Approximately 60% of South African live in urban areas and this number is growing. Despite a public housing construction programme that is relatively successful in statistical terms, there remains a massive shortage of quality housing and secure tenure.
At least 7 million people live with insecure tenure and no or inadequate basic services. Although often touted as the means for ensuring the provision of services and housing, there are also few concrete examples of in situ upgrading of informal settlements consistent with national housing policy.
Tension between powerful propertied interests on the one hand and the perhaps equally powerful flow of people into urban areas has made housing and land tenure the most frequently litigated social and economic rights issue in the Constitutional Court, and has led to a rapid legal developments and policy reforms in which a wide variety of public interest legal organisations have played a significant role.
Litigation and advocacy are key to addressing the many evictions that lead to homelessness which remain a regular feature of urban life. And in many cases, public interest legal organisations must compel municipalities to provide basic facilities, such as potable water, toilets and other forms of sanitation through litigation.