frequently asked questions

COMMUNITY DRIVEN HOUSING TOOLKIT

1. WHAT DOES COMMUNITY-DRIVEN HOUSING MEAN?

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.

2. DOES COMMUNITY-DRIVEN HOUSING MEAN THAT PEOPLE HAVE TO BUILD AND DO EVERYTHING FOR THEMSELVES?

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.

3. COMMUNITY-DRIVEN HOUSING TAKES TOO LONG; ISN’T IT A WASTE OF TIME WHEN WE HAVE A BIG HOUSING PROBLEM?

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.

4. HOUSING IS VERY TECHNICAL AND UNTRAINED PEOPLE CANNOT MAKE SOUND TECHNICAL JUDGMENTS. DOESN’T COMMUNITY-DRIVEN HOUSING RESULT IN HOUSING OF A VERY POOR QUALITY?

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.

5. WHEN PEOPLE ARE GIVEN THE CHANCE TO PARTICIPATE THEY CAN’T REACH AGREEMENT ON ANYTHING AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ANY PROGRESS. DOES COMMUNITY-DRIVEN HOUSING REALLY WORK?

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.

6. ISN’T COMMUNITY-DRIVEN HOUSING TOO EXPENSIVE AS A RESULT OF THE HIGH COST OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION?

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.

7. WHAT IS THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT IN COMMUNITY-DRIVEN HOUSING?

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.’

DEMOCRATIC URBAN GOVERNANCE TOOLKIT

1. WHY WOULD WE WANT TO GO THROUGH THIS PROCESS AND WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DEMOCRATIC URBAN GOVERNANCE?

Participation is time-consuming and challenging and results cannot be guaranteed but when people participate in the governance of their cities there are benefits for the city and the citizens.  Democratic urban governance:

  • enhances political inclusion by offering all citizens the opportunity to participate in and influence decision-making. In doing this all people have access to opportunities and the benefits of city life.
  • increases security of all citizens.
  • can help reduce the susceptibility of delivery programmes to political manipulation. Successful democratic urban governance enables the citizenry and the State to elaborate strategies that define delivery of services and to initiate programmes which have better chances of being sustained despite political change or institutional reforms.
  • fosters transparent decision making and public accountability which will foster a watch-dog culture amongst role-players with all sectors of society actively holding each other to account. This is turn will foster trust and ultimately improve the quality and quantity of partnerships to tackle urban challenges.[1]
  • includes all stakeholders in decision-making processes, especially marginalised groups[2] which results in improved quality of life as participation is experienced as a consequence and a cause of improvements to material [3] Also where residents perceive cities as places of real opportunity and where resources are sufficient, participatory processes become more effective.[4]
  • can improve resource mobilisation and service delivery to citizens.[5]

[1] Auclair & Jackohango (2009)

[2] Ibid.

[3] UN-Habitat (2008) p. 162

[4] Ibid.

[5] Auclair & Jackohango (2009)

2. WHAT CREATES AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT FOR DEMOCRATIC URBAN GOVERNANCE?

It’s often believed that devolution of responsibilities to the local level is needed for democratic urban governance to succeed but some studies have shown that all responsibilities need not be devolved[1] and that centralised supervision and coordination can also make a positive contribution to the quality of the process and its outcomes[2].

It is true that the local authority must be empowered with sufficient resources and autonomy to meet their responsibilities to the citizenry for democratic urban governance to produce good results. The citizenry in turn must have the ability to articulate their issues, manage conflict, understand government processes, accountability platforms and budgeting cycles etc.[3]

The balance of powers between actors is critical[4] in creating an environment for participatory governance. Role-players need to have the capacity, bargaining power and commitment to engage in dialogue as equals[5] and the process needs to be designed in such a way as to balance power[6].

To enable democratic urban governance, government also needs to accept that it will involve other role-players in the active management of the city and will share power and dilute control although it has been elected and has the responsibility to deliver.[7] This requires political leadership and political confidence.

Officials also need the capability to drive collective management and decision-making processes. Planners can enable democratic urban governance by developing the flexibility to adapt their techniques to different contexts.

Capacity of all role-players e.g. planners, communities etc. must therefore be enhanced because they will need to master a variety of skills to succeed in their collaboration.

Democratic urban governance requires the active participation of the citizenry.

