Informal Settlement Upgrading
The incremental, in-situ upgrading of informal settlements with the provision of basic services and functional tenure security is the only viable solution for informal settlements in S.A. PPT has played a leading role in pioneering and mainstreaming this approach and in enabling a range of prevailing barriers to be overcome. It is now accepted by government that conventional upgrading, premised on the provision of formal housing, is unviable and un-scale-able. Housing backlogs are bigger now than they were in 1994 despite substantial housing delivery. Incremental upgrading at scale is at last being implemented as a national priority.
CAPITAL FUNDING APPROVED
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PROJECTS UNDER PREPARATION
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The Community Development Programme (CDP) is a 24-month pilot initiative in eThekwini which supports incremental upgrading improvements in seven informal settlements. It is a partnership between communities, PPT and the Municipality and commenced in January 2023 as an extension of the iQhaza Lethu Incremental Upgrading Partnership Programme (2018-2022). It is funded by the Municipality utilising the Informal Settlement Upgrading Partnership Grant – a conditional grant from National Government. Community members are appointed to undertake various acommunity-based functions including those relating to solid waste management, fire prevention, planning and coordination. A total of 68 workers have been appointed to date. The CDP focuses mainly on:
- Solid waste management
- Fire prevention and response
- Incremental tenure and planning arrangements
- Owner-driven housing improvements and related re-blocking.
Solid waste management
Less than 50% of the solid waste within informal settlements is removed, with most of the balance accumulating in the environment, mainly in streams and natural areas and in informal waste dumps. A community-driven solid waste collection system has been successfully established in all seven informal settlements and has been functioning since June 2023. Large amounts of accumulated waste in the environment has been removed by local solid waste workers and household waste is now being more responsibly disposed of households and collected and removed by the Municipality. 37 waste containment facilities have been built by community workers using affordable materials (treated poles and welded mesh): 25 mini containment facilities which are more accessible to households inside the settlements and 12 larger containment facilities at municipal collection points on road sides. 60 workers are collecting solid waste and 2,319 person-days of work have been done as at 19th September. Each person works 4 days a week, 6 hours per day. One community-based solid waste supervisor has been appointed. 46 solid waste workers have been appointed and 14 fire marshals who are at this time also assisting with solid waste collection. This is in addition to 7 Community Development Coordinators (CDCs). The main challenge is currently the limited availability of black plastic bags. The project has limited funding for this purpose and the Municipality has insufficient bags available. Efforts are underway to procure additional black plastic bags via the Municipality.
There has been positive feedback from solid waste collectors and community members alike, who have strongly voiced their appreciation and value regarding the solid waste collection initiative. Not only has it created much-needed income for workers but workers have gained a sense of purpose because they are making an important community contribution. Attitudes towards solid waste in the community are also changing with residents starting to play a more active role in responsibly disposing of their waste and taking greater pride in their community. In one instance, residents from a neighbouring community have started collecting their own waste and have requested that PPT build them a main containment area (which is to be done soon). A ‘Ground-voice’ solid survey is currently underway to gather feedback from the communities on their perceptions of the initiative so far.
Solid waste survey
A solid waste survey has been designed and will be initiated soon in order to better understand the nature of solid waste at household level within informal settlements. This will also help inform efforts to promote the recycling of certain waste streams. The survey will focus on a sample of approximately 656 households across the seven settlements (a 10% sample size). Household waste will be separated into ten main types and weighed daily for a week. This will include an analysis of the portion of waste that can be potentially recycled. Categories of waste include various types of plastic, food and organic waste, absorbent household products, cardboard and paper, glass and metal, and old appliances. Initial data from a small survey undertaken in eThekwini in 2022 indicated that informal settlement households generate between 0.85kg and 2.47kg of waste per household per day. More than ¾ of this waste is made up of plastics, food waste, and absorbent household products (e.g. nappies and sanitary pads).
Fire prevention and response
Fire is a major threat to life, safety and property within informal settlements. It also poses a risk to neighbouring formal communities. Once they start, fire in informal settlements are very difficult to extinguish. Often large parts or an entire settlement are raised to the ground. Fire marshals have been appointed in every settlement and a working relationship established with the Municipality’s Fire and Disaster Management Units. Fire response plans, training and community awareness are well underway. Local residents are encouraged amongst other things to work together to promote safer behaviours including: avoiding illegal electrical connections or making them safer; avoiding most-flammable building materials (e.g. plastic, planks); not leaving stoves and appliances unattended and switching off during load-shedding; not leaving children unattended; not blocking access ways used by fire-fighters; not blocking or tampering with fire hydrants. Protocols for fire preparedness and response have also been developed including: having initial fire-fighting materials ready to stop fires in the home before they get out of control e.g. buckets of sand and fire extinguishers; clearly defined evacuation routes and assembly points; cooperating with municipal fire-fighting teams; helping children, older or disabled persons to rapidly evacuate.
