Beyond privatised urbanism: negotiating land transformations in developer-driven ‘affordable’ suburbanisation, Gauteng, South Africa

Authors: Sian Butcher*, University of the Witwatersrand
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Africa
Keywords: urban development; land; suburbanization; South Africa; state; capital; developers
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8223, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


South African municipalities have recently been empowered legislatively to control land development locally. This has seen a renegotiation of relations with land users, especially private developers, in the context of path-dependent and exclusionary land development processes. In these negotiations, concepts such as ‘privatized urbanism’ can only take us so far. This paper explores the shifting logics, points of contestation and concessions at play in state-developer negotiations around suburban township establishment for an aspirant but vulnerable middle class in South Africa’s biggest city-region, Gauteng. I draw on fieldwork with municipal development planning officials and property rates departments, consulting town planners and developers in ‘affordable’ suburbia across a number of municipalities. The paper contributes to understandings of the negotiated (rather than apparent) relationship of locally-embedded developers with developmental local government around suburban land development long before houses appear on the horizon. Contradictory imperatives of land value uplift, reducing socio-spatial inequality, financialisation of land and housing, and the workings of the ‘contract state’ fundamentally shape the dynamics and politics of turning land into serviced ‘stand’.

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