The provision of low-cost housing in South Africa : a wicked problem with a systems theory solution

Le Roux, Frieda Elizabeth (2011-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2011.


One of the serious problems facing South Africa is that of the provision of adequate low-cost housing for its people. According to Statistics South Africa (2009), 56% of South Africans lived in fully-owned formal dwellings in 2009. Not only does it seem impossible to work away the backlogs, but problems with the standard of construction, location and continuing urbanisation adds to the challenge. International commitments such as the UN’s Millennium Goals put further pressure on government to permanently resolve the issue. Adequate housing is recognised globally as a basic human right. This includes access to running water and sanitation and a safe environment. This study does not aim to investigate, in any way, construction techniques, specific choices of location or other planning-related issues. However, it does try to find a more successful approach to the challenge of the provision of housing given the already stated challenges, combined with, amongst others, the provision of the necessary financing and relevant political processes. The provision of low-cost housing is a wicked problem. This means that it has certain characteristics, including being unique in character and can never be fully resolved. However, within futures studies, systems theory is recognised as one of the more successful ways to address wicked problems. By investigating low-cost housing programmes in Brazil, Argentina and Peru and identifying the elements of systems theory used, it was possible to find pointers to help formulate a set of steps (or actions) to use to address South Africa’s low-cost housing challenge. This research report proposes that, while the challenge of housing provision in a country like South Africa will most probably always be present, it can be alleviated by applying systems thinking to the problem.

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