aerial view of shacks next to homes in cape town south africa

Informal settlements crowd the land next to the formal housing in Philippi, Cape Town, South Africa. (2016)

The same location (aspect reversed) shot in 2018.

Adequate housing and basic services are a major quality of life issue that many people still deal with in Cape Town. Over 193000 households are within 204 “informal settlements” within the city, which is a huge number living in extremely dense, poorly serviced conditions. Protests are not uncommon, oftentimes accompanied by a heavy-handed police crackdown and destruction of homes.

Sweet Home was primarily a dumping ground for builder’s rubble like bricks, which you can still see being recycled on the side of the road today near the south end of the settlement. Services and conditions are poor. Vukuzenzele, just to the north, was developed in collaboration with a fund to provide affordable housing to South Africans. The visual difference between the two is stark. The organic network of roads and dwellings to the south contrasts sharply with the orderly, geometric patterns of the planned community to the north. This means much more than simply representing a difference in wealth, writes Diana Mitlin.

“Just as the community capacity building element provides an essential legacy in being a social asset that will help enable the community to address its future goals, so the development of physical assets provides essential assistance. In this case, the physical assets incorporate secure tenure, access to adequate services and improved living conditions. This enables families to have access to healthy living conditions and offers them the opportunity to accumulate resources. However, the development of physical assets is also important for another reason; it provides the arena within which collective skills and capacities can develop.”
aerial view of shacks  in cape town south africa

Detail of Sweet Home (2016).

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