Securing the Right to Housing and Services in eThekwini’s Informal Settlements

Key Concepts: Spatial Inequality, Right to Housing

Like other major cities in South Africa, Durban’s eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality faces a growing population fuelled by migration from both rural areas and neighbouring countries. Many new residents find shelter in informal settlements which are, although real communities, often overcrowded and unsafe, lacking critical infrastructure. The municipality’s Human Settlements Unit endeavoured to create a “quality living environment” by new costructions, but after a while changed their strategy to implement an “incremental informal settlements upgrading” program.

The case is one of a municipality responsible for addressing an ongoing and growing problem that is beyond their financial and infrastructure capacity. It encourages discussions based on the concepts of spatial inequality (particularly apartheid’s legacy), and the legal codification of the right to housing. Combined, these present a conundrum: there is a legal duty to provide housing and services, this duty is tied to a history of inequality, and this duty falls primarily on municipalities, including municipalities like eThekwini who struggle to locate the resources to meet these duties.

Primary learning objectives:

• Examine municipalities’ role in providing housing
• Identify the human rights that are connected to housing
• Consider the needs and experiences of people living in informal settlements
• Consider what consultation is necessary to develop an effective housing plan