South Africa’s backyard dwellings as a by-product of formal housing policies
Charlotte Lemanski – Augmented informality: South Africa’s backyard dwellings as a by-product of formal housing policies.
IN: Habitat International, Volume 33, Issue 4, October 2009, Pages 472-484,
Insufficient and inadequate housing for the urban poor has a long history in South Africa, as in other African cities. Nearly one-fifth of urban households in South Africa reside in an informal dwelling. While most live in informal settlements, significant proportions have erected informal structures (essentially `shacks’) in the backyard of another property, a distinctly South African phenomenon. Backyard dwellings have historically been overlooked by housing policies that focus on upgrading and/or eradicating informal settlements. Previously, backyard dwellers were perceived as marginalised, living in appalling conditions and exploited by cavalier landlords. However, the post-apartheid provision of state-funded housing for the poor has altered the nature of backyard housing, creating a new class of cash-poor homeowners who are dependent on income from backyard dwellers’ rent, thus ensuring a more equitable power pendulum between landlord and tenant. This paper uses research conducted in a low-income state-subsidised housing settlement in Cape Town to explore the new dimensions of informal backyard housing, both for landlords and tenants, as a consequence of South Africa’s formal housing policies.