I am involved in a project in South Africa to provide support to Planact, an NGO that works directly with poor communities, capacitating them to engage with the government on development issues. In this particular case, Planact is supporting a well-organised community of poor people in Spring Valley, Emalahleni, which is in Mpumalanga province, north east of Johannesburg. The community comprises 600 households, largely poor and unemployed, while some provide manual or domestic labour in the vicinity of the settlement. Households live in generally very poor conditions. Apart from hard-won, periodic water provided by municipal council trucks, there are no other services. More importantly, the community is facing credible threats of eviction from the land they inhabit, which they do not own. The land is partly owned by private individuals and partly by the municipality. Both of these want the community out of the land. Emalahleni Municipality is a small but rapidly growing “secondary city”. The municipal administration insists that the community should be re-located to an alternative mixed use development in another part of the city. Like most re-locations, especially those that are poorly communicated to the community and do not take in situ upgrade sufficiently into consideration, it has been fiercely resisted by the community. The unfolding story on how the community deals with the tenure security issues, and recommendations of the support program is part of the project funded by Urban LandMark together with the Cities Alliance. In time, documents about this case study will be available on Urban LandMark’s website.
One question that always lingers in tenure security work is “what next.” After the threats of eviction have been resolved (and also while they are still very real), how do households in the community meet their housing needs, and how is this financed? Immediately, I wanted to ascertain whether incremental build and housing microfinance is an option, to at least partly answer this question. Can HMF be a viable option in this context? How can poor communities such as this one, not sure of whether they qualify for government subsidies, and who face challenges of tenure security, house themselves? Currently are there incremental housing efforts ongoing, and, importantly, can HMF work with these to provide housing?
Here is a series of pictures that provides some encouraging evidence of incremental build, even in situations of tenure insecurity. Of course more research is necessary to conclusively determine that HMF is feasible, but on face value the signs are encouraging. A financing mechanism such as HMF to enhance the efforts of self build currently visible would result in a more efficient build process, at a broader scale, and create a better housing product.