Apart from having the skills/capability to participate, they also need the conditions to be right so that they can participate. Citizens need a measure of security to participate actively on an ongoing basis (e.g. they require secure tenure and secure livelihoods). This is absent for most people in South Africa making them vulnerable and making their ongoing active participation in urban development processes difficult to sustain. Furthermore while people are vulnerable they can easily fall victim to manipulation by other interest groups in the development process.[8]

[1] Hague, Wakely, Crespin & Jasko (2006)

[2] Fung & Wright (2001)

[3] Auclair & Jackohango (2009)

[4] Fung & Wright (2001)

[5] Mitlin & Sattherthwaite (2004)

[6] Fung & Wright (2001)

[7] Auclair & Jackohango (2009)

[8] UNHabitat (2008) p. 162

3. HOW DO WE SUSTAIN DEMOCRATIC URBAN GOVERNANCE?

The processes must be designed in such a way that they deliver tangible results and in relatively short periods so that active participation can be sustained. Without results citizens will become disinterested.

Democratic urban governance can only be pursued and impact can only be achieved if a critical mass of citizens (and other role-players) buys-in and participates. To achieve this, citizens need to be able to link their local experience with the broader city-wide experience and need to be sufficiently motivated to act at the city level where benefits to the household are not felt immediately.[1] The process itself should address common public problems[2].

Participatory governance is complex and dynamic;[3] the partnerships will need to be nurtured, supported and managed by the role-players themselves.

[1] Mitlin & Sattherthwaite 2004; Purcell, M (2006)

[2] Fung & Wright (2001)

[3] Auclair & Jackohango (2009)

4. DOES PARTICIPATION AND DEMOCRATIC URBAN GOVERNANCE PROCESSES RAISE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS AMONGST COMMUNITIES?

On the contrary, democratic urban governance makes it possible for communities to adjust their expectations to what can realistically be achieved. Due to the increased transparency and accountability citizens develop a better understanding of the potential and limitations of the process.

5. DOES DEMOCRATIC URBAN GOVERNANCE REQUIRE THAT ALL STAKEHOLDERS/ INTERESTS GROUPS GET ALONG?

No, democratic urban governance is about contestation between interest groups for the deployment of resources. The participants have different interests will be in conflict from time to time. Although they may seek to reach consensus, at times they must agree to disagree and will need to develop the capacity to work with each other on this basis.

6. DOES PARTICIPATION AND DEMOCRATIC URBAN GOVERNANCE PROCESSES SET COMMUNITIES / OFFICIALS UP FOR CONFLICT?

The use of a city’s resources is always contested as cities must serve the needs of various groups, many with conflicting interests. Sometimes, for example in the City of Cape Town, these interests are not mediated and the city serves selected interest groups only. This approach does not avoid conflict it escalates it as tensions run high and anger builds up amongst those who are marginalised by the city’s policies.

In democratic urban governance role-players try to manage the conflicting interests through active participation. The conflicts of interest are still there but they are exposed and discussed and there is a greater chance of adopting policies that serve the greater good than the narrow interests of one or two groups. There are still tensions and disagreement but these are anticipated and expected as part of the process.

Since tension and disagreement is unavoidable role-players will need to develop strong communication and conflict management skills.

7. WHAT ARE THE CONSTRAINTS TO DEMOCRATIC URBAN GOVERNANCE IN SOUTH AFRICA?

There are numerous constraints to democratic urban governance in South Africa:

  • Sometimes a department or official is willing to adopt more participatory methods but lacks the know-how to do so successfully. Democratic urban governance is sophisticated and needs advanced skills and attributes which officials or the authorities enforcing policy and regulations tend to lack.
  • People are weary of fruitless participation. Participation is time consuming and often does not address their immediate needs. This calls or a high level of commitment to the process and its eventual outcomes which is hard to foster in the poorer South African communities where people face a daily struggle o put food on the table.
  • In South Africa, the majority of the population was not allowed to be active in civic life prior to 1994. After 1994 people did not understand their civic responsibilities and rights or see the benefit of taking this up when the ANC took control of the government. We therefore lack a history and culture of the participation in governance and people rely instead on their elected representatives to ‘do the right thing.’ Where communities grow impatient and bold enough to challenge the State and claim their rights they tend to be apologetic and struggle to use the institutional means available to them.