Incremental planning and tenure arrangements
Residents in informal settlements need to have long-term planning and tenure confidence in order to invest in improving their own housing, better value the space they occupy, and become more responsible citizens by, amongst others, desisting from illegal electrical and water connections and paying for their electricity, and disposing responsibly of solid waste. This can only occur if land use norms are agreed between the community and municipality relating to such matters as how services are provided, how space is used, how solid waste and illegal electrical connections are to be managed, and how space is to be re-configured (re-blocking). Individual tenure security (e.g. by means of a municipal tenure certificate) which is linked to demarcated space (informal site) is also critical. Without these arrangements only interim, temporary upgrading improvements are possible and qualitative, longer term change will be impossible. It is emphasised that most informal settlements are well-located with good access to socio-economic facilities, employment and livelihood opportunities, but the value of the land on which they are located is not being ‘captured’ due to a lack of consensus on how to bring about change and a lack of tenure security.
Multi-departmental working group and piloting new tenure solutions
A multi-departmental working group (WG) has been established in eThekwini to investigate and establish incremental planning and alternative tenure arrangements. The CDP project via PPT participates in and supports the WG. An incremental basic services bylaw and related Municipal Policy are in the process of being established. Work on an incremental land use bylaw will commence soon. An alternative framework for individual tenure security has also been drafted. It is hoped that these can be tested and piloted via the CDP Project if agreement can be reached in time. A limiting factor is whether or not the Municipality will, from a legal point of view, be in a position to establish and administer a municipal tenure certificate in time. Work on this is ongoing.
Owner-driven housing improvements
It is important to unlock owner-driven housing improvements in informal settlements. Low income households can and do invest in their own improved housing. This is evident in peri-urban and rural communities with traditional tenure security where substantial housing investments occur. It is anticipated that housing investments can also be stimulated in informal settlements subject to there being increased planning and tenure confidence along with the acceptance and promotion of improved, flexible, site-appropriate building methods. Because most informal settlement sites are steep and densities are high, conventional building methods are often not viable because they will typically destabilise the slope due to the requirement to cut platforms and associated and because traditional structures (block and mortar) are heavy.
Lightweight, alternative housing typologies and re-blocking pilots
By contrast, lightweight structures on stilts have minimal impact on the slope and can additionally be easily made double story in order to release much-needed space for improved access ways between houses by means of re-blocking. This also reduces or entirely avoids the need to relocate households out of the settlement in order to required release space. The LIFT house type is an example of this type of appropriate building method. It utilises materials and building methods which are familiar to residents and local builders. It is fire safe and meets all key building safety standards. It can be made single or double story and can be extended upwards. LIFT stands for Lightweight, Improved, Fire-safe, Timber-frame. A demonstration unit was building in Parkington in 2021 and successfully withstood a fire event in 2022 with minimal damage. It is hoped that households can be supported and encouraged through the CDP project to start building in this improved manner. Three blocks within three of the settlements will be selected for piloting this, together with incremental planning and tenure arrangements, if they can be established in time.
iQhaza Lethu is a 3.5-year initiative which focuses on establishing and mainstreaming incremental, partnership-based upgrading in eThekwini Municipality, with an emphasis on building the enabling capacity, institutional relationships, partnerships and methods for moving to scale. It has a two-pronged focus on pilot projects (in order to innovate and demonstrate alternative upgrading methods) and strengthening and optimising the overall city-wide upgrading programme. iQhaza Lethu means ‘our initiative’ and is co-funded by the European Union, eThekwini Municipality and PPT. The initiative commenced in January 2018 and ends in July 2021. The programme has achieved multiple ground-breaking achievements and impacts such as:
- Pilot projects, participative upgrading plans and related funding leverage.
- Strengthened participation, social process and community partnerships.
- Use of drone aerial photography, structure mapping and socio-economic surveys to enable more effective and locally-responsive planning.
- Optimised servicing approaches for in-situ upgrades (especially those which are dense and well-located).
- New appropriate double-story housing typologies.
- Incremental land rights and planning solutions.
- Covid-19 food drops.
- Informal settlement database enhancement and prioritised pipeline planning for services provision.
- Strengthened institutional arrangements and coordination within the Municipality.
- Significant precedent, tools and methods which can be scaled up and assimilated/utilised by other Metros and national government.
Click here for Presentation on eThekwini status quo and key innovations.
Click here for summary PowerPoint Presentation for the three relocation sites which includes details of the housing typology and demo unit.
