The South African social housing sector: A critical comparative analysis

Authors Sue-Mari Maass

ISSN: 1996-2126
Affiliations: Senior Lecturer, Department of Public, Constitutional and International Law, University of South Africa (UNISA)
Source: South African Journal on Human Rights, Volume 29 Issue 3, 2013, p. 571 – 590


Tenure status is one of the core elements in the poverty cycle and insecurity of tenure exacerbates poverty. Policy-makers and the legislature should respond to this component of the poverty cycle through the introduction of secure housing options in order to ensure that all individuals can actively participate in society and live autonomous, dignified lives. In a number of jurisdictions, including Germany, the United States and England, legislatures have responded to the plight of the poor during emergency housing (and economic) conditions by introducing social housing sectors as part of the landlord-tenant framework. Key components of social housing is that it is a statutory mechanism that introduces affordable, secure housing options for the poor, which is provided by independent, private institutions and requires continuous state administration since the whole sector is state-driven. The South African social housing sector, which forms part of the landlord-tenant framework, is founded in the Social Housing Act. The operation and aims of the Act (and the current social housing sector, in general) requires critical analyses from a comparative law perspective. Innovative social housing options in the landlord-tenant framework are essential in contributing to the improvement of secure tenure rights for poor households and consequential eradication of poverty. Nevertheless, a paradigm shift regarding the contemporary use of rental housing to provide substantive tenure rights for poor tenants on private property is necessary at both public and private levels in order to, not only engage with this form of housing, but also identify plausible situations where it can be imposed.