Inequality and Economic Inclusion

Emergency Relief in Informal Settlements: Proposals for Action

  • Year: 2008
  • Organisation: TIPS
  • Publication Author(s): Mark Misselhorn and Tanya Zack For Urban LandMark
  • Countries and Regions: South Africa


This document is a response to the aspiration of National Treasury to define practical mechanisms which will enable emergency relief for informal settlements and associated urban economy interventions to rapidly occur on a national basis. This aspiration flows largely from a draft urban strategy for the second economy formulated for the Office of the Presidency by Urban LandMark and in particular one of the constituent position papers which focussed specifically on informal settlements .


For a range of reasons, conventional approaches to IS by the state, and most notably that of ‘slums eradication’, are unworkable at scale. Unless there is a radical change of approach, limited progress will be made in addressing the living conditions and economies of the urban poor.

In particular, it is not possible to provide all informal settlement residents with the ‘ideal’ housing solution (40sqm starter home on a fully serviced site with a title deed costing on average over R80,000 as a total package) in the near term, and certainly not by 2014. The following are among the key factors which cause this to be the case:

• Insufficient capital funding for the necessary housing, land and services (both internal and bulks).

• An acute scarcity of developable and well located land for green-fields projects (including those catering for relocations).

• Obstacles to conventional, full scale in-situ upgrading due to the high levels of relocations which result (often around 50%) and which are unavoidable due to such factors as high settlement densities and the marginal nature of the underlying land parcels (e.g. steep slopes, powerline servitudes etc).

• Insufficient capacity within the state to deliver conventional housing and ‘slums eradication’ at the desired rate associated with low levels of involvement of the NGO and private sectors (this has reduced over time due mainly to the nature of state policies and is exacerbated by high competition from other major infrastructural initiatives in the country).