An innovative lightweight, low-cost, double-story housing typology was successfully developed by iQhaza Lethu and a team of architects and engineers working in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in 2019/2020. DesigncoLab was the appointed architectural service provider. The unit type has been termed the ‘LIFT’ House type (this being the acronym for Light-weight, Improved, Fire-safe, Timber-frame) or ‘Indlu-lamithi’ in isiZulu (meaning ‘the wood frame house which stands tall’ and also the word for a giraffe). The house is compliant in all material respects with the building standards for a timber frame structure (SANs code 10082), is engineer-certified, and has been certified as safe from a fire safety point of view by an independent fire specialist.
A successful demonstration unit was built at Parkington settlement in 2020 and was well received by the owner and other residents. 157 of the units will be rolled out on three emergency relocation sites in 2021.
The typology is a response to the need for a more appropriate building technology for steep, densely populated and well located informal settlements in order to optimise scarce land, open up space for services and to enable residents to improve their own housing over time. The foundations and weight of conventional housing render it unviable on these sites because it will typically destabilise the steep slopes. By contrast, the lightweight, timber-frame structure with micro-pile foundations and metal cladding does not require cut-and-fill excavations or retaining walls and can function safely with minimal disturbance to the site. It is also low cost, utilises readily available ‘low-tech’ materials and can be built by local builders using familiar building methods. Importantly they optimise scarce land, noting that all sites are well located. The units enable a more functional alternative urban form on eThekwini’s typically steep sites, including in respect of improved space utilisation, physical distancing and health and safety. Inputs from two fire specialists have also been obtained in order to ensure that the design meets fire safety requirements and performs optimally from a fire safety point of view.
The unit has been visited by municipal building inspectors, the Housing Development Agency and NHBRC amongst other stakeholders. Feedback received has enabled refinements to the design. Detailed designs for five variations of the typology were developed ranging from single story 15m2 unit to a 45m2 double story unit.
The cost of the baseline 31m2 unit is approximately R84,000 (materials, labour and P&G) at a per-square-meter cost of approximately R2,700. Given that the use of the typology unlocks the more productive use of scarce, well-located land which cannot be developed using conventional low-cost housing methods, the slight per-square-meter cost premium of the typology (due principally to its more labour-intensive construction method and different materials) is regarded as a more than fair trade off. The significant use of timber in the construction (which is a renewable resource) and the high labour content and job creation potential, are added benefits.
Click here for the newsletter on optimised servicing and new LIFT housing typology.
Click here for HSRC-PPT Policy Brief regarding the typology.
Click here for summary PowerPoint Presentation for the three relocation sites which includes details of the housing typology and demo unit.
Click here for short video relating to the demo unit at Parkington.
Planning and design work has been completed for delivery of 157 of the alternative typology units on three de-densification relocation sites adjacent to settlements of Parkington, Havelock Road and Ezimbeleni. The relocations are required in order to open up space within the settlements to establish improved and more accessible basic services including improved sanitation, solid-waste management, fire controls and footpath access. All three settlements are dense and the improved services cannot be provided without partial ‘re-blocking’ and the relocation of small numbers of households. All required environmental assessments, approvals and exemptions have been obtained and the land is owned by the Municipality. Extensive engagement between the iQhaza Lethu / PPT team and various Metro service delivery line departments has occurred including those dealing with roads and footpaths, water and sanitation, solid waste and electricity.
The three sites are on the national list of Covid-19 priority projects (having received special priority because of the drive to de-densify certain settlements and open up space for services such as water and sanitation). It is however emphasised that the rationale for these three relocation sites predated Covid-19 and arose from the need for partial ‘re-blocking’ and a limited number of relocations in order to open up space for improved services. All three projects were already on eThekwini’s 2019/20/21 informal settlement upgrading (UISP) project pipeline.
Their inclusion on the national Covid-19 priority list in 2020 has however afforded an opportunity to demonstrate to the National Department of Human Settlements (NDHS) a different and more appropriate approach to de-densification (i.e. re-blocking for services establishment in accordance with UISP principles i.e. participative, incremental, in-situ upgrading with minimal relocations). This took place against a backdrop of an initiative of the NHDS to de-densify settlements at scale with the use of temporary relocation areas (TRAs) as a core Covid-19 response and a submission to the National Minister by several upgrading support organisations (including PPT) that de-densification of this type with mass TRAs should be approached with caution and that relocations should be a last resort and limited e.g. as occurs with re-blocking and partial relocations to open up space for services.
The housing provided will be in the form of the alternative housing typology outlined previously (i.e. lightweight, timber frame structure with micro-pile foundations which can function safely on steep slopes).
The services will be provided on the relocation sites will be provided in the form of:
- Sanitation: mini-communal ablutions making use of the alternative lightweight structure combined with standpipe wash facilities which can function safety on steep slopes and related water and storm-water pipes.
- Fire: fire hose-points at regular intervals inside the settlement to enable more rapid and effective fire management in the event of a fire (noting that two of the three settlements have been affected by severe fires over the past two years – the entire Havelock settlement was raised to the ground in December 2019 and 60 houses were destroyed at Parkington in December 2018.
