Upgrade backyard shacks and help solve housing crisis, says urbanisation expert

Migration of people into our cities is a growing and ongoing phenomenon.

Professor Ivan Turok, Executive Director, Economic Performance and Development at the Human Sciences Research Council talks about how municipalities and government needs to address this reality.

I am not emphasising the need to formalise but rather am emphasising the need to improve these structures and in particular improve the infrastructure going into these shacks. Over the last decade we have seen a quarter million more people living in backyard structures, mostly in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

Prof. Ivan Turok, Executive Director, Economic Performance and Development at the Human Sciences Research Council

What comes with that is increased sewerage spillage, electrical fires, so the priority is to get our municipalities to take these structures more seriously so they have proper services.

Prof. Ivan Turok, Executive Director, Economic Performance and Development at the Human Sciences Research Council

And the services he is talking about are sanitation, water, electricity and refuse collection. As Prof. Turok points out, it is no good municipalities only catering for the refuse removal of one household if in fact the property houses multiple households.

We need to do something to reduce the number of fires, to reduce the infrastructure problems that this densification of our neighbourhoods is causing.

Prof. Ivan Turok, Executive Director, Economic Performance and Development at the Human Sciences Research Council

Densification is a really good thing in our cities to make our public services more viable and to reduce the sprawl of the urban areas and to give people better access to jobs and public transport...densification is quite an innovative solution to the housing crisis.

Executive Director, Economic Performance and Development at the Human Sciences Research Council

Government is quite nervous at this because it sees these people as doing something unlawful and it sees the dangers of overloading the infrastructure in these neighbourhoods.

Prof. Ivan Turok, Executive Director, Economic Performance and Development at the Human Sciences Research Council

Professor Turok says more discussion is needed, as this situation is not going away, and needs to be addressed.

People are finding a solution to the housing crisis themselves through self-help which is really interesting. And government needs to get off the fence and take some measures. It really would not be expensive. Upgrading backyard structures is much cheaper than building new RDP houses out in the middle of nowhere.

Prof. Ivan Turok, Executive Director, Economic Performance and Development at the Human Sciences Research Council

This article first appeared on 702 : Upgrade backyard shacks and help solve housing crisis, says urbanisation expert


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