Politicians also lack the political will to set up shared decision-making platforms and lead such processes in communities.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Auclair, C & Jackohango, A (2009) Good Urban Governance: Towards an effective Private Sector Engagement. Background Paper- Draft 0, UN-Habitat

Fung, A, & Wright, EO (2001) ‘Deepening Democracy: Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance’, Politics and Society, SAGE Publications, vol.29, no.1, pp. 5-41.

Hague, C, Wakely, P, & Crespin, J, Jasko, C (2006) Making Planning Work: a Guide to Approaches and Skills, Intermediate Technology Publications, United Kingdom.

Mitlin, D & Satterthwaite D (2004) ‘The Role of Local and Extra-local Organisations,’ Urban Voices, no.46, The Urban Governance Initiative (TUGI).

Purcell, M (2006) ‘Urban Democracy and the Local Trap, Urban Studies, SAGE Publications, United Kingdom, vol.43, no.11, pp. 1921-1941.

United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) (2008) State of the World’s Cities 2010 / 2011: Bridging the Urban Divide, Earthscan Publications, London.

MEDIUM-DENSITY HOUSING TOOLKIT

1. What is medium-density housing?

There is no single definition of medium-density – it’s an abstract concept that means many different things to different people. However, for DAG, densification refers to the ways in which municipalities can increase the number of residential buildings and the number of households living on well-located land close to employment, education, healthcare and transportation as well as museums, beaches, government buildings, parks and other urban resources. More specifically, medium-density housing refers to 40 – 100 dwelling units per hectare (gross), with various residential typologies including: semi-detached housing, row housing and three to four-storey walk-up flats.

2. What does medium-density housing look like?

There are many different kinds of medium-density typologies, including: semi-detached, row housing, maisonettes, courtyard housing, three and four-storey walk-ups, and flats.

3. What is NIMBY-ism?

Middle- and upper-income home-owners often fight against the provision of medium-density low-cost housing in their areas. They site an increase in crime and a decrease in property values as reasons to keep the poor on the periphery. This is NIMBY-ism (Not in My Backyard), which works to perpetuate apartheid planning.

4. Why should medium-density be considered?

There are traditionally four reasons to argue for medium-density housing: it is good for people (social), for the environment (natural), for government (fiscal), and for business (economic). Here is a brief summary of each set of arguments:

South Africa has very segregated cities due to the legacies of colonisation, apartheid and modernist urban planning. Densification is essential for the people of South Africa and helps achieve social equity by: providing the poor with the same access to urban amenities as the rich; promoting inclusive and integrated cities that do not divide people by race and class; and enabling poor communities participate in their development to have a voice in city planning.

Unmitigated urban sprawl is not affordable for the South African government. The State can no longer afford to allow our cities to spread unchecked. It is less expensive to: upgrade inner-city infrastructure, than to build new infrastructure beyond the urban edge; provide the poor with well-located land, than to finance transport subsidies; and ensure families have access to decent, well-paid jobs, than to pay social grants.

Expanding the city outward is dangerous to the South African environment. Unless we change our current development patterns, we will do irreparable harm to our natural world. It is more sustainable to: create environmentally conscious cities, than to devour our finite resources at an unsustainable rate; build medium-density neighbourhoods that enable people to live and work in close proximity, than to heavily rely on the motor car; and develop higher-density housing typologies where walls and materials are shared amongst several units, than to deplete natural resources for construction materials.

The South African economy also suffers from low-densification. Businesses fail because there are not enough people to sustain them. It is more profitable to: enable small and medium sized businesses to be situated near higher concentrations of people to achieve the thresholds necessary to sustain commerce (about 50 dwelling units per hectare).

5. Why is community participation essential?

Communities that participate in development plans are generally more satisfied with the final outcome because their desires are reflected in their living environment. It is very important to enable communities to understand the trade-offs of medium-density housing: sacrificing some privacy and size of their housing unit in exchange for a better location and access to urban opportunities.

6. Doesn’t medium density housing mean/equal creating slums with social problems like we already have on the Cape Flats?

No. There is nothing about the typology of medium-density housing that makes neighbourhoods unsafe or fraught with social problems. Instead, gangsterism and drug use associated with medium-density hostels and flats in the Cape Flats arose as a result of unemployment and poverty. Informal and illegal economies are often the only recourse for residents to survive. In contrast, if medium-density housing is located near employment, education and effective social services, as DAG is proposing, these social problems will be minimized.

