Despite large policy focus on, and programmatic support for incremental in-situ settlement upgrading in South Africa, it seems that municipal delivery is still predominantly focused on greenfield projects, often with associated relocations to land on the periphery of cities and towns. These projects are often geographically isolated and is not able to offer communities sufficient opportunities for social and economic development and empowerment. In recognition of these issues, the Western Cape Provincial Government is seeking to ensure that informal settlement upgrading is prioritised where possible as a measure to promote in-situ development of existing communities in a way that is sustainable, holistic and bottom-up.
To this end, the Informal Settlements Support Plan (ISSP) for the Western Cape government, and under the guidance of the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements (WCDoHS) was formulated through collaboration between the Isandla Institute, Habitat for Humanity SA and the Palmer Development Group. The ISSP provides guidance to provincial departments and local municipalities (as the primary implementors of settlement upgrading initiatives) in the Western Cape by outlining a coherent programmatic, sector-wide approach to informal settlements and informal settlement formation.
Habitat for Humanity SA was involved in all the various components of the ISSP, but was primarily responsible for formulating the Design and Tenure Options for the ISSP. The Design and Tenure Options are aimed at guiding municipal actions aimed at improving informal settlements through physical interventions (specifically settlement design, tenure security, basic services and infrastructure, community facilities and housing). Importantly, the ISSP forms part of the Western Cape Human Settlement Framework that advocates for a move toward improving the living conditions of people at the places where they stay.
The objective of upgrading is to improve the quality of life of people in informal settlements through an array of interventions which include (but are not limited to) improving access to land, providing secure tenure along a continuum of rights, providing basic services and social infrastructure, stimulating economic opportunities, finance and incremental housing opportunities. Since the ISSP is focused on outlining a progressive and transformative approach to upgrading informal settlements in the Western Cape, this strategy will have a direct impact on people’s housing conditions.
The completed ISSP was formally approved and adopted as a provincial strategy at the end of 2017. Given the fact that Habitat SA formed part of the team who developed the ISSP, we formed an intrinsic part of achieving the change. A series of intensive advocacy efforts in the lead up to the ISSP, and throughout the ISSP itself, have led to a very definite policy and systemic change on a provincial level. Habitat SA participated in all project team meetings, client meetings and team working sessions, and utilised these opportunities to raise issues that need to be incorporated, and prioritised important themes in line with our advocacy focus areas.
The vision encapsulated by the ISSP is that by 2030, informal settlements in the Western Cape Province are transformed into liveable, integrated, vibrant and resilient neighbourhoods. The goal is to ensure that marginalised people will have a better and secure place of residence by 2030.