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Marginalised formalisation: an analysis of the in/formal binary through shifting policy and everyday experiences of ‘poor’ housing in South Africa.


Year published: 2019
Categories: Journal Article
URL Link: https://online.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/doi/full/10.3828/idpr.2019.26

Author / Authors:

  • Meth, Paula


This paper contributes to global debates over the in/formal binary through an analysis of the South African state’s provision of formal housing to residents previously living informally or insecurely. Focusing on cases within the cities of eThekwini and Msunduzi, it uses a mix of empirical data from housing beneficiaries and government officials alongside an analysis of documents to examine the processes and experiences of housing formalisation. The paper makes two key contributions. The first is to argue for a stronger focus on the processes of dichotomisation of the in/formal binary. It illustrates the significance of a processual analysis by examining shifts in South African housing policy and residents’ expectations of housing gain, noting a situation of hyperbole, where informal housing is regarded as unacceptable, to one of waning, where policy statements acknowledge a greater role for informality. The second contribution is to direct analysis to the idea of formal housing and processes of formalisation, as these have arguably received less attention in wider debates. The paper proposes the concept of marginalised formalisation to articulate both the shortcomings experienced by residents living in formal housing and also the misrepresentation of housing policy and government rhetoric of the benefits of formalisation. Marginalised formalisation is contextualised within ongoing urban poverty which frames this reality.

Keywords: informal housing, formalisation, poverty, binary, lived experiences

Free access to the online version is available here: https://online.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/doi/full/10.3828/idpr.2019.26

International Development Planning Review, Ahead of Print, DOI: 10.3828/idpr.2019.26


  • Journal Article