August 13, 2018

Re-imagining Urban Housing through Participatory Design

Author: DAG Admin, DAG

The Development Action Group (DAG) and Architecture Sans Frontières – UK (ASF-UK)  supported by 1to1 Agency of Engagement and  People's Environmental Planning (PEP) jointly hosted an illuminating Change by Design Workshop entitled “Re-imagining Urban Housing through Participatory Design” in Cape Town. The two-week programme gave participants the opportunity to work closely with local/ backyard contractors while learning about the various challenges and limitations facing the small-scale developers working with DAG, who are in the affordable housing/ backyard formalisation growing in the poor communities of Cape Town. This linked closely with DAG’s programme area to establish a Contractor Training and Developer Academy (CTDA) that focuses on the much-ignored sector of small-scale rental and backyard formalisation.

The collaborative workshop which was attended by multidisciplinary participants from South Africa and other countries saw a group of 20 student and professional volunteers working together for the same cause. The key focus of the workshop was to assess how participatory design could support community capacity building and contribute towards realising a vision that creates innovative housing delivery and informal settlement upgrading in partnership with local citizens, contractors and small-scale developers in Cape Town. The Change by Design Workshop participants worked very closely with DAG and local developers, adapting the Change by Design methodology to test how participatory design could enable low income affordable rental housing and thereby contributing towards realising DAG’s wider vision of creating vibrant, equitable, inclusive and spatially integrated human settlements in Cape Town.

The thought-provoking workshop gave all the participants the opportunity to engage with real projects and people (developers, landlords and tenants) and experience the dynamics of the small-scale affordable housing market in various parts of Cape Town. The exploration included a range of properties and parcels of land in Khayelitsha, Dunoon and Delft. These explorations addressed inadequate state-led housing opportunities and explored conditions in which local developers are using their own resources to build “rental rooms/ formal backyard” accommodation for low-income earners.

The volunteers concluded their workshop by giving an exciting feedback on their findings and recommendations to the Cape Town community at the Khayelitsha Lookout Hill. They also used the platform to reflect and discuss their findings and co-designed set of rental housing classification recommendations which could be adopted by small-scale developers and self-build in poor communities to combat the uneven access to affordable rental housing in the city.

Check out some of the feedback and reflections

  • Incremental finance and construction: The workshop highlighted the importance of flexibility and incrementalism in financing and construction arrangements based on homeowner/developer needs and the model of development.
  • Documenting typologies and case studies: It brought light to the opportunity to produce site and neighbourhood typologies linked to current existing small-scale rental projects across the city. A number of learnings are linked to title deeds and approval processes.
  • Qualified construction and development value chain: It brought into focus once more the need to have a list of experienced builders who are registered and capable of producing quality and time reliability.