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Informal settlement upgrading in Durban, South Africa : building institutional capacity to sustain the improvement process Van Horen, Basil


This research examines the planning of the Besters Camp informal settlement in-situ upgrading project in Durban, South Africa. International experience indicates that in-situ upgrading has generally been successful in delivering services to the urban poor. It also confirms, however, that benefits of upgrading are mostly confined to project localities, and that the institutional capacity necessary for ongoing improvement in the lives of settlement residents is seldom created. Drawing from experience as a planner in some of South Africa's first generation of settlement upgrading projects, this research focuses on the question of how informal settlement upgrading can be planned in order to contribute to the continuity of the settlement improvement process. An important implication of the 'informalization' process in many Third World cities is that parts of cities in which the de facto rules of the game are dominant are growing considerably more rapidly than the 'formal city', which is governed according to the de jure instruments of control, such as statutory law, planning regulation, and legal administrative authority. In this context, the most common approach to planning the upgrading of shack settlements is to attempt to legalize, or 'formalize the informal'. Experience in Besters Camp upgrade elucidates ways of moving beyond a narrow focus on legalization, and onto more flexible regularization strategies. These strategies attempt to bridge the gap between de jure and de facto systems by integrating elements of both into the planning process, and thereby contributing to an amended legal regulatory framework appropriate to planning in informal settlements. Regularization involves putting in place the institutions - that is, the norms and structures - that are economically and politically viable, and which have the potential to carry the consolidation process forward into the longer term. Regularization takes as its starting point the delivery of services, which provides an activity into which capacity building initiatives can be integrated. Importantly, in order to sustain the impacts of upgrading projects, it is necessary to connect local settlement-level institutions and metropolitan-level institutions in such a way as to provide a relationship of complementary autonomy at both levels.

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