. This will give a useful time line for the whole upgrading incremental settlement process.

The Development Support Organisation is also conducting an evaluation of the process. The story I am narrating now is part of this evaluation exercise.

Many students have also conducted their own studies on different aspects of the housing project from permaculture in low cost housing, the gender implications of incremental settlement, to micro loans for incremental settlement. After each of these studies the results have been reported back to the community.

The study on how best to plan incremental houses was one of the more useful studies that many of the households used when planning their own house development prior to the housing subsidies arriving. This helped us make sure that when the housing subsidy came, this could be used to improve what we had started.

As households we were also able to modify our house plans as the project progressed. For example I was able to incorporate a nice braai area off our lounge that was not originally in our plans. We were also able to easily change one of our rooms into a ‘granny flat’ for my mother-in-law.

A small example of how diagnosis and planning has helped our household create a good environment, relates to the tree that was on our plot when we arrived. Under normal circumstances the tree would have been knocked down, but I decided to move my initial house a little to the side to accommodate this tree. Now more than 8 years later the tree is a central feature of our back yard, and has given us years of shade and interest.

Part of reflection is having a party celebrating what you have achieved. Housing development is a long process so you need to break it into smaller steps, and celebrate smaller milestones along the way like:

  • Finding a potential piece of land
  • Getting approval to develop this land
  • Agreeing on tenure and services that will be provided as part of the basic product phase
  • Moving onto the land and getting your occupation rights recognised
  • Obtaining additional support from others during the self build phase, for house construction and gardening
  • Getting approval for a housing subsidy to upgrade the area
  • Transferring title deeds to households who want it
  • Obtaining funds for a new school or other facility.

One of the big lessons I have learnt is that unless government or someone else steps in to fund organisations like Development Support Organisation, the technical and organisational support we received as community organisations will be sadly lacking, leading to the detriment of future projects.

Visit Land and Planning for more information and discussion on this topic.

Affordability and sustainability

Home based small business: Pam’ s mother making a little bit of extra money in her sewing business build on the side of Pam’s house

The managed land settlement process has involved many sacrifices on our part. We have had to save consistently and there is always something more we have to pay for, be it saving to be able to pay for the basic water and sanitation, paying back the loan for the roof water harvesting package, savings for schools and Christmas, paying back loans to start small businesses, paying monthly fees to the municipality for services, etc.

The housing subsidies from government have helped us build better and bigger houses, and the indigent discount we get also helps but it’s still hard to break even financially each month.

Having my mother-in-law staying with us has also helped as she can help look after the children and help with the expenses using the money she makes from her sewing business.

The little things we have done all add up:

  • Collecting roof water run-off in tanks, and using this in the house.
  • Using the grey water to irrigate the fruit trees and banana circle
  • Saving water by having a composting toilet and being able to use the compost for the garden
  • Putting in ceiling insulation to save on heating costs in winter.

Themba has managed to develop his capacity as a builder during the process, and he now is able to get lots of smaller jobs helping people in the neighbourhood improve their houses. This helps us pay the bills and living expenses.

Some of my neighbours however have not been as lucky as us and have not been able to get good jobs. They have not been able to make the type of improvements to their homes as we have but they are still able to stay in their house. I think it has helped that people have not been able to just sell their rights of occupation to anyone, because people who are desperate are tempted to sell their houses cheaply to anyone, and then have to move to an informal settlement again. The same applies to people not being able to use their home as collateral, and then being dispossessed by the bank when they are unable to repay.

Although I know that some people say that owning a house allows one to get loans to improve your businesses and move up the property ladder. I am not convinced this is always the best for poor who more often move down the property ladder back into informal settlements.

The bus rapid transit system has also helped us save money on transport costs and governments new industrial zone nearby has brought a few jobs closer to us. This has all made it more affordable for us to live in this area.

Through some of the evaluation studies that have been done on the incremental settlement projects on the church and municipal land, it has been pointed out that the incremental settlement approach is also more financially sustainable for government because:

  • Government is better able to plan how it spends its money over time. They know how much they can budget each year for the progressive upgrading of services and houses. For example when it came to top structure upgrading, they knew they could only afford to build a certain number of houses a year so split this over three years. The community knew what the plan was so they did not have to resort to service delivery protests to find out what was happening.
  • Government is able to collect services fees from residents in Managed Land Settlement projects where it was harder to do this in informal settlements
  • It is cheaper for government to upgrade planned managed land settlement areas compared to upgrading unplanned informal settlements. The water pipes and roads are usually straighter with fewer expensive bends. Few shacks and fences have to be moved to put in roads and pipes.

Government is able to at least provide more people with land and basic services at the start and then over time come back to help them improve what people have started to do for themselves.

