South Africa’s Housing Financialisation Crises and Social Resistance

The world’s most unequal country suffers from various housing crises, especially when it comes to excessive reliance upon a private sector prone to market failures, especially affordability. State housing finance strategy during the transition from apartheid to democracy relied upon augmentation of formal banking finance so as to promote home ownership. But as macro-economic conditions changed in the late 1980s, the resulting mass defaults on individual families’ home mortgage bonds led not only to foreclosures by a (white) state, but (black) working-class resistance organised by the country’s leading urban social movement, known as the ‘bond boycott.’ Even after democracy, a worsening housing backlog coincided with resurgence of household debt crises in the wake of the 2008 global financial meltdown. That generated a new housing finance strategy led by Mastercard and a local fintech firm (supported by the World Bank): collateralisation of welfare grants which in turn allowed debit orders for repayment of microfinance (typically used for minor home improvements). Again, social resistance played an important role, as the strategy caused even worse personal debt crises, and a welfare NGO’s successful fight to close Mastercard’s partner. But beyond periodic revolts of these sorts, a durable housing finance policy has remained elusive.



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Bond, P. 2024. ‘South Africa’s Housing Financialisation Crises and Social Resistance.’ Critical Housing Analysis 11 (1): 81-93.