Key Terms


An accumulation of uncompleted work or matters needing to be dealt with. In the human settlement sector it refers to the number of housing units that still need to be built for poor households living in below standard housing conditions or without housing.

Source: NUSP Resources, Key Terms


Makeshift structure typically built with found materials (corrugated iron, cardboard, plastic, etc.) not approved by a local authority, not intended as a permanent dwelling, and located in the backyard of a formal house (not in an informal settlement).

Source: Statistics South Africa


Basic services within the South African context refers to access to minimum standards of water, sanitation, electricity and refuse collection. The definition of minimum standards is not clearly defined and different stakeholders apply different standards. Generally it could include any combination of the following: Water: Piped water inside the yard or within 200m of the yard. Sanitation: Flush toilet on a reticulated sewerage system, linked to a septic tank or a pit latrine with ventilation. Refuse removal: Regular house to house collections of various types or communal skip. Electricity: Connection to the grid with different levels of loading capacity.

Source: NUSP Resources, Key Terms


Land that has already been developed and building work either rebuilds or expands on the existing structures.

Source: NUSP Resources, Key Terms


Community engagement is a planned process with the specific purpose of working with identified groups of people, whether they are connected by geographic location, special interest, or affiliation or identity to address issues affecting their everyday life and well-being.

Source: NUSP Resources, Key Terms


The removal of people from land which they have occupied or a tenant from possession of premises in which she/he resides or has a property interest. This is undertaken through court action or by a landlord.

Source: NUSP Resources, Key Terms


People living together in one house or shack and cooking their meal together (eating out of one pot) – they need not be related.

Source: NUSP Resources, Key Terms


The progressive introduction of administration, management, engineering services and land tenure rights to an area that is established outside of existing planning legislation and may include any settlement or area under traditional tenure.

Source: Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, 16 of 2013


Residential areas where 1) inhabitants have no security of tenure vis-à-vis the land or dwellings they inhabit, with modalities ranging from squatting to informal rental housing, 2) the neighbourhoods usually lack, or are cut off from, basic services and city infrastructure and 3) the housing may not comply with current planning and building regulations, and is often situated in geographically and environmentally hazardous areas. Added to the global definition, the South African National Housing Code adds the following characteristics: illegality and informality, inappropriate locations, restricted public and private sector investment, poverty and vulnerability, and social stress (e.g. alcoholism, drug abuse).

Source: United Nations Challenge of Slums report (2003), National Housing Code (South Africa)


The policies, systems, processes and relationships that organisations or programmes use to legislate, plan and manage their activities efficiently and to effectively coordinate with others in order to fulfill their mandate.

Source: NUSP Resources, Key Terms


Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) is adopted by the South African Government every five years and is currently prepared by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Office of the President. In the 2014 - 2019 MTEF the national government set a target to upgrade 750,000 households in informal settlements to permanent engineering standards outlined in stages 2 and 3 of the UISP programme. In the MTEF, Programme 8 is called “Sustainable human settlements and improved quality of household life”. The target referred to is defined as: “Informal settlement upgrading will be expanded to cover 750 000 households, ensuring basic services and infrastructure in some 2 200 informal settlements”. Each city needs to report on their progress towards this 2019 target.

Source: DPME, MTEF 2014 - 2019.


Section 195 (1) (e) of the the Constitution of South Africa further states that “people’s needs must be responded to, and the public must be encouraged to participate in policy-making”. Participation is therefore a voluntary activity whereby citizens, as individuals or organised groups, exchange information, express opinions, and articulate interests. In local governments, Section 16 (1) of the Municipal Systems Act (no 32 of 2000) requires of local governments to “develop a culture of municipal governance that complements formal representative government with a system of participatory governance”. Participation is therefore wider than voting for political representatives in general elections.

Source: National legislation


The RAC approach was developed by private consultancy Project Preparation Trust for eThekwini Municipality and has been adopted by various South African government agencies/ departments. This RAC approach aims to identify and better understand informal settlements within a particular province or municipality and to thereby categorise them in terms of the broad types of developmental responses which are appropriate and achievable. The RAC categories for informal settlements promoted by government are:
Category A: Full upgrading consisting of full services, top-structures and formal tenure (i.e. formalisation) where appropriate, affordable and viable.
Category B1: Interim basic services (leading to eventual formalisation) where informal settlement sites are viable and appropriate but where such formalisation/full upgrading is not imminent.
Category B2: Emergency basic services for informal settlement sites where long-term formalisation (full upgrading) is not viable or appropriate but relocation is not urgent or possible.
Category C: Relocations as a last resort for settlements where there are urgent health or safety threats which cannot be mitigated and an alternative relocations destination is readily available.

Source: Project Preparation Trust for the Housing Development Agency, Guidelines for RAC


Services provided on an interim or temporary basis ahead of permanent engineering services or until no longer required. These are usually at a lesser standard (e.g. VIPs or communal sanitation blocks instead of sewer connections or standpipes for water instead of water connections to every house).

Source: NUSP Resources, Key Terms


Transit-oriented development, or TOD, is an approach to development that focuses land uses around a transit station or within a transit corridor. Typically, it is characterized by a mix of uses, moderate to high density, pedestrian orientation/connectivity, transportation choices, reduced parking and high quality design.

Source: Sustainable Cities Insitute


A strategy adopted by the National Treasury of South Africa supported by the City Support Programme. An urban network is generally comprised of a system of urban centres (also referred to as ‘nodes’) connected by main transport and movement routes (also referred to as ‘corridors’). The UNS seeks to promote a spatial planning approach in which South African city governments spend infrastructure grants in the urban network to improve sustainability, equity and financial and spatial performance.

Source: Isandla Institute definition