WIT Press

The Sustainable Location Of Low-income Housing Development In South African Urban Areas


Free (open access)








2,615 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


S. Biermann


Underpinning much of the international and local urban development and form literature, and becoming increasingly entrenched in local development policy, legislation and practice, is the common assertion that our cities are characterised by patterns of sprawl resulting in excessively costly infrastructure, excessive transportation costs and energy consumption, and environmental damage. The solutions offered relate to curtailing outward expansion of the city using urban edges, increasing densities and promoting public transport with associated increasing densities along public transit routes. The South African government’s subsidised housing programme has accordingly been criticised for providing low-income housing on urban peripheries, far from urban economic and social opportunities, allowing quantity housing targets to be met but at the expense of quality targets in terms of good location. A sustainable housing development cost–benefit model was developed for measuring and comparing the costs and benefits of alternative low-income settlement locations. This model was tested for a number of subsidised housing locations to enable the empirical comparison of locations in terms of the identified sustainability cost-benefit criteria and also to enable further refinement of the model. It was found that there is significant diversity in low-income households and it is not simply a case of \“one size fits all”. Different needs and priorities exist which translate into different criteria and levels of importance for different profiles of low-income households. Furthermore, access to formal employment nodes are less important for low-income households than access to informal opportunities, predominantly in the informal service industry within or near the low-income settlement itself, and access to middle to high-income residential areas where unskilled, semi-skilled and domestic occupations are in high demand. In measuring the sustainability of a location it is thus necessary to extend the measure of access to work to include these findings.