South Africa flag flying in informal settlement
Analysing human settlements transformation in Cape Town
City Governance


The human settlements programme is a large-scale programme delivering subsidised houses to low-income households, and is a key plank in South Africa’s developmental government narrative. The development of large scale housing projects has fundamentally shaped Cape Town, with long term fiscal, social, material, and physical implications.  The fiscal logics which underpin revenue and expenditure, assets and liabilities, shape the uneven investment in the city, across departments, sectors, and areas. Thus, we are interested in how these city-wide processes such as public finances land in space unevenly across the city.


Building on the findings of ACC’s Sustainable Human Settlements CityLab, we will focus on the key, interconnected city-wide and state-led drivers of human settlements development. We will also look at the ways in which public finance shapes the city.

We are interested in the ways in which localized processes have the potential for wider urban and catalytic significance. We will explore the ways in which vacant or underutilized land and social infrastructure (such as parks, playgrounds, school sites, etc.) are repurposed, retrofitted and appropriated to respond to the various and conflicting needs of people and places, and how these processes shape localized and city-wide discussions, practices and policies on spatial transformation, human settlements, and public investment.

There are two areas where we will focus. The first is on the occupation of land for the purpose of housing. The second focus area will be on the retrofit of existing social infrastructure (parks, schools, etc.) for them to better serve the local neighbourhoods.

Through this research, we aim to bring the city-wide processes and localized interventions into conversation with one and other. We hope to identify where there are contradictions, alignments, and conflicts between them.

Through this, we aim to help contribute to socio-spatial transformation and the realisation of sustainable human settlements in Cape Town (and other cities of the global South).