Towards Facilitative and Pro-Poor Land Use Management in South African Urban Areas: Learning from International Experience

Tristan Gorgens, Stuart Denoon-Stevens

Paper presented at 'Rethinking emerging land markets in rapidly growing southern African cities', 1 and 2 November 2010, The Forum, Turbine Hall, Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa.

This paper begins the search for the appropriate ingredients of such a land use management system in South Africa's urban areas. In the first section it outlines some of the critiques levelled at land use management as a planning tool and then makes the case for its importance to enable integrative and transformative outcomes.  The reasons for the failure to overhaul land use management in South Africa are then considered. The second section reviews international experiences of innovation within particular regulatory systems, particularly examples of systems that have used methods other than Euclidean land use zoning to achieve the desired goal of spatial transformation. We focus on methods of analysis that take account the broader formal and informal dynamics of land use management, and innovations that take account of the poor's 'right to the city.' The third section then considers the potential and implications of these systems and innovations in a South African context; drawing out what we believe to be the key elements in the medium and long term that need to occur in the current system. Based on examples from both local and international practice, we present an argument for a land use management system that moves away from the traditional emphasis on zoning towards a more flexible system based on a tiered set of plans. We argue for a system that takes account of and responds to the dynamics of the urban land market, both its formal and informal dimensions, and that addresses the poor and their needs as the central focus of land use management.

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