One of the challenges for government however is finding and getting the land in well located areas on which to do Managed Land Settlement projects. Although our Managed Land Settlement pilot project was done on a large peripheral piece of land, the concept can also work on smaller infill pieces of land in more well located areas. Most of the incremental upgrading elements of the process can also occur on well located pieces of land people have found for themselves and started their own informal settlements.

Visit Financing for more information and discussion on this topic.

Replication and expansion

Presenting experience to new community: Pam and other members of Twin Oaks hosting a delegation from another town who have come to see the managed land settlement project on the church land

The incremental settlement approach is a broad concept that can flexibly be used in many different contexts, from inner city infill, to more suburban development, to peripheral development on the edge of cities, towns, and villages, as well as in more peri-urban and rural contexts.

I think that the concept needs to be expanded and replicated in many other areas, so that people who need land and housing can at least start now and get a secure piece of land with basic services. This stops people being passive recipients of government handouts and opens up opportunities for them to start to use their own resources to make progress in addressing their own needs.

With limited resources at governments disposal, government can effectively use what they have to provide more people with less (of a housing product), but with the knowledge that they will come back to help upgrade these areas in future. There is a chance that government may not come back later to upgrade, but it is up to the communities themselves to be organised and put pressure on government not to let this happen. It’s similar to the argument that could be made that government could provide some people with RDP houses now and then stop providing others with RDP houses in future. It’s up to those that don’t get RDP houses to put pressure on government to support them.

I have just been nominated to go on a study tour to a neighbouring country where I will explain to communities there about what we have done here; and I will also be able to learn how they have been addressing their housing needs, often with much less support from their government than us.

I never dreamed all those years ago when I was living in the small shack in Squatter Camp that I would be living in such a nice house and neighbourhood and be going on a trip out of the country. It just shows that anything is possible through organisation and hard work. I hope my story has motivated you to start your own story.

Visit Organising for more information and discussion on this topic.

Self study material

MLS-sectors.jpgGetting started


This incremental settlement self study material is broken up into the following modules:

The modules are based on the Incremental settlement process as described here.

Each module has provides exercises and assignments to help you learn more about the incremental settlement approach.

This material is targeted at community leaders.

The exercises are designed for you to work through as part of a group. You can however go through the exercises by yourself.

If you are a real community the assignments are there to help you work your way through the incremental settlement process.

To follow the modules you can either:

  • Chose modules that are appropriate for you; or
  • Start at the begging and work your way through the modules

Using the material (alone or as a group)

These modules are designed either to be worked through as an individual or as a group.

If you are working as a group, read the material on study circles here before starting module 1.

If you are working alone you can start module 1 and skip this section on study circles, or you can find other people who are also interested to learn more about MLS and set up a group with them.

The exercises are designed to help you learn and get a better understanding of the incremental settlement process.

If you are involved in a real life attempt to get and develop land for settlement purposes for yourself and others then the assignments will help you through this process.

The Material

Throughout all these self (or group) study exercises you will make use of the following material:

  • MLS video
  • Icwili documentary (still to come)
  • Comic
  • Longer story of Pamela’s experience that starts here
  • Technical reports
  • Linked articles and documents found in each of the sectors sections

Start the modules

Click here to start with module 1 – The development process.

MLS-sectors.jpg 1 – The development process

Module 1 – the development process – provides an overview of the whole incremental settlement approach highlighting the various phases you need to follow to move from being landless and homeless to having a basic level of tenure security and services to fully subsidised housing and developed neighbourhood over time.

The incremental settlement development process is divided into the following 5 phases:

You will be taken through the details of each of these phases in subsequent modules.

Decision questions: After working through this section you should be able to make decisions on:

  • Are you prepared to follow the MLS approach
  • Who else should you be speaking to get further advice?


Exercise 1: video and comic

Watch the short video on MLS found here and read the comic on MLS found here (still to come)

Do you think the Managed land settlement process as shown in the video is something you would be interested in following? Why do you say that?

There are no suggested responses as these are your views.

Exercise 2: Process flow chart

Assuming you need to move onto a new piece of land, put the following activities into a logical order that will get you into a house:

  • Identify potential land you want to develop
  • Upgrade the services from communal standpipes and toilets to water and toilets per plot.
  • Get approval from government to move onto the land
  • Start saving for your future development needs
  • Upgrade tenure from an interim occupation certificate to individual ownership
  • Find other people who are also want to get land for settlement
  • Arrange for interim occupation certificates to be provided when people move onto the land
  • Make improvement to and maintain your government subsidised house
  • Arrange for communal standpipes and toilets to be installed on the land ready for when people move onto the land
  • Use government housing subsidy funding for top structures to add to the temporary house you built
  • Move onto land and build a temporary house
  • Elect a leadership committee to represent your needs
  • Make improvements with your own resources to the temporary house you have built

See the suggested responses section to compare your list to the suggested list.

