Missionvale was a squatter camp outside Port Elizabeth was well known for its poverty, unemployment and destitution. An estimated 2 000 families were living in makeshift homes made of such diverse materials as corrugated iron, cardboard, wood and plastic. A feasibility study had identified a municipally owned site adjacent to the squatter settlement that was suitable for a housing development, because of its closeness to places of potential employment, accessibility to existing road systems and bulk servicing.
The project developers explored the best way to maximize the R15 000 subsidy, ensuring full ownership, and not placing an undue financial burden on those families who qualified for the subsidy by earning less than R1500 per month. Various methods were considered, such as shared services and different methods of construction. Thereafter, it was decided that the only way to demonstrate the benefits of high density housing to sceptical shack dwellers was to build pilot houses. A variety of houses were built - freestanding houses, duplexes and fourplexes - as an example of the various options available to qualifying families.
493 houses were constructed, and almost 800 families qualified for the government-housing subsidy. Accordingly, a fair and equitable selection process was negotiated, with representatives of the community laying down their own stipulations for selection. It was agreed that applicants should have lived in Missionvale for more than five years, with "a record of being good citizens during this period". In addition, priority was given to families earning less than R800 a month.
Once occupation of the houses had taken place, the project moves into a second phase of general social upliftment and assistance with access to municipal services, and other social services. The costing was designed to allow between 25 and 30% of the government subsidy to be used for services - water connections, sewerage, roads and storm water drains. In the post-implementation phase, street committees have been set up to deal with issues such as community policing, distribution of health information and education around home ownership.
Missionvale has achieved mass low-cost housing, in a creative way which has avoided the formula of a monotonous array of so-called "starter homes" on single plots. A key component in such a project's uniqueness also lay in the community's involvement at virtually all levels of major decision-making around their housing provision.
"We tackle development from a communal point of view - both physical and social issues. On the physical side we provide homes, and on the social side we run workshops on landscaping, tree maintenance, home improvements, as well as life skills, values and health issues." Lance del Monte, Project Co-ordinator