South Africa: Affordable Housing Crisis Facing the Working Poor


The frustration of working families unable to find affordable housing lies behind some of the recent land grabs. Housing policy has focused on building free houses for indigent households, and neglected the struggles of low wage earners to obtain decent homes.

People who should be able to afford reasonable accommodation are condemned to squalid and overcrowded conditions. Their exclusion from the formal property market contributes to mushrooming backyard structures and rising rentals.

What was once a housing crisis for unemployed and destitute groups now reaches deeply into the working population. People's dreams of owning their own home have faded because they earn above the bare minimum to qualify for a free house, but too little to afford a property in the formal sector. The "gap" market has become a chasm.

Households earning between R3,500 and R15,000 a month conventionally fall into this category, but dwindling house-building, elevated house prices and high interest rates have pushed the threshold beyond R17,000. They include policemen, mechanics, bricklayers, secretaries and administrators. Despite stable...

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