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The implications of backyard housing for spatial planning policy in Johannesburg

CSIR Policy Brief

This policy brief focuses on a specific form of informal housing in South Africa. Backyard Housing – also referred to as backyard dwellings or backyard ‘shacks’ - provide small scale affordable rental housing opportunities to a spectrum of people in the country in a context where affordable housing alternatives are few and far between. Although the South African government has tried its best to address a low-income housing ‘crisis’ in the post-apartheid period through its Housing Programme, informal housing continues to characterise South African settlements, especially within metropolitan regions. Within this informal housing umbrella, backyard housing fulfils a crucial housing function: it provides flexible, affordable accommodation (generally built by tenants) with the comfort of better access to services such as electricity, water and sanitation. Backyard housing is thus a natural and preferred progression from the often congested and unsanitary living conditions of informal settlements. The South African Institute of Race Relations (2008:1) confirms this trend stating that during the period from 1996 to 2007 ‘backyard informal structures as a proportion of total informal dwellings grew by 18%’.

This policy brief reports findings from a case study of Johannesburg’s backyard housing footprint, emanating from the Integrated Planning and Development Modelling (IPDM) project (see http://stepsa.org) – specifically from the Urban Simulation project component.

Article description based directly on source.


Website References

Built environment


Human settlements

Informal settlements


Land use




South Africa

Urban and Regional Dynamics

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