Exercise 3: Upgrading

How would you shift the order of the steps in the previous exercise if you wanted to show how an upgrading of informal settlement process would work?

See the suggested responses section to compare your list to the suggested list.

Exercise 4: Comparison

Assume that there was another community similar to the community that Pamela came from that also needed houses. This community decided not to follow the incremental settlement process but to rather accept an offer from government that 20% of the members would get a house now and that the remainder would have to wait in the informal settlement for a number of years until government would be able to build more RDP houses for the remainder of those that need houses.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of either 1) accepting the RDP houses or 2) following the incremental settlement process like Pamela and her friends?

See the suggested responses section to compare your response to those suggested.


Assignment 1: Identify role-players

Find out who is involved in development of low income housing in your area and get contact details of you can talk to in these organisations.

Use the attached checklist to give you an idea of who to approach.

  • municipal departments (town planning, housing, land administration, engineering, etc)
  • provincial government departments (land affairs, human settlement, economic development, public works, etc)
  • Non government organisations
  • Faith based organisations
  • Community based organisations
  • Private sector organisations

Assignment 2: Get views on MLS

Choose 2 or three of these organisations/ people, and meet with them. Explain to them what incremental settlement is all about. Find out from them if they think that the MLS approach will work. If they don’t know about MLS explain it to them. Get their advice on what they suggest you should do to get land and housing. It is likely that they will talk to you about conventional RDP type housing projects. Ask them how many houses they have been involved in developing over the last few years and compare this to the demand for housing in the area. Consider how long you may have to wait for an RDP house if you had to wait for government to build one for you.

Next module

Click here to go to the next module, Module 2 – Bulk.

Pamela’s story


MLS-sectors.jpg 2 – Bulk

Module 2 explores what needs to happen before you can even start to move onto any piece of land. It looks at how to organise yourself as a community and how to identify land and get the necessary approvals to develop this piece of land.

The following steps are involved in the Bulk preparation phase.

  1. Initiation and management
  2. Bulk organising
  3. Bulk land
  4. Bulk planning and environment
  5. Bulk services
  6. Bulk access
  7. Bulk allocation
  8. Bulk financing

Decision questions: After working through this section you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What land is available for you and can you develop
  • Who will take the lead and be the developer of the project
  • Who will be allocated to the land in your project
  • Where will the money come from to start the project?


Exercise 1

Read the Bulk preparation stage of Pamela’s story.

Exercise 2

Read the following short examples / case studies – which of them would you say follows the Incremental settlement process and why

  • 1. Simpiwe put his name on the municipalities housing waiting list in 1994. Last year the municipality developed an RDP housing project as an extension to his township and he was allocated one of these houses.
  • 2. Lindi lives in an informal settlement on the edge of town. A few months ago the municipality put in a communal toilet facility on the edge of her settlement. The ward councillor said that they were going to move some of the people to another piece of land, but most the people in the community did not want this. Lindi and some of her friends have started to save money for future housing and elected a committee to negotiate with the municipality to upgrade the houses.
  • 3. Temba, as part of a group of homeless from his rural village who needed work in the nearby city , found a piece of land hidden in bushes next to the main road. They did not know who owned it, but it was not being maintained, so one or two men built a few small shacks. When no one complained after a few days, Temba and about 30 other households also started to build shacks.
  • 4. John bought a plot with a nice sea view in a new gated community with his savings. He got a bond from the bank and appointed a building contractor to build him a 4 bedroom house. He has sold his old house and will be moving into the new house next month.
  • 5. Sipho has been renting a room in the backyard of a person who owns a 4 roomed house in the township for the last 10 years. He is happy with this arrangement as any savings he makes from his work in town he sends back to his family in the rural area to build a nice brick house.
  • 6. Janet is paying rent to live an apartment in the local housing association. The apartment is only two bedrooms so 3 of her 5 children are having to sleep in the lounge. She has put her name on the municipal waiting list but does not know when she will ever get a house.
  • 7. Jacob and other members of his church group who needed housing negotiated with a local farmer to sell them a piece of his farm for them to build some houses. The group established a communal property association (CPA) and got money from government to buy the land from the farmer. The constitution of the CPA explains that each member can live on a portion of the property owned by the CPA. The group managed to get donations from the church to install a borehole for water and each household has built their own pit latrine.
  • 8. About 3 years ago Noxolo heard about a project a few kilometres out of town where the municipality was letting households, on a first come first serve basis, move onto plots that the municipality had marked out on the ground. There were also communal ablution blocks available. At the start Noxolo had to pay a small rent to the municipality, but then after she had been on the land for a year, the municipality gave her the title deeds to the plot. She now has to pay rates for the plot but as her income is low she gets a discount. The municipality have started to upgrade a few of the houses each but Noxolo’s house is only on the list to be upgraded in 5 years time.

