Advocacy Toolkits

Community Driven Housing Toolkit

DAG supports and facilitates social capital formation in communities so that poor households are able to participate in, and influence urban policy and practice. DAG also partners with marginalised communities to actively participate in a range of community-driven housing processes and programmes, which enable replicable models of good practice and policy. Importantly, with the vision to reconfigure South Africa’s socially, racially and functionally segregated settlements, DAG engages the State to support housing policy and practice that ensure State-assisted housing is built on well-located, serviced land. More specifically, DAG seeks to strengthen democratic urban governance by supporting active citizenry and advocating for a pro-poor land management agenda toward sustainable, integrated and equitable settlements.

DAG’s aim is to have a competent, skilled workforce and capable organisation, with appropriate partnerships with government and civil society that result in concrete approaches to successfully secure access to well-located serviced land for marginalised citizens. The community-driven housing toolkit will assist in improving the understanding of DAG staff, local government officials, politicians, civil society, CBOs, NGOs and other stakeholders, of the practices and policies in achieving sustainable human settlements, and to build their capacity in the conceptualisation and implementation of and participation in community-driven projects and processes.

Some guiding questions derived from DAG’s approach to inform the outputs of the community-driven housing toolkit, especially the position paper, include the following:

  • What is DAG’s definition of community-driven housing (process, value, approach, etc.)?
  • What is important for DAG staff to understand / learn in terms of upskilling regarding community-driven housing policy and practice?
  • What does staff need on the topic of community-driven housing to be able to lobby, advocate and influence effectively?
  • What are good practice and good policy examples (DAG’s historical projects and case studies)?
  • What are some of the ways in which communities can be involved in community-driven housing processes (e.g. PHP, ISU, etc.)?
  • What does not work currently regarding policy and practice on community-driven housing and the way government and its partners engage with civil society?
  • What are the blockages and what are reasons for blockages (e.g. economic frameworks, political agendas, policy gaps, resource constraints, etc.)?
  • What are some of the solutions suggested by DAG (e.g. value capture, medium-density housing, community of practice, etc.)?
  • What are some of DAG’s capacity development experiences to enable community-driven housing (‘capacity beyond housing’)?
  • What are some of the policy, programme and legislative instruments to support community-driven housing processes?

What are the benefits of community-driven housing?


DAG has a vision to create a new urban order in South African cities, which would reverse current apartheid planning, and the organisation believes that to address the structural causes of urban poverty and inequality, cities and urban land, should be planned and managed equitably. Most importantly, the State must promote the social value of urban land over the private consumption of land and its financial value. This includes active engagement and partnerships between marginalised communities, CBOs, NGOs, government and the private sector.

To achieve this, the State would have to raise additional revenue through the application of fiscal tools and employ regulatory tools to plan cities equitably – so that the poor can gain access to the vast resources, amenities, services and opportunities the city affords them. This would also require transparency and accountability in State land management and housing policy and practice and an informed and engaged civil society to influence decisions in the interests of the poor and hold government to account.

DAG’s goal is to see efficient urban land management policies and tools in practice, which facilitate access to adequate housing and well-located, serviced land for South Africa’s poor and marginalised citizens. The community-driven housing toolkit should be informed by and prepared against DAG’s goal and the Strategic Objectives set out below:

Create an effective and accountable State capable of developing and implementing land management policies and practices which facilitate inclusion of poor and marginalised urban citizens.

The urban land market constrains affordable housing development in South Africa. Land prices in urban areas have increased phenomenal rates, making well-located land unaffordable for the State to develop affordable housing and public rental property. This calls for decisive State action to regulate the land market and political will to reverse inequality in land distribution. In light of this, DAG advocates for the implementation of ‘value capture’: a means for the State to recoup the increment in land value accruing to private land owners through public investment in infrastructure. Thus, increasing available municipal for pro-poor development and deterring anti-social land speculation. DAG also advocates to ensure equitable redistribution of this revenue.

Create a vibrant, informed and active civil society which is able to articulate, demand and lobby the State to meet the needs of the urban poor.

Many poor urban dwellers are victimised by the policies of the State and markets because they lack capacity to advocate for their constitutional rights and make their interests known to decision-makers through the correct platforms and processes.

For instance, in informal settlements in well-located areas like Joe Slovo (N2 Gateway) mass removals and relocation of residents have been allowed to happen unchecked. This is in contrast to communities such as Freedom Park in Tafelsig where DAG has supported leaders of civil society groups to successfully advocate for secure access to well-located land, services and housing.

