Housing for the Urban Poor
From Local Action to Global Networks

March 8 – 22, 2012 Field Study in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa

During two weeks in March the project was presented to key stakeholders in South Africa. At the same time we took the opportunity to pre-test a preliminary questionnaire. The evaluation of the pre-testing will influence the further research approach for the upcoming field studies. The interviews also allowed for updating the state of the arts on housing networks active in the Cape Metropole and South Africa in general. Some key issues which were noted is a considerable change in attitude by local government to partner with multi-scalar networks, a change in work approach by SDI-aligned actors to introduce settlement-wide networks and include beyond new housing also informal settlement upgrading. Also other organisations have accelerated their upscaling of work approach – however, either less based on grassroots activities or well rooted in grassroots activities, but less focused on housing development. What seems to be a major contestation here between right-based movements and pragmatic development-oriented networks or groups, is being described as a distorted view proclaimed from the outside. In reality both grassroots initiatives use right-based and development approaches where needs be. Nevertheless, the social construct of this polarity right-based/ alternative development seems to have influence on the perception by local government officials who are hesitant to cooperate with groups with „a political agenda“.

A question we would like to discuss in our forum is therefore: How to define/ set limits of “housing networks”? Who would be networks that would have to be considered in South Africa, India, Thailand and the Philippines?

The following institutions/ persons have been linked up to during the pre-test visit:

Densil Faure, Senior Prof. Officer, Department Human Settlements-Informal Settlements at the City of Cape Town

Ardiel Soeker, Acting Programme Director, Development Action Group (DAG), Cape Town

Joel Bolnick (coordinator) and Walter Fieuw (research and documentation officer), Community Organisations Resource Centre (CORC) and SDI secretariat, Cape Town

Liza Rose Cirolia, African Centre for Cities (ACC)

Marie Huchzermeyer, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Furthermore, a new documentary on Abahlali baseMjondolo was launch “Dear Mandela” at the University of the Witwatersrand at the presence of S’bu Zikode, the president of the shack dwellers' movement.

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