South Africa's emergency housing programme: a prism of urban contest

Cirolia, L. R. (2014). South Africa’s Emergency Housing Programme: A prism of urban contest. Development Southern Africa, 31(3), 397–411. doi:10.1080/0376835x.2014.887998

Cape Town
Publication type
Scientific article (peer-reviewed)
CityLab Programme
DOI Title
South Africa's Emergency Housing Programme: A prism of urban contest
Development Southern Africa
0376-835X 1470-3637
Liza Rose Cirolia
Published year
Geography, Planning and Development Development
emergency housing informal settlements South African cities urban policy temporary relocation areas



The Emergency Housing Programme (EHP) is an important subsidy tool in South Africa. The EHP was designed to realise the right to housing and ensure that municipalities rapidly respond to emergency housing situations. However, the programme's implementation has been harshly critiqued by activists, academics, and even other state departments, for a range of valid reasons. This paper explores the findings of a year-long research project consisting mainly of case studies, interviews, workshops and policy review aimed at understanding these criticisms. The research found that the EHP implementers are constrained by conflicted urban development imperatives that include: systemic housing demand, building investment-friendly and efficient cities, and other developmental programmes. This paper argues for a reading of the implementation of EHP as problematic prioritisation, rather than simply one of poor provision. In this way, EHP serves as a prism for urban contest and advocate for more strategic, holistic, and progressive urban decision-making.

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