DAG builds capacity of local civil society groups, community based organisations and social movements through ongoing engagement and through capacity building programmes. DAG facilitates strategic opportunities for poor communities and their leaders to participate in urban development and governance and influence how scarce urban land is used and managed.


The community-driven housing toolkit will consist of the following sets of information, which will be saved on J:\Strategic Land Management Research\Advocacy Toolkits:

  1. A referenced position paper of no more than ten pages, in MS Word format (Arial, 12 font, single spacing) on community-driven housing that succinctly presents DAG’s advocacy agenda of integrated and efficient urban land management policies, practices and approaches which facilitate access to housing and well-located, serviced land for South Africa’s poor and marginalized citizens vis-à-vis the role of government, marginalized communities, civil society organsations, and NGOs. The position paper should be informed by DAG’s paper Contemplating The Role of Development Action Group in Shaping and Constructing a New Urban Order in South Africa.
  2. A list, and where relevant, a summary of policies, legislation, government programmes and projects related to community-driven housing.
  3. Compilation of newspaper articles, academic papers, case studies, and other research documents pertaining to community-driven housing.
  4. A list of frequently asked questions and responses on community-driven housing.
  5. Useful quotes, photographs and video material relevant to community-driven housing.
  6. Names and contact details of relevant decision-makers (mostly to be done by DAG staff).
  7. If applicable, names and contact details of community leaders / organisations relevant to the Toolkit topic.
Availability of Information

Sources to be consulted for information on the above deliverables on the community-driven housing toolkit include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • DAG J:drive-folders
  • DAG R:drive-folders
  • The DAG website
  • DAG resource centre and publications including the recently published case studies on Freedom Park, Marconi Beam and Netreg
  • Presentations and photographs on the J and R drives
  • Interviews with DAG staff members and/or community partners, where applicable
  • Interviews with academics, government officials, consultants, community leaders, where applicable
  • The internet
  • Other sources not mentioned above.

Please note that all sources consulted in the formulation of the toolkit must be referenced in a list that will form part of the toolkit.


Regular meetings will be held between the consultant and DAG project leader as agreed by the project leader and the consultant. The completion date of the community-driven housing toolkit is 30 June 2010.

Some guidelines for author
  • Abbreviations and acronyms: These should be used sparingly and should be explained at the first occurrence. Abbreviations, acronyms and other conventions (capitals, italics, symbols) should be used consistently throughout the paper, and typed without full points. Thus: GNP; IDP.
  • Measurement, numbers, dates: Metric units are preferred except where historical accuracy demands otherwise. Generally numbers up to and including ten should be expressed in words. Four-figure numbers should have a comma, thus 4,000. Decades should be written ‘the 1950s’. Dates in the text should be written out in full, thus: 24 September 2009.
  • In the text, references should be (Jones, 1985). The title and description of the article or book should be listed in a bibliography at the end, not in the main text or footnotes.
  • References: The list of references should be in alphabetical order of author’s name and in chronological order for each author.

An example of how references are displayed follows:


King, S., and Delatte, N. J. (2004). “Collapse of 2000 Commonwealth Avenue: Punching shear case study.” J. Perf. Constr. Facil., 18(1), 54-61.

Books and reports:

Feld, J., and Carper, K. (1997) Construction failure, 2nd Ed., Wiley, New York.

Chapter in a book:

McDaniel, T.K., Valdivia, R.H. (2005) “New tools for virulence gene discovery,” in Cossart, P, Boquet, P., Normark, S., Rappuoli, R., editors. Cellular microbiology. 2nd ed., ASM Press, Washington, DC, p 473-488.

Conference proceedings and symposia:

Fwa, T. F., Liu, S. B., Teng, K. J. (2004) “Airport pavement condition rating and maintenance-needs assessment using fuzzy logic.” Proc., Airport Pavements: Challenges and New Technologies, ASCE, Reston, VA., 29-38.

Unpublished material:

Unpublished material is not included in the references. It may be cited in the text in the following forms: (John Smith, personal communication, May 16, 1999) or (Jones et al., unpublished manuscript, 2002). As an exception to the rule, articles that are accepted for publication may be included in the references as follows: Gibson, W. (2003). “Cyberspace: The postmodern frontier.” J. Comp. in Fiction, in press.

