This project was selected under the Innovation Programme Call for Proposals 2019
The Transaction Support Centre (TSC), with support from the Cities Alliance Innovation Programme, is helping low-income residents in the Cape Town, South Africa neighbourhood of Makhaza navigate the complex process of obtaining title deeds for their properties. The walk-in TSC was established in July 2018 as an action-research pilot project by the consulting company 71point4, in partnership with the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHF).
Makhaza is part of the fast-growing township of Khayelitsha – a name that in Xhosa means "new home" – a fitting location for an advice centre focused on helping low-income residents achieve home tenure security. Many of the homes in Makhaza were built by the national housing programme of South Africa, a nation where the right to adequate housing is enshrined in the constitution. Over the past 25 years, the government has built about 3.4 million subsidised housing units.
The process of transferring the formal property deeds for these properties has been slow, however, leaving the mostly low-income residents without the security of knowing that their homes truly belong to them. For many of these families, like others around the world, their homes represent their most valuable financial asset. But the lack of a formal title deed can prevent owners from accessing the value in their homes – or from participating in South Africa’s otherwise vibrant residential property market.
The process of securing formal title deeds in South Africa can be time consuming, complicated and costly, and there is a significant backlog of cases for state-funded houses. At the TSC, however, clients can walk in and receive direct assistance with navigating the complex title-transfer process from start to finish. The team at the TSC also helps low-income homeowners resolve other property-related concerns and provides both information and friendly support.
I found the most helpful people, who gave me a warm welcome," said one walk-in TSC client, after the resolution of her informal cash sale. "They never gave up on me, they always made sure I understood the process [and] always called with updates. I would like to give my utmost gratitude to [the TSC].
The TSC has taken on 392 walk-in cases since first opening its doors. With support from the Cities Alliance grant under the Secure Tenure in African Cities Initiative during 2019-2020, it has helped clients secure 26 title deeds; another 7 title transfers have been formally lodged, and 52 more are in process. The TSC team has also proactively identified 930 households across four sites in Makhaza that do not yet have the title deeds for their properties. The team has begun negotiating the transfer of the deeds for 656 of those properties.
The TSC is also in discussions with two commercial banks for a partnership that will extend mortgage loan services for low-income clients in lower value neighbourhoods – a market that is traditionally underserved by commercial lenders. The project has also been able to secure funding for a further phase of work and is in the process of negotiating an agreement with the City of Cape Town to collaborate more deliberately in dispute resolution involving low-income households’ tenure rights.
Beyond assisting clients, the TSC’s partners, 71point4 and CAHF, have compiled and shared insights and lessons learned from the TSC in a comprehensive report. They have also presented their findings in a public webinar and at targeted meetings with key stakeholders in the public, private, and development sectors. For the future, the TSC project aims to continue to improve client experiences and outcomes, as well as to advocate for process improvements and systemic change.