Strengthening the South African National Upgrading Support Programme



Approval Date
Actual Completion Date
Proposal Focus
Core Focus
Secondary Cities
Country Type
South Africa
Lesson Learned for Cities Alliance Members and Partners
There are many lessons from NUSP which could be highlighted. The following factors were essential in securing the success of the NUSP: 1) Long-term commitment: The efforts to mainstream upgrading in South Africa, which were later formalized through NUSP started long time ago, during the transition period, and early years of re-democratization. This long relation in this crucial policy area gave the credibility for NUSP to engage within the policy-making process in these last three years. 2) Evidence-based program: A well-designed and thorough assessment phase, which evaluated and presented strong evidence for a change in approach. One of the first activities under NUSP was an evaluation of the SA Housing Policies – Breaking New Ground (attached) which pointed up what was working, what was not, and why. This crucial analytical piece put upgrading back in the centre of the housing policy debate. 3) Technically sound: The use of professional and highly experienced consultants, both local and internationally-based. The NUSP team was composed by very experienced and respected professionals who had credibility with the client, the Bank, and partners. This ensured the highest level of confidence on NUSP directions. 4) The client in the driver’s seat: Although this was a Bank executed grant, NDHS always considered NUSP their program. In additional, the close collaboration between the technical consultants and NDHS officials ensured that the programme design was realistic, achievable and could be incorporated into NDHS forward plans and budgets 5) Political Commitment: NUSP achieved the highest political backing. It was formally included in the Performance Agreement between NDHS and the Presidency Office. It was championed by the highest political and administrative levels of NHDS. Indeed, securing high-level political commitment was instrumental to securing that NUSP principles were incorporated into South Africa national housing policies and programs. 6) Changes on the ground take time: Although NUSP was very successful in terms of mainstreaming upgrading into national discourse, the actual implementation of the new policy instruments is just starting with the allocation of USDG grants this fiscal year and the implementation of the Presidential Delivery Agreement No. 8. 7) Changing mind-sets is more difficult than building pipes, drainage and roads: Although all the incentives in the new housing policy framework, most Provinces and metros are mainly doing business as usual. In other words, buildiing RDP new houses instead of in-situ upgrading. Political, economic and social factors still play a countervailing force to the new national policy priorities. The whole national housing policy framework also reflects this conflicting and fragmented institutional landscape. This is a half-full bottle, and the commitment of the NDHS to scale up the NUSP program in the next 3 years will be vital for making a decisive mind-set shift. 8) Leveraging Partnership: Another important pillar of NUSP is its foundation on partnerships. To start with, NUSP was "born" as a partnership between the National Department of Human Settlements, Cities Alliance and the World Bank Institute. Other important partners are United States Agency for International Development, Urban LandMark, FinMark Trust, and the Neighborhood Partnership Development Facility. Each partner has a complementary role under NUSP, adding their particular values on a demand-driven basis. Some partners played an important role as source of information and expertise of specific aspects relating to informal settlement upgrading and sustainable human settlement development. Others were fundamental in levering resources and global expertise. Provinces and municipalities were also incorporated into the partnership platform, and encouraged and facilitated through the Upgrading 9) Community Participation: NUSP made the case that it is impossible to upgrade an informal settlement in situ without the complete and enthusiastic involvement of the residents. Experience has shown that if the residents are merely informed or consulted about the municipalities’ plans to upgrade their area they will not regard the project as theirs and are unlikely to feel responsible for protecting what it provides. However, if the municipality asks the residents to work with them in planning, implementation, and post-occupation improvements to their informal settlement, a completely different attitude can be expected.


In 2004, the Government of South Africa introduced new upgrading policy, within the framework of the Comprehensive Plan. In order to meet its 2014 target to reduce the number of informal settlements to zero, the National Department of Housing (NDOH) undertook to design and implement a multi-stakeholder support program. The NUSP has made significant contributions to the national policy dialogue on informal settlement upgrading, gained support from the Office of the President and packaged a range of technical assistance and capacity building activities which are now being implemented. In addition to technical support, the NUSP has mobilized various actors including provinces, local authorities, private sector, city society and communities.