Web Pages and On-line Material:

Burka, L. P. (2002) “A hypertext history of multiuser dimensions.” MUD history, <> (Dec. 5, 2003).


Liggett, J. A., and Caughey, D. A. (1998) “Fluid statics.” Fluid mechanics (CD-Rom), ASCE, Reston, VA.

  • Footnotes: should be numbered sequentially throughout in Arabic numerals and placed at the foot of each page. They must be embedded in the text (i.e. any footnote additions or deletions will automatically change all the footnote references throughout the paper to accommodate the changes). Footnotes should generally be confined to citations of sources and brief points.
  • Quotations: of more than four lines should be indented in the text and typed without quotation marks. Use single quotation marks in the text for shorter quotes, with punctuation outside the final quote mark. For quotations within quotations use double quotation marks.
  • Miscellaneous:

(i) In all cases where s and z are alternatives, use s, as in ‘organisation’.
(ii) Rands and other currencies thus: R5.00, USD$80,000. For cents write out in full: e.g. 30 cents
(iii) UK spelling to be followed, as in ‘colour’ and ‘labour’.


Community-driven housing is an approach to housing development in which the beneficiaries and directly affected communities control the process and are the key decision-makers at every stage of the development. For the process to succeed it requires that beneficiaries are sufficiently empowered to be fully appreciative of the range of available options and the implications of their choices at each step of the process. The approach is about more than the consultation and participation of the beneficiaries in the planning and implementation phases of the housing development – it is about their control over the process.


No, community-driven housing can be implemented by communities independently or in partnership with NGOs, public officials or private developers provided that the beneficiaries (and other directly affected communities) control the process and are the key decision-makers.


Participatory development processes take time but DAG’s experience shows that when those who stand to benefit are actively involved they are easily committed to doing whatever it takes to fast track the process. DAG’s experience (and that of other’s like BESG, Utshani Fund etc) also indicates that the biggest delays, by far, are usually caused by the public administration as communities wait several months (often years) for approvals and funding.


There are many examples that demonstrate that community-driven housing processes can achieve satisfactory technical results and that in many cases the results may even be superior to those achieved by the private or public sectors without community participation.  The United Nations recognised this in the 1990s already, when they first started promoting community-driven housing.[1] The first Human Development Report calls for all governments to place people at the centre of development processes. The Public Service Commission noted that where traditional People’s Housing Processes had been implemented with proper support, the construction quality of houses was better than the quality of some traditional contractor-built houses.[2] More recently, projects like Freedom Park and Netreg have also demonstrated what is possible and regardless of their shortcomings these projects are not technically worst than traditional contractor-built houses.

[1] United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (1990) Human Development Report 1990, New York

[2] The Public Service Commission (2003) Report on the Evaluation of the National Housing Subsidy Scheme, Pretoria.


Community-driven housing works but these processes need to be skillfully and patiently supported. Capacity needs to be built for collective decision making and consensus building in community processes. This requires the skill of an experienced development facilitator. Often officials do not make this investment and processes can get stuck. The problem is not community-driven housing but the official’s lack of ability to help steer the community toward a decision. Perhaps government needs to need to recruit staff with the appropriate skill set or to work with partners like DAG when they implement community-driven housing. There are countless examples that demonstrate that properly supported community-driven housing processes can succeed.


Making space for participation does have cost implications but excluding people from development processes also has cost implications. For example, excluded groups can later delay and completely stall development processes. Development solutions may later have unintended consequences wit cost implications which may have been avoided through more participatory processes.


The government has an important role to play in community-driven housing. It should create an enabling environment in which community-driven housing can take place and thrive by ensuring that housing policies, planning processes and building regulations make allowance for community-driven housing.  For example, the government can relax ‘set-backs and building lines to allow development close to side and rear boundaries and to allow commercial streets to develop’[1]. They could also introduce ‘classes of permitted development, within which planning permission is not needed.’[2] Through their building inspectors, municipalities should also support households with monitoring of construction quality and ensuring that builders rectify unsatisfactory work.

[1] Tipple, G (2000) Extending Themselves: User-initiated transformations of government-built housing in developing countries, Liverpool Pool University Press, Liverpool.

[2] Ibid; and Tipple (2000, p156) states that ‘in Britain, for example, an extension up to 70m3 (or 15 percent of the original volume whichever is the greater) can be added to the rear of a dwelling for residential use by the household without requiring planning permission.’

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