See the suggested responses section to compare your response to those suggested.

Exercise 3: land options

Assume that you are a community of 100 households living in shacks on a flood plain next to a river.

You have the option to move to the following 4 pieces of land, which would you choose and why? make your decision based on the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

  • Option A

A very small piece of land right next to where you are living now that can only accommodate 10 of the 100 households on reasonably sized plots. The municipality will chose the 10 people who will get an RDP house with full services and tile deeds. There are no plans for the other 90 people,

  • Option B

A piece of land that can accommodate 100 households on very small plots that is about 1 KM away from where you are living now. You will have to wait 2 years before the RDP houses are build and you can move onto the land.

  • Option C

A piece of land that can accommodate 100 households fairly comfortably. The land is 5 km away. There will be 4 communal toilets and standpipes The municipality will let you stay on the land now only if you promise that no new and more people move onto the land.

  • Option D

A very big piece of land that is 30 KM’s on the other side of town away from where most people in your community work. The land can accommodate up to 800 plots with each household getting a large plot with pit latrines and water per plot

See the suggested responses section to compare your response to those suggested.

Exercise 4: allocation

Read the section on allocation from Pamela’s story found here. Why do you think Pamela and her friends allocated people to the church land the way they did? What other ways could they have organised the allocation?

See suggested responses section to compare your answer to those suggested.


Assignment 1: Find possible land

Go to your municipalities town planning department and find out from them what land the municipality has that you could consider asking for and/or ask them what other land you could consider developing. If you are already on the land, find out if you can stay where you are. For each potential piece of land find out what the opportunities are and the obstacles are for developing this piece of land. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each piece of land. For those pieces of land that look promising find out what the steps will be to get this land.

When looking at advantages and disadvantages consider the following questions:

  • Can it accommodate all of you?
  • Is it close to where people work?
  • How long do you think it will take to get all the approvals necessary to develop it?
  • How likely is it that neighbours or environmentalists or other people will object to you developing the land?
  • Who owns the land and how easy will it be to negotiate for it?
  • how expensive will it be to get the land and develop it? If its private land and close to shops for example the existing owner may ask an expensive price for it. If it is hilly it may be more expensive to put in roads and pipes?.

Assignment 2: developer

As part of your committee, speak to as many people as possible and find out from them how they would develop the project for you. Examples of people to speak to include:

  • Someone from the municipality
  • Someone from another community that has already done something similar to what you want to do
  • A private developer who will develop the houses for you for a profit
  • Someone from a non government organisation

Note the various options you have for who can be the developer and consider the advantage and disadvantages of each option to help you identify who would be appropriate.

When looking at advantages and disadvantages take into account the following points:

  • How much will it cost?
  • How much control or influence will you have as a community ?
  • How long will it take?
  • Do they have the skills and experience to make you confident they will develop the project?

Come back to this exercise whenever you feel you have new information and review your decisions. Note that the developer or person who takes the lead does not have to be the same person at each stage of the process. For example,. the municipality may be best placed to develop the land and services, but you may want to get an NGO to help you develop the houses.

Assignment 3: funding

Go to the municipality, provincial government and others and find out as much as you can about how you can pay for the MLS project. Many people will not understand the incremental settlement approach so you will have to continually explain it to the people you meet.

Assignment 4: Getting your ducks in a row

While you are negotiating for land, you can use the following checklist to check if you have addressed all the things you need to before you can move to the next phase of planning to and moving onto the land.

  • Have you identified a possible piece of land?
  • Is the land shown as land for housing development on long term plans (like the Spatial Development Framework)?
  • Is the project in the Integrated Development Plan (IDP)
  • Is their bulk water?
  • Is their bulk sewerage?
  • Is their bulk electricity?
  • Is their good public road access to the land?
  • Is there a budget for the project?
  • Is their funding?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, find out from the municipality how it can be corrected, and find out how long it will take to correct it. Who within the municipality will be dealing with this so you can follow it up.

Assignment 5: allocation

Call a general meeting of the community you are working with and discuss how you will do allocation.

  • What allocation process will be followed?
  • What criteria will be used to decide who gets which piece of land?

Next module

Click here to go to the next module, module 3 – Basic.

MLS-sectors.jpg 3 – Basic

Module 3 explores what the minimum level of services and tenure can be for your situation so that you still have dignity. The following steps are involved in the Basic development phase.
  1. Basic organisation
  2. Basic planning / demarcation
  3. Basic tenure
  4. Basic services
  5. Basic facilities
  6. Basic access
  7. Basic financing
Decision questions: After working through this section you should be able to answer the following questions:
  • How will you organise yourselves during the construction and afterwards
  • What tenure will you have at the start
  • What level of services will you start with?


