Housing and living conditions

Most statistics show that living conditions in terms of access to housing, electricity, clean water and sanitation services have improved considerably over the last two decades. However, with over 20% of the population living in extreme poverty and unable to pay for basic needs, far too many South Africans still live in dire circumstances.

Overview of CSI spend

Housing and living conditions were supported by 19% of companies and received 2% of CSI expenditure in 2016.


Guidelines for effective funding

  • Funding affordable housing in poor communities is understandably the most popular type of housing support in South Africa. However, funders should not neglect other critical issues related to housing and living conditions. For example, funders can consider catering for moderate income earners who neither qualify for government subsidies nor bank mortgages. Banks and large employers have a particularly important role to play here.
  • The need for decent and affordable housing is undoubtedly a pressing issue in South Africa and may be best addressed through strategic partnerships with a broad range of institutions, for example government agencies, businesses and local organisations. Funders should help mobilise and harness the combined resources, efforts and initiatives of the different stakeholders.
  • While the state has made notable strides in providing affordable housing for the poor, ongoing challenges include backlogs and poor standards of construction. Consequently, focusing on programmes that increase transparency and efficiency in housing allocation could be worthwhile for funders. Furthermore, funders could consider the positive impact of adopting environmentally friendly building systems and products.

Big picture figures

  • The 2016 public housing budget was R108.3 billion.
  • A 2015 review conducted by the Human Science Research Council, titled More than just a roof: unpacking homelessness, estimates the number of homeless South Africans to be between 100 000 and 200 000, based on their 2008 study.
  • According to the World Bank, South Africa’s rural population decreased from 53% of the total population in 1960, to 35% in 2015. Conversely, South Africa’s urban population increased from 47% in 1960 to 65% of the total population in 2015.
  • Based on the 2016 Community Survey, the proportion of households in formal dwellings increased from 65% in 1996 to 79% in 2016. The proportion of households living in informal dwellings decreased from 16% in 1996 to 13% in 2016.
  • The proportion of households with access to piped water increased by 9.5%, from 80% in 1996 to 90% in 2016.
  • The proportion of households with flush toilets (connected to sewerage or with a septic tank) increased from 52% in 2001 to 63% in 2016.
  • According to Statistics South Africa, 90% of households have access to electricity.