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Programs and Partners

South Africa

Programs and Partners

Rooftops Canada has worked in South Africa since 1990. (See below for an overview of our first 25 years in South Africa.)


More recently, Rooftops Canada was appointed to be the Executing Agency for the Equal Spaces: Social Housing to End Spatial Apartheid in South Africa Project. It is a four year initiative that began in April 2016 and is part of the bilateral program between the Governments of Canada and South Africa. The Government of Canada will contribute $2,500,000 to this initiative through Global Affairs Canada. Rooftops Canada - Abri International will contribute $316,800 in-kind. It is expected that the Project will lever considerable South African resources for social housing and urban regeneration activities and capacity building. 


 For the latest project updates see our blog


The intent of the Project is to revitalize inner city urban communities using well-managed, affordable and secure social housing developments to provide access to socio-economic opportunities that will both alleviate poverty and contribute to economic growth. The Project will work directly with the National Departments of Treasury; Human Settlements; and Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency. It will also work with the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA); the National Association of Social Housing Organizations (NASHO); and, with a range of stakeholders including provincial and municipal governments, social housing institutions (SHIs), community organizations, financial institutions and the private sector.


The Project will help build partnerships and protocols that will allow this diverse group of stakeholders to develop, operationalize and manage social housing and urban regeneration initiatives in at least four South African metropolitan cities. The Project will also focus on the institutional strengthening of SHIs to ensure their independent financial viability and to scale up their ability to develop and manage inclusive social housing developments. This will include developing and implementing a coordinated sector wide capacity building with the SHRA, NASHO and other important sector stakeholders. This will also include further building the capacity of NASHO to provide ongoing training and other services to SHIs.


The Project addresses a structural development problem that continues to challenge post-apartheid South Africa: the legacy of racial and economic exclusion and spatial segregation. This has resulted in urban areas with deteriorated inner city cores, surrounded on the periphery by sprawling housing developments far from employment and economic opportunity, and lacking in public services. It will help create the conditions for the construction of at least 4,500 social housing units in regeneration projects and 6,700 or more social housing units in other well located urban areas. The Project will result in South African stakeholders increasing the delivery of land, finance and other resources for social housing and urban regeneration initiatives, as well as the availability of affordable well located housing and improved socio-economic conditions for low income and previously disadvantaged households. Gender equality will be enhanced through initiatives aimed at women’s inclusion within institutional dialogue, enhanced leadership and economic opportunities, while environmental concerns will be addressed through a “green building” strategy.


Rooftops Canada in South Africa 1990 - 2015


Before the democratic elections in 1994, our partners were NGOs, civic organizations and the National Union of Mineworkers. Rooftops Canada Technical Advisors also worked with these groups and the ANC in the National Housing Forum which set the framework for new post-apartheid housing policies. Work with civic organizations also contributed to the re-definition of local government.


These partnerships continued throughout the 1990s with a strong emphasis on building local capacity for the delivery and management of cooperative and social housing. Technical assistance to two NGOs in Johannesburg and Durban led to the construction and refurbishment of hundreds of housing units. Work with the National Union of Mineworkers’ Housing Unit resulted in a complete restructuring of housing policies and practices in the mining industry.


Rooftops Canada also started working with the newly elected Cape Town Administration to develop tenure options and pilot projects for city-owned flats and hostels. A city-owned housing association helped to develop over 500 housing units. The wonderfully successful “Hostels to Homes” program was launched. By the end of 2007, over 6,000 households had moved from horribly overcrowded dormitory accommodation to new flats created out of and near the old hostels.


In the 2000s, at the request of the SA National Department of Housing, Rooftops Canada focused its efforts on developing the social housing sector. The Government of Canada CIDA provided major funding for a 2002-08 program which operated at many levels with numerous program partners:


  • Pilot projects and programs were carried out with community based and non-governmental organizations, and with all three levels of government and para-statal agencies.
  • Capacity to develop and manage social housing projects, programs and policies was built in the program partners, and the National Association of Social Housing Organizations (NASHO) was launched.
  • Rooftops Canada made significant contributions to social, co-op and special needs housing polices and the development of the new Community Driven Housing Initiative.
  • New understanding and attention was brought to the links between housing and HIV/AIDS.
  • Partnerships were developed with African regional housing groups and networks, and the Toronto Community Housing Company continues to play an active role supporting social housing groups in South Africa.


For the next few years, Rooftops Canada continued work with the National Department of Housing and the Johannesburg Social Housing Company (JOSHCO) to develop models for well managed public rental housing. It also supported NGOs working on housing micro-finance and housing related responses to HIV and AIDS.


To date, over $150 million in housing activity has been leveraged through Rooftops Canada’s programs in South Africa.
Related Links
Gender Equality Strategy
Guide to Greening Social Housing
South African Social Housing Groups Visit Toronto
Revitalizing Hillbrow, an Inner City Area of Johannesburg
Emerging Co-operative Housing Models in South Africa [pdf]
Study on Women in Hostels [pdf]
Ilingi Lbahlali Housing Co-op in Cape Town [pdf]
Hostels to Homes Programme - Cape Town [pdf]
Special Needs Housing South Africa [pdf]

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Africa Regional Activities