Exercise 1: Read phase 2: the basic stage of the MLS story Provide at least two key decisions that have to be made at each step within the basic development phase of a Managed Land Settlement Process. Exercise 2: basic products In Pamela’s story found here, what basic products were provided for the following:
  • organisation
  • tenure
  • services
  • facilities?
See the suggested responses section and compare you response to those suggested. Exercise 3: services Assume that you are part of a group involved in a similar MLS project to the one Pamela was involved in. Your group of 20 households has access to R100 000 (that is R5000 per household) to develop services. The engineer you are working with gives you the following cost breakdown of various types of services. Communal water tap
  • R10 000
  • R500/ house
Water tap per house
  • R80 000
  • R4 000/ house
Communal ablution with 4 toilets
  • R20 000
  • R1 000/house
Pit latrine toilet for house
  • R40 000
  • R2000/house
No roads only basic stormwater channel across intersections R10 000
  • R10 000
  • R500/house
Basic road
  • R40 000
  • R2000/ house
Tar road
  • R80 000
  • R4 000/house
Enclosed central refuse collection container
  • R10 000
  • R500/ house
Decide which set of services you would choose within the budget available and motivate why? You can have a look at the more detailed report on services found here (note its 4.3MB large) to get some ideas. This report is quite long so start by just skimming over it to see all the options that are mentioned. See the suggested responses section and compare you response to those suggested. Exercise 4: Tenure Imagine that you are part of a group of 20 households who are discussing how you would like to organise the tenure on a piece of land you are able to get. You have a workshop where the rights to land are discussed and the following set of options for how you could organise your right to land is identified.
  • (a) Each plot is shown on a plan that is kept by the municipality. Each plot is numbered. A list is kept by the municipality where the plot number is written next to your name. If you leave you can sell your rights to the plot to another person of your choice if this transaction is recorded by the municipality on their list of occupants.
  • (b) Each individual plot within the block is shown on a plan kept by the elected block committee. Each plot is numbered. A list is kept by the elected block committee where the plot number is written next to your name
  • (c) The outer boundary of the block of land that can accommodate all 20 houses is shown on a plan. The municipality signs a letter giving it to the group saying that your group of 20 people can stay on the land shown on the plan. It is then up to your group to decide where within the block each person can stay.
  • (d) Each individual plot within the block is shown on a plan that is kept by the municipality. Each plot is numbered. A list is kept by the municipality where the plot number is written next to your name. If you leave you must give your plot back to the municipality who can then give the plot to someone else.
Shift the order of these rights from what you think would be the weakest tenure rights to the strongest tenure rights. See the suggested responses section and compare you response to those suggested. Exercise 5: organisation Still to come.


Assignment 1: services Organise a small delegation from your group to have a meeting with an engineer from the municipality or from an organisation that is willing to help you. Ask and discuss the following questions with this engineer: 1. What engineering servicing options do we have as a community to get basic services for the land we have identified? 2. Which options are the cheapest options? 3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option from quality, maintenance, upgradability and other perspectives? 4. How could we make savings in getting the services cheaper? Report back to your group what the engineer advised you to consider for basic services. It is likely that some people will find a lot of problems with what you are saying. Encourage them to help you find solutions to overcome these challenges and make it possible for you to get land as part of an incremental settlement process. Remind them and yourself that incremental settlement is about finding what is the least that needs to be put in place for you and your community to move onto a piece of land. Many other things and technical details can be addressed in subsequent stages like the upgrading phase. Assignment 2 : tenure This assignment assumes you will be having some form of basic tenure arrangement. Discuss as a group the following questions: 1. What rights does a person get to the land? 2. What obligations does the person have? 3. What happens to persons rights if they die or leave the land? 4. Will the rights holder have to pay anything to stay on the land? Elect a small delegation to present your proposed answers to these questions to the municipality,, and any other role-players and support providers you can identify, and get their response to your answers. Ask these stakeholders if there are any other questions the group should address. Discuss again as a group the responses from these stakeholders and reconsider your answers to these questions? Assignment 3: Organisation Does your group have a constitution or set of rules that explain how you are organised? If you do, read them again and see if there are any changes you think you should make. If you do not, approach different organisations to get examples of their constitutions. Consider if you could modify their constitution for your situation.

Next module

Click here to go to the next module, 4 – Self help.

