Affordable housing case study: Ekurhuleni

In South Africa, city development is regarded as a partnership between businesses, the government and civil society to create a beneficial environment for residents. However, growing unemployment, a struggling economy and high rates of urbanisation drive the need to approach spatial planning differently.

In their award-winning research into planning for cities, BC Gildenhuys & Associates addresses the specific local development challenges within the City of Ekurhuleni (CoE) in Gauteng.

Inclusive planning

Spatial development plans often do not reflect the situation on the ground – thus more robust research and understanding are required in developing the city’s growth management strategy. While developing the CoE strategy, critical inputs were gained through workshops, one-on-one and technical meetings with a variety of stakeholders while also placing emphasis on new and innovative spatial analysis techniques, underpinned by technology and driven by a strong data and evidence-based methodology..

Guiding principles

A set of overarching guiding principles informs planning and development and gives effect to the sustainable development goals.

These include:

  • Supporting and facilitating economic growth and development to reduce unemployment and poverty in an integrated manner, both spatially and institutionally, and support public transport infrastructure and services.
  • Focussing investments on areas with economic growth potential, optimising the use of existing resources and infrastructure to achieve economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development.
  • Housing developments must create socially and economically viable and sustainable human settlements.
  • Urban sprawl is discouraged, in favour of more compact and efficient cities where development is channelled into nodes and corridors. Historically, distorted development patterns must be corrected.
  • Protecting sensitive natural and cultural heritage environments against irresponsible, inappropriate and unnecessary development.

Spatial analysis

Two innovative analysis techniques were used in the development of the strategy. The first was a hexagon grid system. Grid systems are critical to analysing sizeable spatial data sets and partitioning areas of a region into identifiable grid cells. For the GMS, a 250m hexagon grid was used to analyse, explore, compare and visualise data for Ekurhuleni.

The second technique made use of place syntax analysis. A place syntax approach combines the space syntax description of urban environments with conventional descriptions of attraction into a combined accessibility analysis.

For this project, two types of accessibility analysis were used, namely:

  1. Attraction distance, which measures the distance from home to places such as schools, work, shopping, medical facilities and transport nodes.
  2. Attraction reach, which measures the number of addresses within a destination threshold of a particular place, such as a shopping centre.
The accessibility analysis method was used for this project.

Scenario planning

Using the data, different scenarios were applied, with specific objectives that measure and show the spatial impact of each scenario. Eight different scenarios were assessed. Each scenario focused on a specific objective stated in the Metropolitan Spatial Development Framework (MSDF). The focus of each of the different scenarios including: (1) Job creation, (2) Social facility access, (3) Pro-poor approach, (4) Nodal approach, (5) Transit and mobility (Corridor approach), (6) Policy priorities, (7) Sustainable urban form and (8) Current policy and spatial trajectory. The scenarios measured the potential population growth in the municipality for each scenario in a spatial manner to determine the best and most sustainable scenario for the municipality to follow.


The goal of development approach modelling was to measure the impact of growth and the city’s policy decisions. It made a connection between population growth, land use, infrastructure requirements and levels of services. A city’s ability to meet the cost (capex and opex) of investment in a sustainable way affects its ability to sustain spatially optimised infrastructure service delivery over the long term.

Issue: Developing a growth management strategy in a rapidly changing environment.
Solution: Use innovative spatial analysis techniques, technology, strong data and evidence-based methodology.

Contact BC Gildenhuys & Associates for more information:
Tel: +27 83 450 0077

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