Housing, planning and urban health: historical and current perspectives from South Africa

Job Gbadegesin, Michael Pienaar, Lochner Marais

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/27775


Globally, policymakers often describe informal settlements and slums in terms of health problems. In this paper we trace the way housing and planning have been linked to health concerns in the history of South Africa and we assess post-apartheid literature on the topic. We note that researchers continue to rely on a biomedical understanding of the relationship between housing, planning and health although, we argue, the links between them are tenuous. We propose the capabilities approach as a way to understand this relationship. Reframing the relationship between housing, planning and health within the capabilities approach may improve the current understanding of this link. Aim.  This paper discusses the historical links between housing, planning and health in South Africa, assesses post-apartheid policy, and reviews post-apartheid literature on the relationship between housing, planning and health. Results and conclusions.  We find it is assumed that the link between housing, planning and health is a biomedical concern and not a social concern. We argue that scholars thinking about this relationship should consider the opportunities embedded in the capabilities approach to understand health outside the biomedical frame.


Informal housing, urban planning, urban health, capabilities approach, South Africa

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