Journal of Housing and the Built Environment

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 843–860 | Cite as

The housing careers of black middle-class residents in a South African metropolitan area

  • Lochner MaraisEmail author
  • Joris Hoekstra
  • Mark Napier
  • Jan Cloete
  • Molefi Lenka


Under apartheid, black African households could not own land or homes in most major urban centres in South Africa. This limited residential mobility and locked many households into state rental accommodation in townships. Homeownership for all South Africans was restored in the mid-1980 s and the Group Areas Act was repealed in 1991. Democracy opened up economic opportunities previously unavailable to black people. This paper investigates the effect on black middle-class South African households’ residential mobility and housing careers. A retrospective cross-sectional survey of 244 such homeowners in the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality determined their last five housing states. Changes in housing state indicated a steady improvement in housing quality, but tenure changes were not necessarily unidirectional—some had reverted to rental. More than 85% of the study participants had used mortgages to finance their housing career. Very few had financed their housing using own savings, an inheritance, or sale of a previous house, and not many had used the government subsidy. We found that housing careers are bridging the historical spatial racial divide in this municipality.


Black middle class Housing careers Housing quality Housing states South Africa 


  1. Abramson, M. (2012). Housing careers. In S. Smith (Ed.), The international encyclopaedia of housing and home (pp. 385–389). Oxford: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Apt, N. (2002). Ageing and the changing role of the family and the community: An African perspective. International Social Security Review, 55(1), 39–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beer, A., & Faulkner, D. (2011). Housing transitions through the life course: Aspirations, needs and policy. Bristol: Policy Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. BusinessTech. (2015). Surprising number of SA homeowners are bond free.
  5. Christopher, A. (1994). The atlas of apartheid. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Clapham, D. (2002). Housing pathways: A post modern analytical framework. Housing, Theory and Society, 19(2), 57–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clapham, D. (2005). The meaning of housing: A pathways approach. Bristol: Policy Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clapham, D., Mackie, P., Orford, S., Thomas, I., & Buckley, K. (2014). The housing pathways of young people in the UK. Environment and Planning A, 46(8), 2016–2031.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clark, W., Deurloo, M., & Dieleman, F. (2003). Housing careers in the United States, 1968–1993: Modelling the sequencing of housing states. Urban Studies, 49(1), 143–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Crankshaw, O. (2012). Deindustrialization, professionalization and racial inequality in Cape Town. Urban Affairs Review, 48(6), 836–862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crankshaw, O., Gilbert, A., & Morris, A. (2000). Backyard Soweto. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 24(4), 841–857.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Department of Human Settlements. (2013). Housing: Programme theory. Department of Human Settlements: Pretoria.Google Scholar
  13. Dieleman, F., Clark, W., & Deurloo, M. (2002). The geography of residential turnover in twenty-seven large US metropolitan housing markets, 1985–1995. Urban Studies, 37(2), 223–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Donaldson, R., Mehlomakhlu, T., Darkey, D., Dyssel, M., & Siyongwana, P. (2013). Relocation: To be or not to be a black diamond in South African township. Habitat International, 39, 114–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. FFC (Financial and Fiscal Commission). (2013). Exploring alternative finance and policy options for effective and sustainable delivery of housing in South Africa. Midrand: FFC.Google Scholar
  16. Hamnett, C. (1999). Winners and losers: Home ownership in modern Britain. London: University College London Press.Google Scholar
  17. Harrison, P. (1992). The policies and politics of informal settlement in South Africa: A historical background. Africa Insight, 22(1), 14–22.Google Scholar
  18. Hendler, P. (1991). The housing crisis. In M. Swilling, R. Humphries, & K. Shubane (Eds.), Apartheid city in transition. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Hochstenbach, C., & Boterman, W. (2015). Navigating the field of housing: Housing pathways of young people in Amsterdam. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 30, 257–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hoekstra, J., & Marais, L. (2016). Can Western European home ownership products bridge the South African housing gap? Urban Forum, 27(4), 487–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jurgens, U., Marais, L., Barker, C., & Lombaard, M. (2003). Socio-demographic transformation in the Bloemfontein inner-city area after the abolishment of apartheid legislation. Acta Academica Supplementum, 1, 55–78.Google Scholar
