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Bill Rawson praises new approach to informal housing at Cape Town

“Like many Capetonians,” says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, “I was very impressed by the “City Desired” interactive exhibition organised recently by the UCT African Centre for Cities in collaboration with certain other professional firms.”

“It looks as if this could give a new approach to solving the serious affordable housing backlog.”

What especially impressed him about the exhibition, said Rawson, is that while dealing with a whole range of urban issues such as health, transport, education and sanitation it recognises that the many people who qualify and are waiting for RDP houses will often have to wait many years before they take delivery of their homes. As the exhibition revealed, said Rawson, it may take the City Council as many as 60 years to eliminate the current delivery backlog on RDP homes.
Those involved in the exhibition, says Rawson, are advocating a different approach to informal settlements, one that recognises that these are likely to be permanent or semi-permanent and that the best route to take, therefore, is to upgrade them.

“The UCT Architectural Department’s, Urban Think Tank, working in collaboration with ETH and an independent consultancy, Ikhayalami, has initiated a self-help project known as “Empowerment Shack”. Simple woodblocks are arranged and re-arranged by the residents on a massive table-sized plan to help them to rethink and reorganise their settlements.”

Using materials supplied (mainly wood frames and galvanised sheeting) but also contributing to the costs, the residents, who are trained by the initiators of the scheme, then build new, smarter, more durable homes with fire and flood resistance and flexibility for future expansions. These are easy to build and transport and they are also inexpensive.

“Several Cape informal settlement dwellers have adopted the system. One of the key factors behind its popularity is that the Ikhayalami system has introduced to informal settlements double-storey informal homes. These have the big advantage not only of accommodating more people but also allowing space for the homes owners to have start-up businesses on their plots, gardens or vegetable patches or simply for car parking. If adopted on a large scale, the double storey homes will lead to a smarter, more orderly look in the sections where they are built — and will greatly reduce fire risks because there are large open spaces on all sides.”

“All of these innovations are a big step forward. Let us hope very much that the initiators of this project will find the sponsors they need to keep this settlement rejuvenation scheme moving forward.”