The objective of this project is to provide critical policy, analytical and technical advisory support in the first years of the NUSP. The NUSP has been designed to address two key challenges in informal settlement upgrading; first, the need to organise and implement a robust and effective programme with well-planned projects to ensure delivery against target and meet defined objectives. Second, current official professional behaviour, attitudes and organisational culture have to change to embrace incremental upgrading, participatory planning and livelihoods-based approaches as the key to progressive conversion of informal settlements to sustainable human settlements.
1) Assessment and analysis of current informal settlement policy in light of lessons learned from international experience 2) Review of current institutional and human capacity required to support a national programme 3) Development of a programme and implementation strategy based on the Breaking New Ground Policy and reflective of international experience 4) Provide assistance in the areas of financial planning, project preparation, capacity building and monitoring and evaluation
Expected Impacts and Results
1) NUSP has already achieved important results by contributing to one of the most important policy shifts in South Africa since democratization. For the first time, in-situ upgrading has gained prominence in the South African Housing Policy, offering more flexible approaches to large scale subsidized housing production, with new, more effective, efficient and sustainable approaches to the needs of the urban poor. 2) After the initial investment (USD 675k) and support from WBI, CA, and US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of South Africa has officially institutionalized NUSP through Presidential Delivery Agreement with NHSD, allocating about USD 15 million to scale up NUSP activities, and about USD 3 billion over the next three years (2011-2014) to improve the lives of 400,000 families living in informal settlements. 3) NUSP Forum was established to bring all the provinces and 49 committed cities together so they can share their experiences and scale up slum upgrading initiatives. These fora serve as decentralized capacity development platforms to support UISP implementation throughout the country. 4) Partnerships among various stakeholders including government authorities, private sector, civil society and residents of informal settlements are also being developed. An example is the Ruimsig Informal Studio. With advisory support from NUSP, this is South Africa’s first course on informal settlement upgrading offered by the University of Johannesburg in close collaboration with the community and Slum Dwellers International. 5) NUSP’s success demonstrates how a timely, evidence-based intervention can lead to a more effective, efficient and sustainable pro-poor housing strategy. Initially, there was stiff political resistance to in-situ upgrading across South Africa. Yet, NUSP ended up with the highest political backing in the form of a Presidential Agreement, which made the government accountable for its actions. The biggest challenge NUSP faced was to change political attitudes towards pro-poor development particularly as housing is a highly politicized issues in a post-apartheid South Africa. NUSP presents a complete departure from the orthodox, highly subsidized formal housing program, which has become unsustainable and yielded a range of unintended consequences. It does not take a blueprint approach to upgrading and adopts a tailored approach instead. 6) NUSP also underlines the importance of innovation in development. South Africa had little prior experience with in-situ upgrading and promoted large-scale relocation to peripheral settlements. The NUSP team started by focusing on what was not working with UISP and proposed creative solutions for a more radical human settlements approach. The initial policy review and public debate promoted by NUSP played a fundamental role in mobilizing support from all segments of society. Update: October 2012 In 2012, the National Department of Human Settlements NDHS approved a first batch of ZAR13.5m ($1.7m) for technical assistance to be deployed under NUSP. The TA is for service providers to be deployed to three metros (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni) and 14 smaller municipalities. The smaller municipalities will receive support to develop integrated upgrading strategies and programs, while assistance to the metros is aimed to bolster their current activities (improving practice in participatory planning, producing detailed settlement plans, and linking their plans to capital budgets). Further, the National Department and the Presidency have agreed to the production of detailed settlement-level project plans across all 45 target municipalities. This amounts to almost 1 800 informal settlements. All have to be produced through participatory planning processes. This should contribute towards achieving the Presidential Delivery Agreement target for 2014 which aims at improving services and ensuring security of tenure to 400,000 families living in well-located informal areas, as well as the process for Accreditation of Metros, and implementation of the Urban Settlements Development Grant.