South Africa's Public Rdp Programme in the Light of Temporary Migrants' Housing Needs: A Critical Reflexion

Friday, July 18, 2014: 9:15 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Eva DICK , TU Dortmund University, Germany
Thorsten HEITKAMP , TU Dortmund University, Germany
In spite of moderate immigration rates in the last decade, South Africa’s large cities have been experiencing an unhalted growth of informal settlements. This, so the present paper argues, is a consequence of the ‘missing link’ between public housing schemes and the housing needs of temporary migrants. Drawing upon primary and secondary data collected during three short field visits to South Africa in 2012 and 2013 the authors explore the background of the mismatch and outline possible solutions for a pro-poor led National Housing Policy considering temporary migrants’ housing needs. 

South Africa’s Government Housing Policy has experienced various programmatic turns in recent decades. The first and possibly most important one is related to the end of Apartheid in 1994. In order to counter the huge housing backlog of the time, a massive, policy driven public housing program for low income households in the context of the Reconstruction and Development Programme, RDP, was put in place: since 1994, approximately 3 million housing units were built. In 2004, with the start of the “Breaking New Grounds” initiative, the importance of in situ upgrading of informal settlements for the affordable housing provision of the urban poor, was acknowledged and becoming part of policy agendas.

At the same time South African society has profoundly changed in many ways. The evolving ‘post fordist’ labor market has become much more flexible than during Apartheid years, pushing people to move behind informal job opportunities, thereby changing the ‘spatiality’ of cities. In this context it is argued that, due to a combination of job-related constraints and socio-cultural connections with regions or countries elsewhere, highly mobile temporary migrants have different housing needs than permanent migrants. They even tend to be systematically disadvantaged by the RDP programme, which pursues the number-driven objective of converting ‘informal’ into ‘formal’ dwellers.