Lizette Zuniga

It has been an incredible non-stop adventure since I arrived in Johannesburg on October 1st 2016 to work on the Equal Spaces: Social Housing to End Spatial Apartheid in South Africa Project. I am here for two years with Rooftops Canada. I am working with public, private and community stakeholders in four metros to help them develop precinct regeneration projects in which social housing plays a catalytic role.

National Workshop on Land Release: Small group session led by Malcolm McCarthy, NASHO’s E.D.

National Workshop on Land Release: Small group session led by Malcolm McCarthy, NASHO’s E.D.

I am based in the offices of NASHO, the National Association Social Housing Organizations, which set up an intensive induction program throughout October.  I have met with social housing institutions (SHIs), key metro government staff, NGOs and activists, and have toured social housing projects and precincts in several major cities including Johannesburg, Tshwane (Pretoria), eThekwini (Durban), Muizenberg and Cape Town. There are so many concerned people here ready to take on the challenges that came in the wake of rapid urbanization following the end of apartheid in 1994.

Thrown into the deep end and with loads of help from NASHO, I led a National Workshop on Land Release in November – only seven weeks after arriving. Held in Johannesburg, we had 11 speakers and approximate 40 participants each day. Half were women and included people from all three levels, or “spheres” as they are called here, of government, agencies, NGOs and SHIs, including developer partners. In the local jargon, land “release” is the municipal process (mainly) to make land available to social housing institutions to develop affordable rental housing.  It was also great to have inputs form Mark Guslits, a former colleague from Toronto Community Housing, who has been sharing our Regent Park experience with South Africans over the past few years. Workshop participants worked out a consensus on key mechanisms and tools to facilitate and support municipal land release for social housing and urban regeneration projects.

The eKhaya precinct social housing and regeneration project in inner city Johannesburg.

The eKhaya precinct social housing and regeneration project in inner city Johannesburg.

There is an intense awareness and activism from stakeholders in many South African cities around the role of social housing projects and urban regeneration.  There is also great optimism and sophistication in the way that engaged municipal staff, social housing institutions, NASHO and other actors work together. In the middle of the terrible apartheid legacy of inner city derelict areas and black townships sprawl, there are many healthy urban real estate markets with an active development industry open to participate in urban regeneration partnerships.  South Africa’s urban agenda is creative and full of civic commitment to make it happen.

Watch for my next blog with updates on my work with several of the metros.

Lizette Zuniga, Senior Technical Advisor, Rooftops Canada