  22. Kendig, H. (1984). Housing careers, life cycle and residential mobility: Implications for the housing market. Urban Studies, 21, 271–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kendig, H. (1990). A life course perspective on housing attainment. In D. Myers (Ed.), Housing demography: Linking demographic structure and housing markets. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  24. Krige, S. (1991). Bloemfontein. In A. Lemon (Ed.), Homes apart: South Africa’s segregated cities. David Philip: Cape Town.Google Scholar
  25. Krige, D. (2015). “Growing up” and “moving up”: Metaphors that legitimise upward social mobility in Soweto. Development Southern Africa, 32(1), 104–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lemanski, C. (2017). Citizens in the middle class: The interstitial policy spaces of South Africa’s housing gap. Geoforum, 79, 101–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lemon, A. (1991). Homes apart: South Africa’s segregated cities. Cape Town: David Philip.Google Scholar
  28. Mabin, A. (1991). The dynamics of urbanisation since 1960. In M. Swilling, R. Humphries, & K. Shubane (Eds.), Apartheid city in transition. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Mabin, A., & Parnell, S. (1983). Recommodification of working-class home ownership: New directions for South African cities. South African Geographical Journal, 65(2), 148–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mackie, P. (2012). Housing pathways of disabled young people: Evidence for policy and practice. Housing Studies, 27(6), 805–821.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Marais, L. (2008). The spatial development of Bloemfontein: Past and future conflicts. In L. Marais & G. Visser (Eds.), Spatialities of urban change: Selected themes from Bloemfontein at the beginning of the 21st century. Stellenbosch: Sun Press.Google Scholar
  32. Marais, L., & Cloete, J. (2015). Financed homeownership and the economic downturn in South Africa. Habitat International, 32(3), 346–366.Google Scholar
  33. Marais, L., & Cloete, J. (2017). Housing policy and private sector housing finance: Policy intent and market directions in South Africa. Habitat International, 61, 22–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Marais, L., & Ntema, J. (2013). The upgrading of an informal settlement in South Africa: Twenty years onwards. Habitat International, 39, 85–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marais, L., Ntema, J., Rani, K., & Cloete, J. (2016). Botshabelo: Reinforcing assets in the wrong location. Urban Forum, 27(3), 347–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Marais, L., Sefika, M., Venter, A., & Cloete, J. (2014). Towards an understanding the outcomes of housing privatisation in South Africa. Urban Forum, 25, 57–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Parnell, S. (1991). The ideology of African home-ownership: The establishment of Dube, Soweto, 1946–1955. South African Geographical Journal, 73(2), 69–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Platzky, L., & Walker, C. (1985). The surplus people: Forced removals in South Africa. Johannesburg: Ravan.Google Scholar
  39. Rossi, P. (1955). Why families move. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  40. Royston, L. (2007). Snakes and ladders: A housing perspective on de Soto and the first and second economy debate in South Africa. Occasional paper series no. 1, Graduate School of Public and Development Management, University of the Witwatersrand.
  41. Rust, K. (2004). Dead capital in the townships? Looking into the workings of township residential property markets. In Paper presented at the Institute of Housing for Southern Africa (IHSA) Conference, “Housing in the next decade: Quo vadis housing?”, Cape Town, 3–6 October, 2004.Google Scholar
  42. Shisaka Development Management Services. (2004). Workings of township residential property markets study: Phase 3—Findings, conclusions and implications final. Midrand: FinMark Trust.Google Scholar
  43. Shisaka Development and Management Services. (2006). Research into successful entrepreneurs. Johannesburg: Centre for Affordable Housing.Google Scholar
  44. Southall, R. (2016). The new black middle class in South Africa. Jacana: Aukland Park.Google Scholar
  45. Times Live. (2016). Human Settlements unveils new title deeds policy to tackle 22-year backlog.
  46. Tomlinson, M. (2007). The development of a low-income housing finance sector in South Africa: Have we finally found a way forward? Habitat International, 31(1), 77–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Van der Heijden, H., Dol, K., & Oxley, M. (2011). Western European housing systems and the impact of the international financial crisis. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 26, 295–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Winstanley, A., Thorns, D., & Perkins, H. (2002). Moving house, creating home: Exploring residential mobility. Housing Studies, 6, 813–832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lochner Marais
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joris Hoekstra
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mark Napier
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jan Cloete
    • 1
  • Molefi Lenka
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Development SupportUniversity of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa
  2. 2.Delft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Council for Industrial and Scientific ResearchPretoriaSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations