Urban Shelter: Citizen Rights – Understanding the role of cities

Growing urban populations have placed increased pressure on metropolitan municipalities to provide services, shelter, access and opportunities. In the absence of available, affordable and accessible shelter many city residents have taken their shelter needs into their own hands, often illegally, resulting in the evictions that have become commonplace in South Africa’s largest cities. In response, the courts have ruled that it is the responsibility of municipalities to find alternative shelter for those evicted, whether from public or private residences. Given the already overstretched programmes and fiscus of municipalities, and metros in particular, it is important that there is a reflection on the implications of this for our big cities, where the biggest need exists.


While the literature on urban shelter provision and rights realization in South Africa is vast and nuanced, there has been relatively little written from the perspective of the municipal experience of the urban shelter rights terrain. This document is an attempt to reflect on the experience of metro municipalities with regard to urban shelter rights. It poses some recommendations to address the current challenges faced by cities.