People-led Housing Solutions

Housing is a political process that depends upon the mobilisation of citizens and civil society organisations and the engagement of civil society with the State around basic needs

DAG has a long and extensive track record in people-led housing solutions. This has translated into the delivery of approximately 8000 new low-cost housing opportunities in Cape Town over the last 37 years. DAG’s support to people-led housing projects has been wide ranging from some of the first Peoples Housing Processes (PHP) in South Africa to backyard rental housing and more recently support to developers and contractors in the development of small-scale rental housing in South Africa’s townships. These projects have demonstrated an incremental and long-term response to informality, which develops and delivers local solutions. 

A key factor to the success of all these projects have been the strong partnerships established between government, future home-owner beneficiaries, micro-developers, landlords, tenants and the private sector (finance institutions). DAG’s direct project support in people-led housing solutions has been complemented with training and capacity development initiatives for both communities and local government, along with extensive research and policy work. This has translated into strategic policy and regulatory reforms at a local and national scale.


In 2017, DAG incubated the ‘Contractor and Developer Academy’ (CDA), as a social enterprise development programme embedded within DAG, with the aim of capacitating and providing socio-technical support to small-scale developers and emerging contractors. The CDA provides advisory services, targeted training, and direct support to emerging contractors and small-scale developers in order to support them as they work towards the provision of affordable, well-managed housing.

2.2 PLHS CDA Alexia_Webster_DAG_Woodstock_Saltriver_Housing-90
2.3 PLHS BM DAG_cover_opt3_Je_nine May photography

Backyard Matters: Enabling People, Place and Policy

In 2008, DAG undertook work with the Provincial Department of Human Settlements to develop the first policy framework for Backyard Rental Housing. The policy framework was unfortunately not adopted, despite extensive lobbying and advocacy from DAG, CORC and backyard landlords and tenants. The work with backyarders was revived in 2019 when DAG partnered with the Isandla Institute to run a six-year programme called Backyard Matters that aims to strengthen the backyard rental market and contribute towards the availability of well-managed, quality rental stock, thereby providing affordable, dignified, and safe housing solutions.

Historic ePHP projects
DAG has a long and extensive track record in people-led housing solutions, dating back to some of the first People’s Housing Process (PHP) projects in Cape Town in the late 90s. Over the last 37 years DAG has provided support to PHP and ePHP Projects in Khayelitsha, Masimanyane, Netreg, Marconi Beam, Freedom Park, Joe Slovo (Milnerton), Imizamo Yethu, Masiphumele and Wallacedene

DAG’s involvement with these projects enabled our organisation to support the unlocking and development of approximately 8000 new low-cost housing opportunities in Khayelitsha, Masimanyane, Netreg, Marconi Beam, Freedom Park, Joe Slovo (Milnerton), Imizamo Yethu, Masiphumele and Wallacedene. DAG’s approach to PHP and Enhanced PHP (ePHP) projects is centred around strong partnerships between future home-owner beneficiaries, local government and the broader community. DAG places significant emphasis on building strong capacity and capability within home-owner beneficiaries so that they are able to actively lead the PHP projects that they benefit from. The Enhanced People’s Housing Process (EPHP) is a housing programme in South Africa.

Over the last fifteen years, DAG has developed a comprehensive and nuanced approach to working with ePHP projects that had become blocked due to the mismanagement of funds. To date our organisation has been involved in unblocking the following projects: Chicago Bulls & Twins, Mfuleni (728 units between 2006- 2008); Enhanced People’s Housing Project (EPHP) in Khayelitsha (2173 units 2015) and Masimanyane, Phillipi (115 units 2017). These projects constituted a huge milestone for DAG as many of these projects had been blocked and stagnant for over 10 years.

DAG’s extensive experience in both PHP and the enhanced People’s Housing process (ePHP), provided the rationale for the establishment of the Contractor and Developer Academy (CDA) in 2016. The CDA was established as a social enterprise development programme embedded within DAG, with the aim of capacitating and providing socio-technical support to small-scale developers and emerging contractors.

DAG’s training and capacity building work has impacted on a significant scale. Nationally, DAG in partnership with PHPT trained of close to over 300 provincial and municipal officials responsible for PHP implementation (2003 and 2005). PHP. More recently, in the last five years, DAG has trained a total of 118 emerging contractors & developers and has reached over 400 emerging contractors & developers through information sessions.

DAG’s research and policy work on people-led housing solutions over the last 37 years has generated impressive outcomes, including: development of PHP Guidelines; producing a significant number of case studies that document lessons learnt and best practice in the sector; conducting evidence-based research on the scaling up of small-scale rental housing, and legal reviews of the current frameworks governing the provision of services on private land. Complementing this has been the creative use of popular materials and videos.

In 2015, DAG successfully completed a 3-year construction project of 2173 Enhanced People’s Housing Project (EPHP) in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. The project offered DAG an opportunity to use its PHP housing model as a way to revalue the importance of a community-driven approach to housing delivery, as well as demonstrate the critical importance of integrating critical aspects of social investment (local economic development, job creation and homeowner education) into the physical construction process. The key lesson and message that emerged from the Khayelitsha project was the importance of establishing and nurturing public-private partnerships aimed at improving the quality of life of the urban poor. During the implementation of the project DAG had established relationships with the following stakeholders; Western Cape Provincial Depart of Human Settlements now Department of Infrastructure, City of Cape Town, local development forums, ward councillors, CBO, material suppliers, emerging construction companies and built environment officials. All the above-mentioned stakeholders were very clear on their roles and responsibilities towards achieving DAG’s vision in the project. DAG considers its unblocking model innovative and relevant to meet the complex realities of blocked projects, but also dealing with green field projects.

Between 2016 and 2017 , with support from a strong PHP committee that was led by women together with Western Cape Department of Human Settlements (WCDoHS), DAG successfully completed a PHP project of 117 units. The Masimanyane project would have been completed in the early 2000s however due to mismanagement of funds and poor-quality units the project was blocked by the WCDoHS. The learnings from the Khayelitsha construction project were utilised during the implementation of Masimanye project in Phillipi. National Department of Human Settlements through its e-PHP unit played an advisory role making sure all houses were delivered on record time. As Phillipi is a difficult community to work with, the most critical success factorsPUBLICATIONfor the pre-construction phase were DAG’s conscientious social facilitation and skill in understanding and managing local level community dynamics effectively.
In 1999, DAG successfully established the KUYASA Fund, a microfinance organisation, to promote savings and provide micro-loans to the poor to support incremental housing processes through home improvements. This was to prove to banks that the poor are credit-worthy even if they lack formal-sector payslips or assets. The Fund existed as a separate entity to DAG and challenged traditional banking thinking by adopting an innovative approach to end-user finance. Since 2000, when it granted its first loan to Khayelitsha resident Rose Siyanga, the Kuyasa Fund successfully built equity by providing housing loans to individuals. In so doing, it changed the lives and improved the living conditions of more than 51,900 people that come from poverty-stricken backgrounds.
In 1986 with the support of SANCO leadership, Netreg identified land and housing as a development priority for many of the backyard shack dwellers. They formed the Netreg Housing Committee (NHC) and located a vacant piece of land alongside Modderdam Road. The NHC and DAG began negotiations with politicians and local authorities to secure the land for a PHP housing project, Initially, the Provincial Authority was not prepared to release the land because it was reserved for road improvements, but after much investigation, the bulk of the land was given to the Netreg Community. Almost two decades later, a medium density housing development with 119 homes was completed.

pRogramme Highlights