More than a roof

Social housing should not simply be about putting roofs over the heads of people who need a hand up; it should be about changing their lives.

It is one of the lingering injustices in our country that families brutalised by apartheid continue to pay the price for that system’s social engineering, which saw them cast out to the desolate edges of the city.

While that political system is now gone, the dislocation and misery it visited on its victims continue to this day. There are few if any opportunities for families still stuck in the human dumping grounds and so they stay trapped there.

Social housing is a way to break this cycle by bringing people closer to better opportunities. But these projects can quickly fail and give the whole process a bad reputation if they are not done properly.

The temptation for developers and politicians will be to quickly squeeze as many families into a housing project as they possibly can. That might generate revenue and prove politically expedient in the short term, but over time a housing complex where a sense of community (a park, a creche a meeting hall) has been sacrificed in favour of more flats will have failed the very people it purports to helps.