The story of Kya Sands is a story of ash, smoke, and broken promises. Search for the informal settlement on Google and you will find many articles relating to fires; including one that burned over 200 shacks in November 2015. Search a little more and you will find a list of protests and claims that formal housing that was promised but never forthcoming. A little bit more, and you’ll find accounts of the army being mobilized after xenophobic violence erupted.
Across the street, among leafy trees, shady street corners and swimming pools, you find the middle-class suburb of Bloubosrand. A quick search on Property24 shows that many houses are worth over 1 million rand. Across the street, tin shacks with car tires on their roof extend into the distance. If you look even closer, the main thoroughfares in Kya Sands are actually drainages for the black, filthy water emanating from the nearby creek.
Although there are many initiatives to better the conditions of people living in informal settlements, including electrification and housing upgrades, there is a massive influx of people coming every year to find work in South Africa’s economic center. Not all of them can afford housing, and many end up in informal settlements like Kya Sands. In addition, many of those living in informal settlements are foreign nationals, providing their own unique set of challenges to integration.
The Gauteng Department of Human Settlements has adopted a strategy of housing solutions that includes RDP houses, rental stock, bonded houses and subsidized mortgages. With this strategy and the prevailing statistics, they hope to have a “formal Gauteng between 2030 and 2055”.