7. Doesn’t medium density housing cause overcrowding?

No. Overcrowding is caused when there are too few housing units provided for the population or when housing is unaffordable. When there are not enough housing units or housing units are affordable, informal rental economies develop in backyards where families squeeze together in small shacks, or in overcrowded flats. If South Africa’s cities were well-planned and well-built to provide for all citizens, overcrowding would not be a problem.

8. The apartheid government built flats for ‘second class citizens.’ Why should we settle for medium density housing and not demand nice free-standing houses?

At DAG, we are suggesting that when people move to the city, they should begin to buy-into the notion of urban life. Cities rely on high concentrations of people for economic, scientific and human innovation. Even small grocers and spaza shops cannot be sustained in low-density areas, not to mention schools and social services. This is not to say that everyone must live in medium-density, concentrated housing. Rather, it is about giving households a choice: live in a higher-density typology and enjoy the benefits of the city, or live in a low-density typology on the outskirts.

9. What design features are often requested by communities?

Many low-income residents prioritised the following design elements: play areas for children, community multi-purpose facilities, semi-private laundry lines, and designated trading space. Safety and security were other very important concerns.

10. How can housing be made safer?

Communities that are organised, with resident associations and strong leaders, are generally safe communities. Community activities should be encouraged so residents get to know each other. The design of the housing development should be based on design principles for safety. All common areas should be well-defined and visible from the housing units. Staircases and landings should be shared by a small number of households. The entire complex should be well-lit and well-maintained.

11. How can housing be made more environmentally friendly?

In South Africa there is a lack of knowledge of green building products, technologies, services and design for resource efficiency among most housing stakeholders. The impacts of current settlement design norms – such as single houses on large plots with full-pressure water supply, water borne sewerage, grid electricity and poor insulation – militate against resource efficiency. This is especially problematic in the low-cost housing sector, where the government subsidy produces a standardised and non-innovative dwelling unit, especially when delivered by developers. However, well-built housing, as a fixed asset with a long life, can make a significant contribution to overall environmental sustainability because it consumes large amounts of resources in its construction, maintenance and use. Passive energy efficiency, solar water heaters and photovoltaic pannels, low-energy lighting and heating, gas stoves, urine diversion toilets, and grey water recycling should be encouraged.

12. Why is good location a pre-condition for medium-density housing?

In DAG’s view good location and medium-density housing are two concepts that CANNOT be separated. It is good location – defined by access to employment, industry, commerce, transportation, schools, clinics and public services – that enables people living in medium-density areas to thrive. When people have what they need close by, they spend less money on transportation, spend less time commuting to work, have an easier time finding a job, have more time to spend with their families, and generally have a higher quality of life. For the poor, good location is often the most important factor for their survival – even more than the quality of their housing.

13. Where has medium-density on well-located land worked?

Springfield Terrace, in Cape Town, Sakhasonke Village, in Port Elizabeth, and Carr Gardens in Johannesburg, are highly successful medium-density developments on well-located land.

14. How can medium-density housing transform our urban landscape?

For DAG, medium-density housing should be used as a tool for transformation: to move the formerly dispossessed back onto well-located land, to help prevent dispossession through the ongoing gentrification of urban renewal areas, to integrate historically ‘white’ suburbs and to stimulate commerce in historically disadvantaged areas. Vacant and under-utilised inner-city and other well-located sites should be used to integrate and transform the urban environment, and therefore improve the social and economic situations of city-dwellers.

15. What is value capture?

There are two main categories of instruments that governments can use to convert surplus land value into public value: fiscal tools such as taxes and fees aimed at generating additional revenue for municipalities; and regulatory instruments such as development charges and zoning incentives aimed at directing land use. In South Africa, value capture can provide additional resources to assist the State in improving service delivery, addressing poverty and ultimately achieving more equitable and sustainable cities. Additionally, these mechanisms can be used to control urban sprawl, reduce the perverse effects of land speculation, cope with growing informality in land markets and promote the redistribution of land. South African politicians and officials often try to ensure that the greatest value is derived from the sale or use of State-owned land, but the notion of value capture has been largely absent from our planning discourse to date.

