Gentrification: 4 Practical Solutions for a Way Forward in Cape Town


The second Future Cape Town Summit, entitled Gentrification: Practically Speaking, took place on the 26th of June, 2013 and was hosted at the Cape Institute for Architecture in Cape Town. The meeting was a mid-morning gathering of public and private stakeholders on the panel, and was geared towards finding practical solutions on the contentious issue of gentrified spaces in the city. Below are four practical solutions that came out of the summit discussion. For further reading, please see our full Summit discussion paper and proceedings here.


1.  The need for progress in delivering affordable housing

If gentrification is to be addressed, then the matter of affordable housing has to be strongly considered. Alternatives such as gap housing and innovative, cooperative solutions were subsequently proposed as innovative ways of managing property for current residents without the resources required of increasing rents in gentrifying communities. Also, inherently important to building social housing in gentrifying spaces is also addressing the generally negative associations with social housing and social housing projects. Proactive planning and identifying sites, as well as public-private partnerships that address both the physical need for housing and the desired effect of diverse, safe, and vibrant neighborhoods should be the goal of designs going forward.

2. The availability and accessibility of support services

The availability of rate rebates or ʻindigentʼ grants offered by the City to alleviate the burden of increasing housing costs for residents in neighborhoods was pointed to as a practical solution that is already in place and actively helping those in the Bo-Kaap, a neighborhood often (correctly or incorrectly) described as gentrifying. Greater transparency, in practical terms, for the promotion of existing support services was identified as a positive and practical, if labor intensive, solution. Integral to this is to open ownership and responsibility for this process to civil society, so it is not solely the outcome of government time and financial investments.

3. A rethink on design and interaction

It was mentioned that in addition to the economic and spatial barriers that come with changing neighborhood demographics, there are often specific cultural and architectural changes that create real barriers and exclusionary practices in the way spaces are constructed and experienced. This could be anything from the way parks and houses are designed, as well as, the ways that accessible non-motorised and parking routes affect peopleʼs behaviour and their interaction with the spaces around them. It is worth noting that the City of Cape Town has drafted an Urban Design Policy Framework to remedy this (Future Cape Town commentary on the policy may be found here).

4. More empirical research

There is more anecdotal and less extensive research on gentrification – this empirical gap must be bridged by encouraging extensive and local, contextually based research that focus on understanding the process of gentrification as it fits into different communities, neighborhoods, and cultural realities. Empirical solutions are required to address gentrification as a complex phenomenon, as well as itsʼ related problems, to be answered in a specific, efficient and practical manner.


Gentrification is a highly-charged and complicated issue, whose meaning, impact, and externalities is often subject to great disagreement. It is important to encourage dialogue on the topic at multiple-levels: on the street, in larger community venues, and with high-level stakeholders and thought-leaders, and for each to occur within academic, political, cultural, and economic settings. It is also crucial that these dialogues come with the purpose of encouraging communication and collaboration, while also creating or highlighting realistic, positive solutions to the changes at hand. The above suggestions are just a few that exist that may increase the quality of life in Cape Town in communities that are experiencing the cultural and economic changes of gentrification.

We are grateful to all attendees for giving of their time and expertise, and hope that the conversation on this topic will continue.

There is one comment

  1. Schalk van Heerden

    I think the research done on the issue of Gentrification in CT is well documented. It has looked at the process from a supply and a demand side approach. Gentrification in short is a neo liberal enforcement of the previous group areas act is based on the group’s economic profile rather than the group’s racial profile.

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