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Small-scale rental housing

Moving from the low to the high road

Article image

Andreas Scheba , Ivan Turok, Claire du Trevou

06 June 2022



uKESA Librarian 3, Ivan Turok

Media article

Human Sciences Research Council

South Africa

Small-scale rental housing is a grassroots phenomenon that is transforming people’s quality of life by providing decent affordable accommodation in well-located neighbourhoods. It is also creating many jobs, skills and livelihoods by unlocking the agency and assets of individuals. 


This media article discusses the content of a new report from the Human Sciences Research Council and Development Action Group, that shows that harnessing the full potential of this phenomenon requires active support and enablement on the part of government, not the bureaucratic indifference or enforcement of inappropriate regulations that has often characterised the past.


In the absence of an effective housing policy that responds to people’s needs and realities on the ground, many township homeowners have been erecting makeshift structures in their backyards to rent out to individuals and families with no current place to live. 


This approach is largely a spontaneous process that has been repeatedly replicated across cities and towns and amplifies the present and growing need for affordable rental accommodation. The current legal requirements to develop at this level prove to be barriers. On the other hand with the developments taking place, municipal resources capacity is strained, leading to overwhelming demands on infrastructure.   


Proper recognition of the role of small-scale rental housing will be a journey rather than a quick fix. There is further work to be done to address the needs for suitable land, project finance and title deeds, and to protect the rights of tenants and neighbours in the face of overbearing developers. With the appropriate support systems in place, there are much better prospects of shifting township trajectories from the prevailing “low road” of overcrowding, insecurity and instability, and onto the “high road” of more liveable and vibrant neighbourhoods. The gradual regularisation and formalisation of rental properties should also render their value more visible and enable municipalities to capture a fair share of it through rates and taxes.


Abstract based on source


Website References

Built environment




Housing demand

Housing planning

Human settlements



Property law

South Africa


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