MLS-sectors.jpg 4 – Self help

Module 4 explores what you can do, once you have basic tenure and basic services to house and develop yourself without waiting for government to give you a house. The following steps are involved in the aided self development phase.
  1. Aided organisational development
  2. Aided local resource mobilisation
  3. Aided local tenure administration
  4. Aided self build
  5. Aided self growing
  6. Aided self work
  7. Aided health and safety
  8. Financing aided support
Decision questions: After working through this section you should be able to answer the following questions:
  • How will you be improving your own house with resources you can find
  • What resources do you have in your community that you can draw on for your own and neighbours development
  • How will you be encouraging small business development and job creation in your community
  • What other development initiative will you be doing in your community?


Exercise 1: Read phase 3 on aided self development If you part of a group, discuss amongst yourselves what you take from this section as important and /or interesting. If you doing this alone, spend a few minutes reflecting on what you have read. Exercise 2: local resources In Pamela’s story found here, what local resources did Pamela and her friends use? Do you think there may have been other local resources that they missed or never considered? What would these be and how could they find these resources? See the suggested responses section and compare you response to those suggested. Exercise 3: self build Read the article “A home of your own”. What approaches are suggested in this article for building a house? Can you think of any other ways you could build houses? What would the advantages and disadvantages be of these approaches? Exercise 4: Local jobs How has Pamela and her friends, the church, the support organisation, the municipality and others tried to help people get work in Pamela’s story found here. What more could have they done? See the suggested responses section and compare you response to those suggested.


Note that many of these assignment can be done right at the start of the project, you don’t have to wait until this self development phase. By this self development stage you should be well on your way to implementing what you have decided Assignment 1: savings Start a group savings scheme in your community. Find out about other savings schemes in the area and go and visit them to get advice from them. Remember that the benefits of savings schemes are not just to save money, but also an opportunity to start to organise your group and for people to meet. You can also use your savings to demonstrate to government and others that you are a group that is serious about development. Assignment 2: survey community assets Establish a task team to do an asset inventory analysis and mapping exercise. Go house to house or member to member and find out what skills, resources, networks, etc they have. Make a list. Discuss how you will expand and maintain this list over time. Call a general meeting at which you organise community members into groups of about 6 people each. Each group to then draw a map of the community showing on the map where they think various assets like buildings, rivers, roads, halls, support organisations, etc. are found that the community can build and draw on to help develop the area. Discuss these asset maps with the bigger general meeting. Assignment 3: Group build Call some of your friends together and discuss how you can help each other build each other’s house. Maybe you can organise a stokvel for building materials, or you can spend a few days helping each other build each other’s house. Consider child care and food for making this easier for people to help. Discuss as a small group, and share ideas with each other on other ways each household or the group as a whole can arrange to build houses. Assignment 4: Local jobs Find out more about the community works programme – start here and here. Go and meet people involved in this programme and discuss if this programme can be used to help with the incremental development of the roads, water, storm water, community gardens, refuse removal, etc in your community. Assignment 5: Business support Find out what departments and programmes there are in your community providing small business support. Visit these departments and programmes dealing with small business support, and explain to these organisations what you are doing. Ask them how they could help you? Examples of departments to approach include
  • Municipal LED department
  • Department of agriculture
  • Dept. Trade and Industry
  • Dept. of social development
  • etc

Next module

Click here to go to the next module, 5 – Upgrade.

MLS-sectors.jpg 5 – Upgrade

Module 5 explores how you can work with government to upgrade what you have been able to achieve up to now.

The following steps are involved in the upgrading phase.

  1. Upgrade tenure
  2. Upgrade services
  3. Upgrade facilities
  4. Upgrade access
  5. Upgrade house
  6. Financing upgrade

Decision questions: After working through this section you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What funding will be used for the upgrading
  • Will you upgrade your tenure and what process will you follow to do this
  • What level of services will you upgrade too
  • How will you upgrade your house, what will your upgraded house look like and what construction methods will you use?


Exercise 1:

Read phase 4 on upgrade

If you part of a group, discuss amongst yourselves what you take from this section as important and /or interesting. If you doing this alone, spend a few minutes reflecting on what you have read.

Exercise 2: tenure upgrading

Read Pamela’s story on upgrading tenure found here

The following are different steps in the land transfer and tenure upgrading process. Put them into the order they would be followed to upgrade tenure:

(a) The conveyencer opens a township register at the deeds office that shows individual erf (property) numbers.

(b) The Surveyor General approves the general plan and returns it to the land surveyor.

(c) Households get title deeds to their individual property.

(d) A land surveyor goes onto site and measures in detail each individual plot that was created in the basic development phase.

(e) The conveyencer transfers property to individuals at the deeds office.

(f) The land surveyor produces a general plan showing each individual plot and submits this to the surveyor general.

(g) The land surveyor gives the general plan to the Conveyancer.

See the suggested responses section and compare you response to those suggested.

Exercise 3: services

Read Pamela’s story on Upgrading services.

What did Pamela’s group upgrade their services from and to?

