The Commodification and Financialisation of South African Housing

Friday, 3 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW1.3.03 (Tower One)
Gilad Isaacs, SOAS, London, United Kingdom; Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa
In 1994 the first democratically elected government in South Africa inherited a housing crisis premised on the systematic dispossession of the local black African population. At least 1,5 million households (18% of the population) were inadequately housed, concentrated in black townships on the urban periphery with few social services. Today approximately 20% of the population (3.1 million households) remain inadequately housed with low and medium cost formal housing often unaffordable and in desperately short supply. This is in stark juxtaposition to the opulence of the former white suburbs. This paper explores how this reality has been perpetuated by post-apartheid housing and spatial policy and practice which has been bound up in a process of commercialisation and financialisation. This is tackled in three dimensions. First, how the steady march of neoliberalism – and its incumbent processes of commercialisation and financialisation of social provision – has gradually shaped South African housing policy. Second, how financialisation has shaped, and ultimately retarded, access to housing for the poor. Third, how developments in the housing sector in South Africa have facilitated the broader processes of financialisation within the economy. Housing is a foundational good both in terms of how housing production can spur economic growth and regarding the centrality of housing in social and economic reproduction. The reasons for its failure to adequately fulfil either of these functions in South Africa are therefore worthy of analysis.