Secure Tenure in African Cities - Home 

Project selected under the Innovation Programme Call for Proposals 2019:

Secure Tenure in African Cities: Micro Funds for Community Innovation


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  Project Overview

What is the problem?

Many low income property owners in South African cities do not have  title deeds to their properties.


Where does it occur?

The Centre is located in Khayelitsha, a low income neighbourhood of Cape Town, South Africa


Who does it affect? 
Lower income property owners, often government housing subsidy beneficiaries


What are the causes?
In some cases, housing subsidy beneficiaries never received title deeds because of process and system failure. In addition, formal property transfer processes are costly, time-consuming and often unfamiliar to lower income households. As a result, where title deeds were provided, the property may no longer be registered in the name of the current owner because of informal property transactions or because original beneficiaries have died.


The Transaction Support Centre (TSC) is an action-research pilot project that assists clients with title deed and other property-related problems. The TSC is a walk-in office, open six days a week.  Over 350 clients have approached the TSC for assistance since it opened its door in July 2018. The most common problems include informal transactions and deceased estates that have not been wound up.

Frontline staff at the TSC assist clients to gather required documents and prepare matters for instruction through partner conveyancing attorneys. The TSC provides hands-on support throughout the process which in some cases includes negotiating settlements on municipal bills that are in arrears and regularising unauthorised building activity. The TSC also assists clients obtain title deeds that have been processed but never handed over.

The TSC uses the learnings from its client cases to engage with officials across spheres of government, highlighting policy gaps, poor processes and system weaknesses. The TSC also runs targeted projects, leveraging the pilot site to address more narrowly defined problems at scale.

Learn more about the Transaction Support Centre in the podcast Talking Transformation 



  • The TSC has logged 392 walk-in cases since opening in July 2018; the office in Makhaza remains open and continues to receive new, walk-in clients.
  • 26 title deeds have been successfully transferred to clients, while 7 more transfers have been lodged in the Deeds Office and 52 cases are being prepared for transfer.
  • In addition to walk-in cases, the TSC has proactively enumerated a further 930 households across four sites in Makhaza where no primary transfer has taken place (i.e., title deeds have not yet been registered). Of these, 656 have been identified as uncontested, and their transfer is currently being negotiated. 
  • Insights and lessons learned from cases were detailed in a comprehensive report that was presented in a public webinar and meetings with key stakeholders in the public, private and development sectors to support a broader advocacy strategy. 
  • As a result of this work, the TSC was 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 the resolution of low-income households’ tenure rights. Discussions are also underway with two commercial banks for a partnership with the TSC as they extend their mortgage loan product down-market.
  • A position paper on the Land Titles Adjustment Act was developed that sets the basis for a pilot intervention in support of dispute resolution over competing land rights claims; the pilot will be initiated in the next phase of the TSC’s work.



“I found the most helpful people, who gave me a warm welcome [at the TSC]. They never gave up on me, they always made sure I understood the process. You always called with updates. I would like to give my utmost gratitude to you guys." TSC client, after the resolution of her informal cash sale


Lessons learned

Although South Africa’s national housing policy seeks to realise the constitutional right of access to adequate housing, it has struggled with the formal transfer of title deeds to low-income owners of lower value properties. This is not for lack of trying: the national housing policy has established a Title Deeds Restoration Programme, and various legal NGOs offer subsidised conveyancing services. But the TSC has found that additional services are also needed to help low-income clients with their title deeds.

  • By successfully working through actual cases, the TSC has learned that the advice office and the case resolution function it provides are critical accompaniments to any administrative or legal solution. In representing its clients, the TSC holds administrative systems to account and provides a pathway for the positive resolution of each and every case.
  • It is possible to both create sensible policy that embraces technology and develop legislation and regulation to support lower-cost property transfer in South Africa.
  • Working with clients in using these mechanisms to resolve individual cases, the TSC is leveraging the property market to create the foundations for inclusive growth.


About the grant recipient

The Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHF) is a not-for-profit company with a vision for an enabled affordable housing finance system in countries throughout Africa, where governments, business, and advocates work together to provide a wide range of housing options accessible to all. CAHF’s mission is to make Africa’s housing finance markets work, with special attention on access to housing finance for the poor. CAHF pursues this mission through the dissemination of research and market intelligence, supporting cross-sector collaborations and a market-based approach. The overall goal of CAHF’s work is to see an increase of investment in affordable housing and housing finance throughout Africa: more players and better products, with a specific focus on the poor.

71point4 is a Cape Town based strategic research consultancy specialising in consumer-focused, data-driven research across the African continent. Our work focuses on sectors that transform lives and issues that matter. This includes housing, financial services, healthcare, education and youth employment. The team at 71point4 comprises data scientists, economists and marketers who use a wide array of research methodologies and data sources ranging from big data to small, qualitative data to help our clients understand their customers and markets better.



Resources from this project

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Final Report





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The Transaction Support Centre: Lessons Learned

The report documents the first two years of the Transaction Support Centre (TSC). It presents client case studies, explore mechanisms to optimise existing processes and identify systemic constraints that impede formalisation in low-income neighborhoods.


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What if you bought a new home — but you don’t have the papers to prove it?

In this Blog post, Jessica Robey and Illana Melzer of 71point4 share insights on how a Transaction Support Centre is helping households in South Africa obtaining their title deeds.




Data Dilemma: Addressing Housing Inequities in South Africa

Most legal land processes rely heavily on written evidence to prove rights—but what if the evidence needed to prove rights is not accessible?


Talking Transformation: Blockchains and Housing Ladders

Kecia Rust (CAHF) and Illana Melzer (71Point4) talk about the housing market in South Africa and present how the Transaction Support Centre is assisting lower income property owners with title deed and other property-related problems.

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Project Update (November 2019)