The informal backyarding housing sector is an important example of a community-led solution to South Africa’s housing problems. But it is poorly understood and often ignored in urban policy and programmes. Our recent paper draws on fieldwork conducted in 8 neighbourhoods in Cape Town in 2020. It shows the nuanced and complex nature of the backyard rental market and the importance of social factors and relationships in this ‘market’. It further reveals that broader neighbourhood improvements (especially around crime and violence prevention) need to be part of a programmatic response to support and strengthen this housing sector.