backyard matters

DAG works closely with backyard residents across Cape Town through our Backyard Matters project. The greater ‘Backyard Matters: Enabling People, Place and Policy’ initiative is run in partnership with the Isandla Institute and was launched in 2019. The project aims to strengthen the backyard rental market and contribute towards the availability of well-managed, quality rental stock that provides affordable, dignified, and safe housing solutions. DAG provides support to backyard residents through numerous capacity-building initiatives centered around their rights and responsibilities, access to basic services, tenure security, and other such issues.

After over 12 years of sustained advocacy by DAG and partners, 2022 saw a growth in both local and national recognition of the backyard housing sector.

What we do

4.2 BM Research IMG_6591

This project provides research support directly to backyard communities in the form of enumerations, surveys and settlement profiles. This is complemented with legal and policy research which looks at the obstacles to improving access to safe shelter, basic services, and well-managed rental housing stock.


This project provides technical support to landlords to improve their rental stock through education drives.

4.4 Backyard Matters collective bargaining IMG_8336

This project hosts a series of capacity building workshops with backyard tenants and landlords to strengthen their voices and increase the opportunities for collective bargaining.

4.5 BM Advocacy & Lobbying IMG_9675

This project hosts various community of practice platforms, expert roundtables, national conferences and seminars to improve recognition of backyard rental markets by local and national government.


Most Significant Change Story

Backyard tenants improved access to safe shelter and basic services

After 15 years of being a backyard dweller, Mariah was finally allocated a house. Mariah Visser is a 45-year-old single mother from Eerste River, she applied for a subsidy house in 2007. Backyarding is ubiquitous in Eerste River. The number of backyard structures in the area has increased substantially over the last 15 years or so. Mariah owned her backyard structure and rented the backyard space inside her sister’s yard.

Prior to DAG’s involvement in Eerste River, Mariah had lost hope. Her perception was that there was an imbalance in the selection of informal settlement dwellers and backyard dwellers in housing projects. This prevailing perception was exacerbated by the City of Cape Town’s basic services improvement initiatives only in council owned properties.
Backyard Matters housing workshops together with DAG’s ACTC (active citizen course) leadership training tools were a turning point in Mariah’s life. As result, she was well-informed and capacitated to engage with relevant stakeholders. Mariah enthusiastically shares “I often attended various housing follow up meetings and constantly ensured that my contact details were regularly updated. “As a result, she is encouraged to inform more backyarders within her community of Eerste River to apply for the housing waiting list.

“Backyard demands have been generally simple: we need access to housing opportunities and basic services just like any other citizen in this country,” said Mariah.

Project Partners