P095 – Living in State Housing: Expectations, Contradictions and Consequences
8 July, 17:30 – 19:00

Meth Paula / University of Sheffield
Charlton Sarah / University of Witwatersrand


State-supported low-cost housing is a significant tool and electoral strategy across African cities, which often draws on notions of urban formality, social decency, rights, material integrity, welfare, and citizenship to underpin its aims. This session critically examines the lived experiences of state housing in African cities to question residents’ and state actors expectations and subsequent experiences of housing programmes. It examines the contradictions of housing the urban poor in cities where affordable and well-located space is highly restricted, where social inequalities and tensions are rife, and where unemployment persists in shaping residents daily lives. The consequences of diverse experiences of state housing are also considered in terms of their social insights into residents’ lives, their mobility patterns, livelihoods and citizenship practices.

Habiter en logement social: les attentes, les contradictions et les conséquences
Les logements à faible coût subventionnés par l’État représentent un outil important de la politique et de la stratégie électorale dans les villes africaines, un outil qui fait appel souvent aux idées de la formalité urbaine, des bonnes mœurs, des droits, de l’intégrité matérielle, de l’aide sociale et du civisme afin de sous-tendre ses objectifs. Cette séance examine de façon critique les expériences vécues dans les logements sociaux dans les grandes villes africaines afin d’analyser les attentes et les expériences subséquentes des résidents et des parties prenantes de l’État par rapport aux programmes de logement social. Elle examine les contradictions de loger les pauvres urbains dans les grandes villes où l’espace abordable et bien situé est fortement restreint, où les inégalités et les tensions sociales sévissent, et où le chômage continue à dominer la vie quotidienne des résidents. Les conséquences de la diversité des expériences de logement social sont considérées également en termes de leurs aperçus sociaux sur la vie des résidents, les modes de comportements de mobilité, les moyens de subsistance et les comportements civiques.

Paper 1

Mosselson Aidan / University College London

“It’s not a Place I Like but I Can Live with It”: Urban Regeneration, Affordable Housing and the Right to the City in Inner-city Johannesburg

This paper narrates the experiences of tenants living in social and state-subsidised private-sector housing developments in inner-city Johannesburg, demonstrating that these developments give rise to diverse and contradictory experiences of urban life. Residents who’ve accessed renovated housing are able to enjoy the benefits of urban centrality in ways they previously could not, gaining enhanced rights to the city and forms of urban citizenship. At the same time, their spatial and political imaginations are restricted and confined by the conditions of necessity under which they live, shaping their expectations and reflecting their marginal position within the city. However, despite this marginal position residents also shape the area in a variety of ways, through their ordinary, everyday practices producing new forms of urbanity, sociality and belonging. These signal the ways in which the inner-city is transforming to reflect a different type of social and urban order, more reflective of the post-apartheid context. Yet, as areas of the inner-city improve and come to flourish, the differences between these areas and the peripheral townships and informal settlements are exacerbated, increasing the spatial nequalities and fragmentation of Johannesburg. In these ways, the housing being provided is producing contradictory and complex consequences, experiences and identities within the inner-city and across the wider metropolitan region.

Paper 2

Schramm Sophie / TU Darmstadt, Spatial and Infrastructure Planning

People’s Room for Manoeuvre in a Fragmented City: State Housing in Kibera, Nairobi

In Kenya, the direct provision of housing by the state is limited to slum upgrading and housing for state employees. In Nairobi, the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (KENSUP) aims to reconstruct Kibera, one of the largest slums of Nairobi, with multi-story housing. The stated goal is to house the current dwellers of Kibera. However, Kibera is a melting pot of vested interests of central and local state-actors, urban dwellers and quasi-legal landlords. Its iron and mud shacks are representative for the drastic socio-spatial fragmentations of Nairobi. Seen by the struggles around landownership as well as broader housing market dynamics, gentrification is an apparently inevitable outcome of the project. My paper addresses the struggle for access to and living conditions in the “decanting site”, to date the only inhabited housing estate of the project. I aim to highlight people’s potential to shape events within the KENSUP project, to make use of the permanent uncertainty the project brings about and thus to expand the minimal room for manoeuvre, it leaves for those living in, aiming, or refusing to move to, the housing estate. The KENSUP brings elemental changes to Kibera’s built space, economic possibilities and social relations. It expresses some of the vested interests of actors and puts others at play – thus it reflects broader African urban governance issues. This makes it an insightful platform for the examination of state-society interactions in an African city.