See the suggested responses section and compare you response to those suggested.

Exercise 4: house

Assume that some of Pamela’s neighbours built houses on their plots in the following way:

  • Neighbour 1: shack towards the back of a bigger plot
  • Neighbour 2: shack in the middle of a small plot
  • Neighbour 3: well build slab with quite nice shack next to it
  • Neighbour 4: well build house with building plan approval

What options does each neighbour have for how they can upgrade their house using government housing top structure subsidy funding?

When making choice consider the following:

  • Do you want to ‘throw away’ all the money and effort you spent in building the first house
  • Will the municipality approve the plans of the extension if its added onto an unapproved interim structure

See the suggested responses section and compare you response to those suggested.


Assignment 1: housing subsidies

Read the following two chapters of the housing code

Reflect on and/or discuss in your group which of these two subsidy methods you think is most appropriate for your situation. Would it make sense to combine the two approaches? For example, get the municipality to use the UIS for the services and tenure, and 2) get an NGO / government to help you upgrade your top structure using the PHP.

Assignment 2: Upgrading advice and support

Set up a meeting with the municipality to discuss how your neighbourhood can be upgraded from your basic product to an improved product. Consider inviting the following departments to this meeting:

  • Planning
  • Housing
  • Land
  • Water
  • Sewerage
  • Roads and stormwater
  • electricity

Share with them your thoughts on how the upgrading of your neighbourhood can be done.

  • Ask them if there are any other subsidies or ways that your neighbourhood can be upgraded. *Ask them if they can help you upgrade your neighbourhood and how they recommend that this be done.
  • Ask them who within the municipality would be the lead department that would drive the upgrading process . This is the department you will then have to work with.

Assignment 3: tenure

Hold a meeting with your neighbours and discuss if individual title is the best option for your neighbourhood. Consider other forms of tenure like:

  • normal rental
  • rent to buy or own
  • cooperative ownership
  • communal property association
  • staying as you are with occupation certificates (maybe with a few adjustments to the rights and rules)

When making a decision, take into account the following (and other) questions:

  • How much will it cost you to convert to this tenure?
  • How much will you have to pay on rates and services now that you owner the property?
  • Do you want people to be able to get a bond (a loan from a bank that uses your property as collateral)?. Remember that if you can’t pay back the bond the bank can take back the house.

Weight up the advantages and disadvantages of each option

Assignment 4: services

Set up a meeting with the engineering section of the municipality and ask them to advise you on what upgraded level of services you should consider.

Also ask them to advise you on who would be the developer for upgrading these services. Note that if the municipality does not own the land it may be harder for you to get them to be the developer.

When making a decision take into account the following questions:

  • Will you be able to afford the increased rates and services? (By having a tap in your house you will likely use more water and have to pay for it. By having water borne sewerage you will be using a lot more water and you will have to pay for it.)
  • Are there other water and sanitation products that will be cheaper? Note also that many of these other options like composting toilets are more environmentally friendly.
  • How much does it cost and is their enough housing subsidy funding to install it?
  • is it easy to maintain?
  • Can it be built in a way that creates more local jobs?
  • Does it contribute to environmental sustainability?
  • Is it safe and easy for people to use?
  • etc.

Assignment 5: house

Get an architect or house designer to meet with your group. Invite someone from the municipalities building and housing department to this meeting.

Ask them to advise you how best to upgrade your house:*Knock your existing house down and start again

  • Build a new house next to your old house
  • Build a new house around and over your old house
  • Add a complete new section to your existing house
  • Use part of your existing house as basis for the new house (e.g. add walls to an existing foundation, or add walls to an existing roof and poles)

If you do decide to add to your existing house, find out if the government will approve the house. For example, government may not approve the house if the housing subsidy money is used to build a wall onto foundations that have not been checked and approved by government.

When making a decision consider the following questions:

  • How much will it cost to build the upgraded house?
  • Can the construction method support local jobs?
  • How quickly can the house be built?
  • Will you be able to afford the increased rates and services? Your property will be valued more so you will pay higher rates.
  • Will the upgrade make best use of what I have already done so I don’t throw all the work I have done away?
  • How easy will it be to add to and improve the upgrade house in future?
  • How flexible will it be to use the house for other things like a home business or renting of rooms?

Next module

Click here to go to the next module, module 6 – on-going.

MLS-sectors.jpg 6 – On-going

Module 6 explores how you can continue to improve what you have done and maintain what you have achieved.

The following steps are involved in the improvement and maintenance phase.

  1. Continue with aided self development
  2. Continue with government services
  3. Diagnosis and planning
  4. Affordability and sustainability
  5. Replication and expansion

Decision questions: After working through this section you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How will you evaluate what you have done
  • What further development initiatives will you embark on
  • How will you share your lessons with others?


