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Empowershack project update

Ikhayalami Development Service's Empowershack project has reached a milestone in that the first 15 double story units have been completed and handed over to the community. The project has created a hype in Khayelitsha where many communities are wanting to implement similar projects as well as a hype in the architectural world. This follows the project's nomination for the Royal Institute of Architecture Prize.

The Empowershack is one of 62 of the most inspirational and significant new buildings created across the globe, according to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) with the RIBA President saying it demonstrates the 'most impressive architectural talent'. The winner of the Prize will be announced in December 2018. The fact that a building of this nature, catering for the low cost market, has been nominated for such a prestigious prize shines a light on a much neglected sector. Hopefully the exposure will influence governments, communities and policy. 

To date 19 houses have been built. Phase two comprising of 20 dwellings will begin imminently with demolition set to start on Monday, the 23rd of July 2018. As is common in the developmental sector, the stakeholders that have been the hardest to engage and work with have been local government (City of Cape Town) with their contractor absconding the project, only to return when threatened with being disqualified for all bids. It has also been a battle to get Eskom to the table. Since April, the residents of the 15 new dwellings have been living without electricity having to illegally tap into neighbours connections or go without electricity. It is hoped that going forward things will move more smoothly with the City's Informal Settlements Department and with Eskom. 

The Empowershack project stems from the re-blocking methodology with the idea of vertical densification and creating a permanent footprint. The initial idea of the project was to build double story shack upgrades but after strong recommendations by the City in 2015, wherein they indicated they would look into providing funding support, the project made this significant shift. Subsequently, the City could not provide funding but the project continued with immense support from the community, and specifically the Building Regulation Council in Khayelitsha who have made the project possible with their exemplary forward thinking and vision . 

Further details about the project: there are six unit sizes; the unit sizes are demand driven based on affordability, household size and previous structure size; a micro finance model has been developed by a micro finance expert from South Africa  in conjunction with an economist from Washington; and a model for tenure security has also been developed, amongst other things.

Watch this space for more news about the project. 

Written by: Andy Bolnick

Photo by: Andre Isaacs/Ikhayalami


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Sharing the common goal of promoting participatory, effective, accountable and pro-poor local governance, the network strives to provide an interface for civil society organisations to network and share information towards strengthening local democracy in South Africa.