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Hous­ing & Plan­ning

Housing & Planning

The LRC’s hous­ing and plan­ning strat­egy is designed to con­tribute to the process of build­ing a con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy. It has three com­ple­men­tary legs:

  • to cre­ate a new jurispru­dence that defines, pro­tects, respects, pro­motes and ful­fils the rights of the poor;
  • to help those in need on a client-by-client basis; and
  • to work co-operatively with gov­ern­ment and other organ­i­sa­tions in shar­ing infor­ma­tion in the inter­ests of the most mar­gin­alised mem­bers of South Africa.

To this end, the LRC has chal­lenged the assump­tion that under­pins many attempts made to evict. The assump­tion is that peo­ple can be moved with­out regard for the con­se­quences. The LRC’s lit­i­ga­tion work has forced author­i­ties and land­lords to con­front the fact that, at its most basic, human dig­nity can only be main­tained in a con­text where shel­ter is a real­ity. The LRC has taken a series of cases that has made it dif­fi­cult to evict peo­ple where they have nowhere else to go. It has also attempted to enable clar­ity to be pro­vided with regard to what it is that gov­ern­ment has to do to realise the right to hous­ing. It has fur­ther been involved in actions that ensure that gov­ern­ment ful­fils such oblig­a­tions. Vio­la­tions of rights and poor gov­er­nance typ­i­cally hit the poor and most vul­ner­a­ble groups the hard­est in par­tic­u­lar women and chil­dren and can simul­ta­ne­ously breed insta­bil­ity and polit­i­cal extrem­ism.

The areas of LRC’s work in Hous­ing & Plan­ning

A. Evic­tions in urban areas includ­ing:

  • Defend­ing those occu­py­ing infor­mal hous­ing from inequitable evic­tions
  • Defend­ing res­i­dents of infor­mal set­tle­ments against evic­tions
  • Ensur­ing that the courts con­sider ‘all rel­e­vant cir­cum­stances’ prior to issu­ing an evic­tion order to a home­less, infor­mal shack dweller
  • Ensur­ing that the courts con­sider ‘all rel­e­vant cir­cum­stances’ prior to issu­ing an evic­tion order to a home­owner threat­ened with los­ing his/her shel­ter due to non-payment

B. Defin­ing the right to hous­ing and shel­ter in urban areas includ­ing:

  • Giv­ing fur­ther clar­ity to the con­sti­tu­tional right of access to hous­ing
  • Secur­ing ade­quate per­ma­nent hous­ing for the home­less
  • Chal­leng­ing admin­is­tra­tive obsta­cles and unfair pro­ce­dures inhibit­ing hous­ing pro­vi­sion

C. Seek­ing reme­dies and tenure for those “des­per­ately in need”:

This work focuses on seek­ing court orders where gov­ern­ment is ordered to com­ply with Groot­boom deci­sion (around reme­dies for the poor) and other sub­se­quent cases such as Cape Kil­lar­ney (which sought a pol­icy that included the issue of the avail­abil­ity of land).

D. Ensur­ing access to basic ser­vices:

Increas­ingly, local author­i­ties have accepted that they can­not move thou­sands of peo­ple liv­ing in infor­mal set­tle­ments out of their munic­i­pal area and have put plans in place to pro­vide every cit­i­zen with emer­gency ser­vices and, over time, full ser­vices. How­ever, imple­men­ta­tion often does not extend to all those it should and the LRC is called on to assist res­i­dents to secure basic ser­vices and to help them in their inter­ac­tions with local author­i­ties.

E. The hous­ing sub­sidy sys­tem:

The hous­ing sub­sidy sys­tem aims to ensure all South Africans have access to hous­ing. How­ever, a num­ber of prob­lems exist with regard hous­ing wait­ing lists and the deliv­ery of the hous­ing devel­op­ments them­selves. A num­ber of the devel­op­ment projects require advance fees to be paid which pre­cludes par­tic­i­pa­tion by the poor­est. Once received, hous­ing is often found to fall far short of min­i­mum build­ing stan­dards. The sub­se­quent costs of occu­pa­tion can become intol­er­a­ble, espe­cially for unem­ployed peo­ple.

F. Rental hous­ing:

The Rental Hous­ing Act requires gov­ern­ment to develop its rental hous­ing stock as one of the mech­a­nisms through which access to hous­ing for all can be achieved. In terms of the Act, Rental Tri­bunals need to be set up in every province to enable ten­ants to have a forum in which to lodge com­plaints. At this stage there does not appear to be a pro­gramme to increase government’s capac­ity to pro­vide hous­ing through rentals. In addi­tion, the Rental Tri­bunals and their com­plaints mech­a­nism fall short of what is required to meet statu­tory oblig­a­tions.

G. The rights of ben­e­fi­cia­ries of gov­ern­ment hous­ing assis­tance pro­grammes:

There are impor­tant ques­tions regard­ing legal pro­tec­tion for those who have already received houses, includ­ing whether they should be enti­tled to sell their houses after deliv­ery (gov­ern­ment has intro­duced an eight year restric­tion on re-sale) and the extent to which the houses should be attach­able for debts incurred by the ben­e­fi­ciary (recently argued before the Con­sti­tu­tional Court).

H. Par­tic­i­pa­tion in law reform processes:

Over the last year, sub­mis­sions were made with regard to the amend­ments to the Pre­ven­tion of Ille­gal Evic­tion and Unlaw­ful Occu­pa­tion Act (PIE). The LRC expects to make fur­ther sub­mis­sions with regard to fur­ther amend­ments to PIE and to com­ment on the intended Social Hous­ing Bill.

Prior to the advent of democ­racy, the rela­tion­ship between the LRC and the apartheid gov­ern­ment was, under­stand­ably, adver­sar­ial. Now we con­tin­u­ally liaise with the author­i­ties both in respect of law reform and about how to improve hous­ing deliv­ery. Meet­ings have been held with provin­cial and local gov­ern­ment author­i­ties over the last years and these are increas­ing in reg­u­lar­ity. Dur­ing the course of this, LRC lawyers have often been asked by var­i­ous depart­ments to out­line the prob­lems that we have iden­ti­fied in the course of our work in the hope that solu­tions more con­sis­tent with pol­icy can be found.

LRC lawyers also try to ensure that the lessons learnt in our var­i­ous cases are shared with oth­ers. The LRC also has a his­tory of co-operation with other civil soci­ety organ­i­sa­tions (CSO). They often refer clients to one another – hous­ing NGOs send peo­ple with legal prob­lems to the LRC; and peo­ple seek­ing to involve them­selves in the hous­ing sub­sidy sys­tem are referred on to organ­i­sa­tions such as Devel­op­ment Action Group (DAG) and oth­ers in the Urban Sec­tor Net­work (a national net­work of urban hous­ing NGOs such as DAG). 

They LRC has acted on behalf of these organ­i­sa­tions when they have decided to inter­vene in court mat­ters as an ami­cus – such as in the case of Groot­boom. These co-operative rela­tion­ships with CSOs enable work to be bet­ter informed and clients to be bet­ter assisted.






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National Offices

Tel: +27 11 836 9831
Email: info@lrc.org.za

Address: 15th and 16th Floor, Bram Fis­cher Tow­ers,
20 Albert Street, Mar­shall­town, Johan­nes­burg
PO Box 9495, Johan­nes­burg 2000

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