Urban Land Projects

The Urban Land Programme seeks to contribute to planning frameworks and land management systems that that advance urban spatial transformation, the social function of and sustainability development.

Informal settlements are key manifestations of how urban citizenship remains unrealised for a large part of urban residents. As such, we have a long-standing focus on access to urban land for the poor as both a means and a precondition for realising urban citizenship. The programme further promotes human settlement development that enables inclusive and just place making and city making for current and future residents.

[Re-]Opening the Housing Debate

Isandla Institute formulated a critique of the emerging housing policy framework in South Africa between 2000 and 2001. This work culminated in the production of the edited volume Housing Policy and Practice in Post-Apartheid South Africa, published by Heinemann in 2003. ISBN: 0796207860, 9780796207869.

Do informal land markets work for poor people? An assessment of three metropolitan cities in South Africa

Isandla Institute coordinated and conducted a groundbreaking study into the operation of the urban land market, focusing on how the poor access, hold and trade land. The study was conducted in partnership with Stephen Berrisford Consulting on behalf of Urban LandMark in 2007.

Visit this link to access the research: Voices of the Poor: community perspectives on accessing urban land.

Municipal recognition of informal land markets

In 2008 Isandla Institute conducted an assessment of how municipalities can recognise and support informal urban land markets for Urban LandMark (ULM).

Click here to view the download: Implementation Support Strategy for Municipal Projects to Recognise and Enhance the Operation of Socially-dominated Land Markets.

SACN pro-poor property rating policies

On behalf of the SACN, Isandla Institute and PDG reviewed the extent to which property rates policies benefit poor home owners in cities in South Africa. The project was done in 2009.

Making urban land and space matter: A critique of the South African approach to urban transformation

Isandla Institute developed a position paper on the social function of urban land, in contradistinction to a purely economic, ecological or infrastructural perspective on urban land, 2010. This paper, and subsequent work, informed a submission on the Draft Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Bill in June 2011.

Guide on urban land governance

In 2011 Isandla Institute developed a guide on urban land governance for municipal officials. The guide was commissioned by Urban LandMark, based on research commissioned in the preceding four years, and as such is based on its philosophy of making urban land markets work for the poor. In 2012 Isandla Institute was contracted by Urban LandMark to develop and implement a dissemination strategy, which included hosting city-level workshops to introduce municipal practitioners to the guide.

Managing urban land: a guide for municipal practitioners 

The Right to the City

In 2014, Isandla Institute was the Southern African partner in a global initiative of Habitat International Coalition, focused on how The Right to the City was understood, adopted and/or implemented in different countries across the globe. Isandla Institute wrote the South African country paper and coordinated the production of the Kenyan country paper. This follows earlier work in 2011, when Isandla Institute and the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC, the South African partner of Slum Dwellers International) implemented a partnership project aimed at contextualising and concretising the notion of ‘the right to the city’ in the South African context. The project included the production of input papers and a series of iterative dialogues between the urban poor and within the urban NGO sector, culminating in a national policy dialogue.

Advancing a partnership-based approach to incremental upgrading of informal settlements

This 2-year project aimed at embedding a partnership-based approach to upgrading. The project combined research, facilitation, convening dialogues, media and advocacy. In 2012, the main focus was on strengthening the role, coherence and strategic position of the urban sector NGOs in this respect. In 2013, the focus shifted to documenting practices and lessons related to informal settlement upgrading in South Africa. This involved convening writing workshops and knowledge exchange sessions between different stakeholders involved in informal settlement upgrading, which culminated in the edited volume Upgrading informal settlements in South Africa: A partnership-based approach (published by UCT Press in 2016) ISBN: 9781775820833. The research and publication process was executed in partnership with the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town.

Western Cape Informal Settlement Support Programme

Isandla Institute led a team of experts to develop the provincial Informal Settlement Strategic Framework, accompanied by an operational plan and an M&E Framework, an Informal Settlements Support Plan (guiding municipal decision making regarding participatory and incremental options in relation to tenure, planning, design, servicing and housing consolidation) and a Prioritisation Tool to assist in prioritising spatially targeted interventions. The project took place in 2016, but Isandla Institute remains closely involved in the provincial roll-out of the ISSP as a formally recognised NGO partner.

Further details on the ISSP can be found at here.

Promoting safety and violence prevention through informal settlement upgrading

Based on a 2-year research and dialogue process involving the African Centre for Cities (UCT), VPUU and the GIZ Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention Programme (VCP), Isandla Institute developed a guide for municipal practitioners and policy makers, drawing out key insights and lessons to inform progressive practice. Promoting safety and violence prevention through informal settlement upgrading: Lessons from different informal settlement interventions for practitioners and policy makers was published in 2017.

Planning for Informality accountability tool

In 2017 Isandla Institute launched a web tool to enhance accountability related city responses to informal settlements and backyard shacks. Using public data (including reports submitted to National Treasury, the Built Environment Performance Plans, Integrated Development Plans, Service Delivery and Budget Implementation Plans and other municipal documents), the tool provides information on how the 8 metropolitan municipalities are framing their responses to residential informality. The tool also invites feedback and submissions from other stakeholders. The tool is updated annually.

Further details about the Planning for Informality accountability tool can be found at www.planning4informality.org.za

Building communities of practice to advance participatory approaches to informal settlement upgrading

Since 2014, Isandla Institute is implementing a programme (2014-2019) to promote participatory informal settlement upgrading. Isandla Institute’s role is to convene local and national community of practice meetings, develop and disseminate knowledge products, and use media, communication and advocacy to influence policy making and public opinion. Over time, the Cape Town based local community of practice has transformed into an NGO Collaborative Initiative, which has identified key areas for collaboration and joint action.