At first glance the spatial pattern of post-1994 publicly funded low-income housing in Johannesburg appears to reinforce the historical spatial pattern in which poorer people are peripheralised to the edge of the city. Alarmingly, and contrary to policy intentions, in some cases housing developed after 1994 appears to extend apartheid geography, locating housing beneficiaries on the outer edges of apartheid townships.
But a closer look shows significant examples where state-funded low-income housing breaks from this pattern. A ‘public housing’ view of Johannesburg therefore shows both continuities and ruptures with the past. The situation is not simply one of earlier projects falling short of objectives and more recent developments aligning better with postapartheid visions. So what explains this diverse pattern, and why do some developments accord directly with the post-apartheid city's spatial objectives and others continue to appear not to?
In this chapter I discuss the reasons behind this pattern of development, citing explanations offered by provincial and city officials, as well as explanations presented in other analyses. However, a further factor is key to understanding the spatial dimensions of public housing, namely the living conditions of many poorer people. Private, oft en unauthorised, living circumstances are not only relevant to an overall description of how and where poorer people live in Johannesburg, but also help to explain patterns in publicly funded housing. However, before I develop these arguments, it is necessary to describe the dominant pattern of low-income housing development, and the nature of this type of housing.
Spatial description and the nature of low-income housing
The capital letter ‘G ‘, written with a tail, offers a graphic sense of the dominant spatial pattern of low-income housing projects in the city. If the Johannesburg metropolitan area is roughly oval in shape, with its long axis running north-east to south-west and tapering to a tail in the south-west, state-funded low-income housing projects delivered since 1994 can mainly be found tracing the outline of a sloping G: from the north-east perimeter of the city, arcing up to the north and sloping down to the north-west along the metropolitan boundary, then down to a cluster in the west of the city, and still further down along the south-west tail (Figure 9.1).