The rise of the Phoenix or an Achilles heel? : Breaking New Ground's impact on urban sustainability and integration

Smith, Tarryn Nicole Kennedy (2010-12)

Thesis (MA (Geography and Environmental Studies)--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In 2004, the then Department of Housing’s Breaking New Ground (BNG) policy introduced a compilation of principles that underlie a sustainable human settlement. The principles were aimed at guiding, amongst others, municipal officials in the decisions they take when faced with a housing development project. This thesis will set out to determine how municipal officials have taken up BNG’s principles for sustainable housing settlements as well as the perceptions, methods of implementation and degree of acceptance that housing and town planning managers have of BNG. In the study, the perceived relevance that these managers have of BNG within their non-metropolitan towns is explored using five of the fifteen leader towns of the Western Cape Province. This research has shown that BNG considers the compact urban form, coupled to other development considerations, as the most sustainable for South Africa. In terms of building sustainable human settlements: the low-income housing unit has evolved substantially since its conception, and that the current unit is held in far higher regard (by both municipalities and beneficiaries) than its predecessors. The design of this unit remains standardised due to a lack of funding for a more flexible design, but its structure allows for additions to be made at the cost of the beneficiary. Funding thus remains a major constraint to housing delivery. Municipalities feel that they are able to implement BNG, but that there are certain shortcomings in the document which prevent its full implementation. One of these shortcomings is the lack of an external funding mechanism for housing delivery, proposed in BNG, but never having materialised. Further, BNG focuses more on the metropolitan scenario and is not always relevant to non-metropolitan towns. Almost all of the municipalities have initiated inner city regeneration projects, but fewer have included the provision of social housing as part of their inner city rejuvenation. Subsidy housing is the most implemented housing typology, but these units often experience decay due to the absence of original owners who have (mostly illegally) sold or rented out their units. The one-erf-one-unit nature of subsidy housing is not seen as sustainable owing to space limitation experienced by most of the municipalities interviewed. Contrary to earlier research, in situ upgrading is a common occurrence in municipalities. However, there is a great need for stronger regional (or broader scale) planning regarding housing delivery. Low-income housing is strongly influenced by politics – a fact which municipalities say negatively influences housing delivery. Migration also poses a serious threat to municipal backlogs. Currently, the fight against an escalating demand for low-cost housing is a losing battle as the rate at which government is rolling out housing is vastly ineffectual. Municipalities deem that large-scale projects like the N2 Gateway might be a solution to their housing backlogs which, they concur, are at crisis point. However, municipalities indicated that their implementation of large scale projects will not follow the same path as the N2 Gateway – the planning of which is seen to be substandard. Currently, urban integration takes place on an income basis and not due to racial division. Inclusionary housing is seen as a relevant tool for the promotion of integration, but cannot be enforced to its full potential due to a lack of supporting legislation.

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