Paper 3

Melo Vanessa / Faculty of Architecture of the University of Lisbon, Urban Planning and Design Research Centre.

Top-down Low-Cost Housing Supply, Bottom-up Responses and Territorial Impacts in Maputo

In Mozambique, housing policies and programmes were never institutionally and explicitly consolidated as such, but main guidelines were established to address housing shortage that affects especially low-income populations. Self-help housing was most defended in the first years of independence, in a context of limited resources and under a centralised and socialist Frelimo. Yet, with the joint opening to the market economy and process of political decentralization, since the mid 1980s, low-cost housing supply became more evident in Maputo, though mainly associated with relocations in sequel of urban renewal and road infra-structure interventions or natural calamities, involving not only central and local governments, but also other agents. The areas where low-cost housing has been supplied are not extensive in this city, but have a significant role in its development. On the one hand, they promote the occupation of surrounding areas and infrastructure upgrading. On the other hand, they evidence different levels of housing improvements undertaken by the residents, according the processes that generated them, their initial characteristics and the beneficiaries response to the houses provided. By the analysis of some paradigmatic areas of low-cost housing supply, the paper aims to explore variations between these processes and their territorial impacts, as a contribution to the understanding of bottom-up urban processes trigged by this kind of top-down housing interventions.

Paper 4

Erwin Kira / Durban University of Technology, South Africa

Voices of Resilience: A Living History of the Kenneth Gardens Municipal Housing Estate in Durban South Africa

South African cities have a dwindling number of state subsidised rental units inherited from the apartheid regime. This paper brings together 3 years’ worth of oral histories collected in Kenneth Gardens, the city of Durban’s largest such housing estate. These oral histories illustrate how a space that was once reserved for poor and working class white families has transformed into a diverse and entangled community. Kenneth Gardens is located next to a middle-class suburban area and as such does not suffer the spatial inequalities or lack of amenities associated with many low-cost house projects in South Africa. It does however suffer from issues associated with low-income housing projects globally, such as unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence. The oral histories unsurprisingly indicate socio-economic hardships; including racial, class and gendered tensions; but importantly also stories of caring, resilience and partnerships that cut across these expected divides in unexpected ways. The research is contextualised within the politics of state housing in South Africa, as well as within theoretical frameworks of fluid social identity formation. In conclusion the paper critically examines what these insights suggest for thinking about how the design and governance of state housing shape livelihoods and citizenship practices, as well as how these practices transform housing projects into spaces of contestation, community and neighbourliness.

Paper 5

Kruchinsky Vladislav / Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

The Great Keinplatz Experiment: (Permanent) Temporarity as a Housing Strategy in Contemporary South Africa

While South Africa’s Reconstruction and Development Programme (RPD) rightfully occupies its space among the most researched mass housing projects in the world, the distribution of the academic attention seems to be rather uneven when it comes to its internal logic and practical developments. This paper critically examines a phenomenon of Temporary Relocation Areas (TRA’s)—zones established over the last decade by various South African municipalities in order to accommodate people in desperate need for housing until RDP units become available and reflects upon its impact on everyday lives of the marginalised communities targeted by this development. Significantly, some TRA’s were created as an attempt to deal with particular outbreaks of the citizen’s direct action campaigning for the right to the city; establishment of these zones was justified employing alarmist discourses effectively equaling squatting to an urban emergency. Using the ethnography collected during several field research sessions in the Delft Symphony Way Temporary Relocation Area in Cape Town, we would like to discuss whether such ‘No-places’, with their ‘temporarity’ surpassing all the official estimates and the very infrastructural limitations set in the blueprints, can be in fact considered a (semi-)official housing sub-policy of South African state.

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