16. How can value capture promote implementation?

There are many instruments that help municipalities to set the priorities for urban development and densification. Some of the most effective from around the world have been:

  • Development and zoning levies, according to Emer O’Siochrú a value capture expert, are like the telecommunications industry. In the telecommunications industry, users are required to pay three different charges: for connection, rental and use. A development levy is similar to a connection charge, as it is based on the cost of being connected to roads, water, waste and other infrastructure. A zoning levy, then, is like a rental charge and is a payment for the use of land. Development and zoning levies should be charged at a progressive rate; poorly serviced rural areas should have lower levies than well-serviced cities. Income from development and zoning levies should be pooled in a government fund and redistributed to redress imbalances in revenue between wealthy and poorer authorities.
  • Zoning provisions stipulate a property owner’s rights in terms of the use and development of a particular parcel of land. Although zoning was historically used to reproduce exclusion under the guise of protecting property rights, more flexible zoning can be used to direct development. Incentive zoning is a land use regulation that encourages the creation of certain amenities and land use designs; incentive zoning, for example, can be used to produce higher densities or discourage wasteful layouts.
  • Exactions are obligations imposed on developers to aid the government in providing public services and can take several forms, such as impact fees, infrastructure contributions and land donations. Exactions are payments that a developer must make to the local authority in exchange for obtaining a permit.
  • ZEIS, or special zones of social interest, are primarily used in Latin America to expand access to urban land for low-income groups. There are four types of areas to which ZEIS can be applied, including: occupied land in favelas, vacant public land, vacant private land, and environmentally protected areas. ZEIS are an attempt to ensure class integration, by preventing market speculation and dampening the price of land. ZEIS can also be used to reserve well-located land for social interest housing, thereby linking land regulation with housing policy.
  • Cross-subsidisation refers to the financing of mixed-income housing developments, using the cost of the more expensive units to subsidies a portion of the less expensive units (either the housing structure itself, or the infrastructure).

VALUE CAPTURE TOOLKIT

1. WHAT IS VALUE CAPTURE?

Land Value Capture is an intervention in land markets using fiscal and regulatory tools which contributes to making cities and towns more efficient and sustainable.

Land Value Capture refers to the capturing of all or part of the increments in land value that result from community or public investment in infrastructure, services, population growth, land use changes, etc., rather than from private investments. The increment in land value is recouped or captured, in full or in part by converting it into a public revenue or benefit through the use of fiscal and regulatory tools. Fiscal tools for value capture are taxes, fees, tariffs, contributions and other measures paid by private landowners while regulatory tools (or land management tools) are exactions, incentive zoning, on-site improvements that benefit the community, the public, or residents in general which the landowner essentially finances out of his/her increased land values.

2. WHAT CAN VALUE CAPTURE ACCOMPLISH?

If properly planned and implemented value capture increases public revenue and controls land use. It accomplishes the latter by promoting densification, compaction, integration, and more equitable and sustainable development, and by discouraging urban sprawl and speculation.

Value capture regulates land markets and reduces price escalation. It brings about intensive and efficient use of land in areas close to infrastructure and services and discourages vacant and under-utilised land possession in prime locations.

3. IS VALUE CAPTURE PRO-POOR AND DOES IT GUARANTEE THAT THERE’LL BE REDISTRIBUTION?

Value capture is not inherently pro-poor and does not guarantee redistribution. To achieve redistribution value capture must be carefully planned and implemented. The origin of the land value which is captured and the way the captured revenue is spent should be monitored to ensure redistribution.

4. CAN VALUE CAPTURE BE IMPLEMENTED IN SOUTH AFRICA?

Value capture can be implemented in South Africa and several policies already make this possible. For more comprehensive application across the country some changes in legislation is needed.

5. VALUE CAPTURE INVOLVES ACTIVITIES THAT SOME MUNICIPALITIES ARE ALREADY CARRYING OUT, WHAT IS NEW ABOUT WHAT DAG IS PROPOSING?

While some municipalities are using regulatory and fiscal tools that can be used for value capture, they do not use this for the purpose of value capture. There is little recapturing of increased land values occurring in the country and even less redistribution despite South Africa’s lucrative land and property markets. DAG proposes that the State makes conscious market interventions using regulatory and fiscal tools to capture land value. Where this results in increased revenue collection DAG proposes that this be redistributed into pro-poor initiatives.