GHS Series Volume VII: Housing from a human settlement perspective

Media Release                                                                                                                                                                    20 April 2016


GHS Series Volume VII: Housing from a human settlement perspective
In-depth analysis of General Household Survey (2002-2014) and Census (1996-2011) data


The number of households living in formal dwellings across the country has increased from 76% in 2002 to 80% 2014 which signifies that the formalisation of housing arrangements in the country surpassed household growth. The progress on access to formal housing in the case of RDP and state subsidised housing can be traced in the Free State whereas Limpopo had relatively little growth in access to RDP/state-subsidised housing. However, the report indicates that the percentage of households in Limpopo living in formal houses increased from 82% to 94% between 2002 and 2014.


The GHS Series Volume VII report looks at housing within the broader context of the settlements in which they are located and the ideas around the concept of adequate housing which includes security of tenure and access to basic services amongst other dimensions.


The rate of housing provisioning of RDP/state-subsidised dwellings has surpassed that of the private sector between 2009 and 2014, given that the proportion of RDP/state-subsidised dwellings of all formal stock has increased during that period (from 16,8% to 19,1%). The quintile distribution of households living in RDP and non-RDP formal dwellings shows a clear distinction between the two groups in that more than 50% of the non-RDP formal dwelling inhabitants are from quintiles 4 and 5 and more than 80% of the inhabitants of RDP formal dwellings were in income quintiles 1 to 3.


The inadequacy of housing, especially amongst poor and vulnerable households, regularly comes under the spotlight during service delivery protests and was also a burning issue in the aftermath of the Marikana protests and massacre. Effective urban planning and service delivery is dependent on a better understanding of the flows of people and population growth in particularly urban centres. This is particularly important in the light of the fact that migrant households are more likely to live in informal settlements than non –migrant households. Gauteng had the most gains in terms of lifetime migrants between 2002 and 2011 (10,9%), followed by Western Cape with 9,4%. African males aged 25–29 were most likely to migrate.


In the Breaking New Ground plan (BNG), the progressive eradication of informal settlements is set as an overt target and the results of the study point towards mixed outcomes in this respect. Even though there has been a decrease in the urban population of South Africa living in informal settlements (from 17% in 2002 to 11% in 2014), the percentage of households living in informal dwellings has only decreased slightly from 13,6% to 13,1% during the same time period. The difference can be attributed to increases in households living in informal dwellings in the backyards of other dwelling types. In 2014 North West (21%) and Gauteng (19%) had the highest proportion of households still living in informal settlements, while the former (45,1%) also had the biggest percentage increase of its urban population living in informal settlements in general. The biggest declines in the percentage of the urban population living in informal settlements during the reference period were found in Limpopo (-75,5%), Mpumalanga (-63%) and Free State (-44%).


From a municipal perspective, Gauteng (81,8%) and Free State (80,0%) had the biggest proportion of municipalities where more than 5% of the dwellings consist of backyard informal dwellings. In Western Cape, 44% of municipalities were affected and 38,9% of local municipalities in North West were affected. These same provinces also carry the heaviest load in terms of the actual levels of informal dwellings in the backyard. Increases in these kinds of dwellings between 2001 and 2011 ranged from Swartland with a 4,2 percentage point increase to Nketoana in Free State with an 8,4 percentage point increase. Free State had four municipalities amongst the top ten with increases, followed by Western Cape with two. Most of the municipalities that experienced a contraction in the percentage of backyard dwellings were areas that were affected by a reduction in either mining or manufacturing activities during the reference period. Thus, the decreases may have as much to do with better provisioning by the local municipality than it does with a reduction in economic opportunities and, per implication, demand for housing by migrant workers.


The report indicates that there was a general decline in home ownership rates between 2001 and 2011, however, ownership rates increased in Free State and Eastern Cape. The biggest decline was found in Gauteng at 7,6 percentage points and the age group 20–34 years was most affected. Factors such as the introduction of the Credit Control Act during the second half of the reference period, the world economic crises as well as the greater availability of rental stock for low-income households in large urban centres may have contributed to this. According to the GHS report, rental of formal dwellings increased from 20% to 22% between 2002 and 2014, whilst rental of informal dwellings nearly doubled from 19% to 36% during the same reference period.


As the most populous province Gauteng contributed 29% to the overall household population in South Africa. In all population groups, except whites, limited migratory movement takes place after the age of 55 years.


In addition to breaking apartheid spatial patterns, increased security of tenure as well as the formalisation and general improvement in adequacy of housing has been one of the goals of housing related policies. Economic pressures on home owners have continued well beyond 2008, as the percentage of households across all income groups who feel that they have problems with the affordability of housing increased from 50,7% to 70,1% between 2009 and 2014. About two-thirds of households in the poorest quintile spent more than 50% of their income on their rent/mortgage costs.


Putting the value of the dwellings occupied by South African households under consideration, stark differences between population groups begin to emerge. More than half of South African households headed by the black Africans lived in dwellings that were valued at less than R50 000, whereas most households headed by Indians/Asians and whites lived in properties valued at R400 000 or more. In terms of the number of rooms in dwellings and per implication size there has been a shift between 2002 and 2014 towards more rooms in formal dwellings and changes from multiple rooms in informal housing to 1 to 2 rooms.


Some relationship has been found between household income status and the kind of dwelling occupied especially in relation to traditional dwellings. The latter were most likely to be occupied by quintile 1 and 2 households, while quintile 5 (wealthiest quintile) households were most likely to live in formal dwellings. Informal dwellings were generally occupied by an even spread of households between quintiles 1 and 4.


More than three-quarters of households living in RDP/state-subsidised houses used their house as


Issued by Statistics South Africa


For technical enquiries:

Ms. kefiloe Masiteng

Deputy Director General: Population & Social Statistics

Tel: (012) 310 4663



Dr. Isabelle Schmidt

Executive Manager: Social Statistics

Tel: (012) 337 6379



Media enquiries:

Ms Lesedi Dibakwane

Manager: Media Relations

Tel: (012) 310 8578

Cell: 082 805 7088