Building Houses Bit-by-Bit: The stories of Hazeldean-Ekupumleni

The City Research Studio (CRS) is a year-long course presented as part of the newly launched MPhil in Southern Urbanism as well as part of the Masters in Critical Urbanisms (University of Basel) semester at UCT. The CRS is a three-part experimental space for students, and faculty, to engage in the city, to learn to walk, see, smell, touch, embrace, explore and reimagine the city through intimate encounters with space, place and people mediated by diverse research techniques.

The first part of the CRS ‘the Lived Experience of Housing Policy,’ is coordinated by Professor Sophie Oldfield and Noah Schermbrucker, of People’s Environmental Planning (PEP), a Cape Town NGO that works to solve stalled housing projects. This year the study site was a neighbourhood known as Hazeldean or Ekupumleni in Philippi, Cape Town. Students, under the guidance of Oldfield, PEP and community leadership, were team-up with research partners from the community and conducted interviews with residence, which have been compiled in Building Houses Bit-by-Bit: The stories of Hazeldean-Ekupumleni.

The book shares the experiences of a neighbourhood built by women and their families linked to savings schemes in the South African Homeless Peoples Federation (SAHPF), assisted by People’s Dialogue on Land and Shelter and later by PEP.

Some stories share the building of a comfortable and secure home. For others, this house is a foothold in the city – a place to be proud of. For some families, their houses are a disappointment; unable to afford renovations, they struggle with life in these conditions. For many Hazeldean–Ekupumleni is their neighbourhood, a place they organised, a place they protect. For some who have yet to build homes – known as ‘landless’ families – they still hope and wait.