Exercise 1:

Read phase 5 on improvement and maintenance

Exercise 2: Evaluation

Given the whole incremental process, as outlined below, at what stages do you think it would be useful to do and evaluation and reflection session?

Why would you do this? How would you do the evaluation and reflection?

Phase 1: Bulk Preparation

  1. Initiation and management
  2. Bulk organising
  3. Bulk land
  4. Bulk planning and environment
  5. Bulk services
  6. Bulk access
  7. Bulk allocation
  8. Bulk financing

Phase 2: Basic Product

  1. Basic organisation
  2. Basic planning / demarcation
  3. Basic tenure
  4. Basic services
  5. Basic facilities
  6. Basic access
  7. Basic financing

Phase 3: Aided Self Development

  1. Aided organisational development
  2. Aided local resource mobilisation
  3. Aided local tenure administration
  4. Aided self build
  5. Aided self growing
  6. Aided self work
  7. Aided health and safety
  8. Financing aided support

Phase 4: Upgrading

  1. Upgrade tenure
  2. Upgrade services
  3. Upgrade facilities
  4. Upgrade access
  5. Upgrade house
  6. Financing upgrade

Phase 5: Maintenance and improvement

  1. Continue with aided self development
  2. Continue with government services
  3. Diagnosis and planning
  4. Affordability and sustainability
  5. Replication and expansion

See the suggested responses section and compare you response to those suggested.

Exercise 3: Affordability and sustainability

Read the section on affordability and sustainability in Pamela’s story.

What did Pamela and her neighbours do to make it easier for them to afford to live in and develop their neighbourhood and houses?

Can you think of other things they could have done?

See the suggested responses section and compare you response to those suggested.


Assignment 1: keep a journal

Keep a journal / diary of all that you do throughout the process. Note activities as well as ideas and feelings.

Assignment 2: evaluation and reflection

Establish an evaluation and reflection working group early on in the development process. Task this group to regularly find opportunities for evaluation and reflection.

Visit government, academic institutions and others and seek their advice and support for evaluating your process.

Make sure that your community is involved in the evaluation process. Make sure that the evaluation results are made available to your community

Assignment 3: other incremental approaches

Call a general meeting and consider other examples of where an incremental approach may be a useful development approach

Some examples to get you thinking include:

  • Building a community hall in an incremental manner
  • Starting and developing a cleaning worker cooperative from a small group of people doing part time work
  • starting and developing a sports club
  • finding ways to help the aged and children

Assignment 4: share your lessons

Invite other communities to come and visit you at various times during the development process. Let them learn from your experience. You will also be able to learn from their experience.

Go on your own study visits to learn from others and share your experience.

Next module

Click here to go to the next module, module 7 – Reflection.

MLS-sectors.jpg 7 – Reflection

Module 7 provides you with an opportunity to reflect on all that you have learnt and done and share your experiences with others.

Decision questions: After working through this section you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What lessons have you learnt
  • How will you share you experiences with others?


There are no exercises as this is a time for you to reflect on your own experiences and thoughts.


Assignment 1: iCwili experience

Watch the DVD on the iCwili experience (Still to come)

What lessons can you draw from this DVD for incremental settlement?

Assignment 2: main lessons

For each stage of the incremental settlement approach – 1) bulk, 2) basic, 3) self development, 4) upgrade, and 5) maintenance and improvement – what one or two things stand out for you per stage that you have learnt?

From all these points, what is/are the one or two most important lessons you can take away from this process?

Assignment 4: Suggests improvements to self study material

After having gone through these exercises (and assignments where appropriate), are there any improvements you think can be made to how the self study material is presented?

  • Is their more information that you think needs to be provided?
  • How could the exercises and assignments be improved and/or added to?

Use this response section to inform Afesis-corplan, the managers of the Incremental settlement website on how you think the self/ group study material can be improved.

Assignment 5: share experiences

Find ways to share your new knowledge with others.

Some ideas to get you thinking:

  • inform other people of this www.incrementalsettlement.org.za website.
  • Call a general meeting
  • phone into a community radio station and share your new insights
  • Visit other communities and share your thoughts and get their ideas
  • Invite other communities to come visit you

Assignment 6: start a incremental settlement group

If you are not part of a group looking for land and housing, find an existing group or start your own group. Use this incremental settlement material to help this new group find its way through the incremental settlement process.

Assignment 7: Participate in networks

If you already are part of a group, find other networks of similar organisations and discuss how you can work together to jointly achieve your common objectives.

Assignment 8: Lobby government

Alone, as a group, and as networks find every opportunity you can to lobby government and other organisations to support the incremental settlement approach. Draw their attention to this website to raise their awareness and understanding of the benefits of such an approach.