Mercy Brown-Luthango

Role/Position: Research Officer Email: [email protected]

Mercy Brown-Luthango has a background in Sociology of Work. She has worked on a diverse range of research topics. Between 1998 and 2001, Luthango-Brown worked at the Development Policy Research Unit on a project called the South African Network of Skills Abroad (SANSA) which was concerned with quantifying the extent of “brain drain” from South Africa. Following this, she joined a labour supporting NGO, the Labour Research Services, where her research work included studying labour practices on wine farms, gender relations in the workplace, and the effect of global restructuring in the wine industry on South African wine farms. In 2006, she joined the Development Action Group, a housing and urban development NGO where her key responsibility was coordinating DAG’s value capture programme. This involved doing the necessary exploratory research work to develop and expand DAG’s programme on value capture and the social management of land and land value.


Her current research interests lie within the field of economics, relating specifically to land use planning. This involves understanding how certain planning processes (e.g. zoning, approval of land use applications, etc.) impact on the value of land and the use of this increased land value as a source of revenue for municipalities. She is also interested in studying the effects of certain land use practices (e.g. the retention of vacant land and the lack of appropriate regulatory tools to address these practices) and how these impact on the urban poor’s ability to access land and the way in which the city develops. She, therefore, also focusses on the interaction between land use regulation and issues related to density and urban sprawl. Another research interest is in the interaction between land use management, regulation and municipal finances, which is concerned with how certain regulatory and fiscal tools like land value taxation can be used both to effect more socially inclusive land use practices, as well as provide a means of financing the provision of infrastructure – specifically in poorer areas in the city – thereby creating a fairer distribution or redistribution of land and surplus land value.

Furthermore, Brown-Luthango’s research considers how poor communities organise themselves to realise their land and housing aspirations. She is interested in the functioning of community-based organisations and the nature of their engagement with other role-players, including NGOs, academics, and the state, and the strategies they use to navigate these often complex relationships in order to achieve their goals.


Recent publications:

Journal articles:

Brown-Luthango, M. (2015) Collective (in)efficacy, substance abuse and violence in “Freedom Park,” Cape Town, in Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 30(2).