New Book: ‘Cities at Risk: Living with Perils in the 21st Century’

Joffe, H., Rossetto, T. and Adams, J. (2013). Cities at Risk: Living with Perils in the 21st Century. Springer.

Description: With the major growth of the world’s population over the past century, as well as rapid urbanisation, people increasingly live in crowded cities. This trend is often accompanied by proliferation of poorly built housing, uncontrolled use of land, occupation of unsafe environments and overstretched services.  When a natural hazard strikes such a city many people are vulnerable to loss of life and property.  This book explores what these people think and feel about the threats that they face. How do they live with perils ranging from earthquakes to monsoons, from floods to hurricanes, in the 21st century?

The authors are drawn from a large range of disciplines: Psychology, Engineering, Geography, Anthropology and Urban Planning. They also reflect on how perils are represented in multiple cultures: the United States, Japan, Turkey, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The book therefore not only brings to light the ways that different cultures represent natural hazards but also the different ways in which various disciplines write about living with perils in the 21st century.

The book is addressed both to researchers and to organizations involved with risk management and risk mitigation.

For more information click here.

New Report – ‘Cities and Climate Change: Global Report on Human Settlements 2011’

Planners and others continue to explore how the world’s cities will be
affected by climate change in the coming decades, and this 62-page report
released by the United Nation’s Human Settlement Programme takes a close
look at the subject. This abridged version of the full report argues, “local
action is indispensable for the realization of national climate change
commitments agreed through international negotiations.” Visitors will find
that the report is divided into six chapters, including “Urbanization and
the Challenge of Climate Changes” and “The Impacts of Climate Change on
Urban Areas”. The report draws on a wide range of scholarly data taken from
UN reports, along with others working in the field of climate change and
environmental science.

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‘Housing, Institutions, Money: The Failures and Promise of Human Settlement Policy and Practice in South Africa’

Abstract: This paper considers why the housing subsidy programme in South Africa has had so little impact on poverty reduction despite its scale and generous funding. It discusses how this was linked to the government’s conception of housing, the institutions involved and who controlled funding flows for housing. Most government funding went to contractors to build new units “for the poor”; it was assumed that these would replace homes in informal settlements that the poor developed themselves. Despite statements about the government’s commitment to the People’s Housing Process (PHP), informal settlements were only seen in negative terms and there was no support for incremental upgrading and very little support for low-income households to build their own homes. Meanwhile, the contractor-built houses were usually too small, of poor quality and in locations far from livelihoods and services. The paper ends with suggestions for how the formal institutions of government can learn to support and work with the poor. The incremental approaches of the poor to their own housing and livelihoods can serve as an alternative first principle for conceiving of the challenge of human settlements policy and practice. Furthermore, funding flows and their associated institutions should support people-centred development and institutionalize systems that make the informed participation of residents of informal settlements a pre-condition for state support.

Full Citation: Bradlow, B., Bolnick, J. and Shearing, C. (2011). Housing, Institutions, Money: The Failures and Promise of Human Settlements Policy and Practice in South Africa, Environment and Urbanization, Vol. 23 (1): 267-275 (Available for download with subscription at:

‘Sexwale doesn’t grasp constitution – NGOs’

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale misunderstood the Constitution and the reasons that poor people crowded into shack settlements and inner city buildings, rights organisations said on Friday.

“Poor people will continue to move to urban centres in search of jobs, whether or not courts defend their rights,” the organisations said in a statement.

“It would be better if the government acknowledged this reality and saw this as an opportunity for economic development and growth, which would be part of its development of an appropriate urban housing framework.”

The organisations are the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, Section 27, the Legal Resources Centre, Lawyers for Human Rights, the Community Law Centre, and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies.

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A New Report: ‘The State of African Cities 2010: Governance, Inequalities and Urban Land Markets’

The State of the African Cities 2010 goes above and beyond the first report, which provided a general overview of housing and urban management issues in Africa. With the subtitle: Governance, inequity and urban land markets, the report uncovers critical urban issues and challenges in African cities, using social and urban geography as the overall entry points. While examining poverty, slum incidence and governance, the report sheds more light on inequity in African cities, and in this respect follows the main theme of the global State of the World’s Cities 2010 report. Through a regional analysis, the report delves deeper into the main urban challenges facing African cities, while provoking dialogue and discussion on the role of African cities in improving national, regional and local economies through sustainable and equitable development. The report has been drafted in cooperation with Urban Land Mark. Through an analytical survey of several African cities, the report examines urban growth, social conditions in slums, environmental and energy issues and, especially, the role of urban land markets in accessing land and housing.

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‘Free housing cannot continue forever – Sexwale’

Free housing in South Africa cannot go on indefinitely, said Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale on Monday.

The country has a housing backlog of 2,3-million units that the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) is aiming to address through a number of initiatives by 2030.

“However, we do not want to create a beggars culture where people just expect to be given free houses from the State. This is just a safety net for the poorest of the poor, but cannot go on forever,” said Sexwale at a media breakfast in Johannesburg.

The Minister noted that it was important for South Africa to start showing strong growth rates, referring to government’s target of a sustainable 7% growth rate a year. “This will assist in creating jobs and therefore positioning people to start taking responsibility for their own financing and housing needs.”

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‘Sexwale urges engineers to share ideas on clearing housing backlog’

Engineering News, 20 October 2010

The Department of Human Settlements (DHS) would need to engage with construction companies if it was to meet the challenges faced by the sector and deliver the expected 220 000 housing units a year, by 2014.

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said on Wednesday that there were currently 8 700 human settlement projects under way in South Africa.

“Construction is happening,” he reiterated, and added that if the so-called ‘Human Settlements 2030′ vision was to be realised, “massive” construction sites would have to be established throughout the country. This would create employment and involve the youth.

Delivering a keynote address to officials gathered at the DHS and Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) ‘Knowledge Week 2010′, Sexwale emphasised that corruption needed to be tackled. He urged delegates to discuss the issues thoroughly and come up with relevant ideas to solve the problems.

“R1,3-billion I have lost, that was used to build houses that are falling apart,” said Sexwale, commenting on money lost through shoddy construction, often linked to tender irregularities.

To meet its goal of eradicating the housing backlog in South Africa, the DHS would also need to acquire some 6 250 ha of land, and provide about 600 000 new ‘gap fund’ loans for people who did not qualify for subsidies but still needed assistance.

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