How we can be smarter about affordable housing delivery

Democracy and affordable housing delivery

Affordable housing delivery is arguably one of the most critical questions facing South Africa at this time.

By Hannalie Malan – May 2018


Following the democratisation of South Africa, a new policy direction was set to redress the imbalances of the past, and the National Housing Act (No. 10 of 1997) containing the National Housing Code was adopted to provide for the facilitation of a sustainable housing development process and to lay down general principles applicable to housing development.

The National Housing Code contains a set of progressive housing subsidy programmes, such as the ePHP (Enhanced People’s Housing Process), FLISP, UISP (Upgrading of Informal Settlements) and the most commonly known IRDP (Integrated Residential Development Programme) each with a set of excellent objectives.

The current IRDP implementation

The IRDP is a fully subsidised housing programme which intends to facilitate the development of integrated human settlements in well-located areas that provide convenient access to urban amenities, including places of employment, and aims to so through maximising community involvement which is aimed at creating social cohesion.

However, the approach of this programme does not always seem to filter down into project-level implementation, and this phenomenon often causes additional frustration and confusion to the communities on the receiving end.

Many communities do receive brick and mortar houses but in many cases these houses are either far away from the household’s original homes, places of work and social structures.

In addition to this uprooting the policy implementation also does not equip households to manage and maintain their house in a sustainable manner and shares no information regarding the basic civic roles and responsibilities around owning a home.

This causes several unnecessary challenges and more often than not the ‘beneficiaries’ of these hew homes are not able to fully benefit from receiving a new home and the intent of the policy goes to waste.

It is clear that a focus on dedicated social facilitation is missing from the implementation process. The problem is however that funding for social facilitation in the implementation of the IRDP is at the discretion of the MEC and subject to budget availability, which makes it evident that in most cases social facilitation is neither a prioritised function nor an intentional step in the process.

A ‘smarter’ way to implement the IRDP

Creating access to decent housing opportunities can be a crucial step in contributing to meaningful social change and development in the households of poor and marginalised communities, which forms part of the intent of the IRDP.

By recognising that communities have existing capacities and resources, especially on a household level, there are numerous opportunities to co-create solutions and to sustain the socio-economic outcomes that emerge from the process.

The following steps can be taken towards ensuring sufficient IRPD implementation:

  • Implementation guidelines, clearly identifying the requirements and provisions for community participation.
  • Government commitment to build municipal capacity to ensure successful planning and implementation at a project-level.
  • Clearly defined outcome-based indicators of success aligned to the policy intent.
  • Financially resourcing intermediary organisations to enable the social facilitation processes which are fundamental to ensure successful and sustainable outcomes.

Intermediary organisations and housing delivery (the IRDP)

Intermediary (support) organisations are ideally positioned to facilitate social processes and connect and broker between communities, government and the private sector.

Through their relationships with communities, intermediary organisations are able to build trust and credibility and gain critical insight into the dynamics of the community and its context, and are in an ideal position to provide the type of support required to meet the intent of well-meaning subsidised housing policies.

Communities need to be capacitated to speak in technical terms to be able to engage with government and external decision-makers in order to bring about real and lasting change that respond to their needs.

Intermediary organisations play a crucial role in this process by bringing the right role-players around the table to co-create solutions which ultimately ensures that communities are not only capacitated to manage and maintain the assets that they receive through these subsidy programmes but that they are able lead their own development in the future.

When a community is treated with respect and dignity, and is seen as an equal partner throughout the process, the residents are able to become active participants in creating change and not just passive recipients of a predetermined product.


It is clear that a broader and more urgent national discussion is required on the future of subsidised housing programmes such as the UISP is needed.

However, it is of the utmost importance that the all the right role-players including community members, intermediaries, the different levels of government and the private sector are included in these discussions.

Only then, will the outcomes of our national subsidy programmes be reached and as a result, our cities will be characterised by communities with strong, stable and self-reliant households, who are active and well-organised, is able to take the relevant actions with regards to civic participation and shelter rights and responsibilities, is able to physically manage and maintain their homes and are able to leverage their home as an asset to be used to move out of poverty.