Urban Forum

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 189–203 | Cite as

Towards Effective City Planning—The Case of Cape Town in Identifying Potential Housing Land

  • Mercy Brown-Luthango
  • Prestige Makanga
  • Julian Smit


Vacant land in cities is an important resource as it presents opportunities for urban renewal and revitalisation and can contribute to municipal revenue. In a context of growing informality and homelessness in cities of the South, the presence of large tracts of vacant land is a sign of inefficient urban planning and a dysfunctional land market. It is therefore critical for local governments to have reliable data of the extent of vacant land parcels in cities and their potential for housing development, particularly affordable housing for the poor. This paper will detail and discuss the “Potential Housing Land Model” developed by the Cape Urban Observatory, part of the African Centre for Cities, based at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. South African cities, and in this case the city of Cape Town in particular, face huge constraints in terms of suitable, well-located and affordable land for low-cost housing development. A tool like the “Potential Housing Land Tool” is one tool which could assist decision-makers in identifying such land parcels. Besides identifying land that can potentially be used for housing; the model can also allow officials to pin-point areas that are not well-serviced. The deployment of the model on the World Wide Web makes the tool available to a range of users including municipal officials, academic researchers and organised sectors of civil society who might benefit from this kind of information. The responsible and strategic use of this model and the information it provides, can facilitate a broad-based discussion about vacant land and its potential use in the city, allowing for more transparent and participatory planning. The application of tools like the “Potential Housing Land Tool” can therefore greatly assist in improving urban governance and can contribute towards more efficient and sustainable urban planning and management systems.


Vacant land Under-utilised land Urban planning Spatial analysis tools Informality Low-cost housing development 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mercy Brown-Luthango
    • 1
  • Prestige Makanga
    • 1
  • Julian Smit
    • 1
  1. 1.African Centre for Cities, Room 2.08.1, Shell Environmental and Geographical Science BuildingUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

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