- Solid waste: Collection bins within the settlement (which are raised off the ground and vermin-proof) and a fenced, solid waste containment and collection area for municipal collection.
- Footpaths and roads: footpath access (concrete with related storm-water controls) and, in the case of Parkington, an improved access road.
- Electricity: electricity reticulation and household connections.
Click here for the newsletter on optimised servicing and new LIFT housing typology.
Click here for more information on the three relocation sites (PowerPoint presentation relating to the three Covid-19 Emergency Relocation Sites at Parkington, Havelock, Ezimbileni).
In 2020/21 iQhaza Lethu supported and assisted eThekwini Municipality in drafting its Incremental Upgrading Policy and Programme Description. These will be finalised early in 2021 and then considered by Council for adoption. eThekwini appears to be the first Metropolitan Municipality in South Africa to develop comprehensive policies in this regard, noting that incremental upgrading requires significantly different approaches and solutions for incremental upgrading compared to formal housing delivery.
Amongst other things, the Policy and Programme Description address the following key issues which are critical in implementing incremental upgrading more effectively, programmatically and in a more scaled up fashion:
- Incremental planning approach including incremental development areas, spatial planning and how issues of statutory and regulatory flexibility can be accommodated.
- Budgeting, pipeline planning and project prioritisation including the manner in which approved criteria will be applied to different categories of upgrading projects ranging from those requiring rapid emergency mitigations due to severe and imminent threats, to those well-located settlements requiring more integrated and comprehensive services provision and reworking of space.
- Municipal services provision including the type and level of services appropriate for particular categories/types of settlement.
- Coordination of upgrading, including the institutional arrangements, how different municipal line departments and other stakeholders can more effectively communicate and cooperate to achieve improved upgrading outcomes, and better definition of the various roles and responsibilities which must be assumed by different parties.
- Land acquisition including how this will be achieved over time as a parallel programme to services provision and acceptance that services will typically need to be provided in advance of land acquisition (and the legal processes required for this to be done).
- Tenure security including basic initial tenure security by means of administrative recognition and the intention to explore incremental forms of individual tenure in the future subject to resource availability.
- Social facilities including which are the biggest priorities in upgrading (e.g. ECD) and how these can best be achieved through cooperation with relevant provincial line departments and national government.
- Grant instruments including what grant instruments can be utilised for particular upgrading responses and in what areas grant reform or greater flexibility may be required.
- Procurement including how new solutions can be found to address more programmatic services delivery and/or in a better integrated fashion.
- Data and information management including establishing this as a priority workflow which can support and optimise upgrading planning, prioritisation, delivery, monitoring and operating and maintenance.
- Operating and maintenance including identifying this as a key strategic issue and establishing a commitment for improved solutions to be found through improved communication and cooperation between various line departments and improved community engagement and social capital.
Informal settlement areas fall outside of all current planning and regulatory frameworks since the underlying land is not yet proclaimed, subdivided and in many cases is also not yet owned by government (almost half of the land in informal settlements in eThekwini is still privately owned). The time and resources required to first acquire land and obtain all formal planning, environmental and other approvals is prohibitive given the scale of informal settlements in the City (over 285,000 households and more than 580 settlements). In addition, the prevailing densities typically make formal planning approvals impossible or else would necessitate massive relocations.
The provision of basic services and mitigation of threats and vulnerabilities (to both residents and the natural environment) cannot be delayed and government has a constitutional obligation to address these issues in a responsible and appropriate fashion.
Incremental planning solutions are therefore urgently required in order to recognise all informal settlements, establish planning trajectories for them, and to include them in municipal planning frameworks as required by the Spatial Management Land Use Act (SPLUMA). PPT via iQhaza Lethu (IL) has supported the development of innovative and ground-breaking solutions in this regard with PPT’s CEO drafting most of the content in his capacity as a leading subject matter expert and serving on the eThekwini working group which developed the Policy. A comprehensive Incremental Planning Policy (or Standard Operating Procedures) has been developed and is now in final draft form having received inputs from all relevant City line departments. For the first time in South Africa a Metropolitan Municipality has a draft framework in place. The Policy addresses all aspects of incremental upgrading and in particular overcomes a range of issues/barriers which need to be addressed at policy level in order to unlock a more effective, city-wide approach.
The Policy’s framework and key elements have been shared with stakeholders at national level and National Government is supportive of the approach being taken. It is expected that the framework, once piloted, will assist other Metros and National Government in charting a way forward for more inclusive planning frameworks for the upgrading of informal settlements.
The land rights and planning protocols previously developed by PPT have been used as an input, as have the two Senior Counsel opinions which have been collaboratively procured by eThekwini and PPT relating to issues of private land and related incremental planning solutions. The Policy, which enables compliance and operationalisation of the prescripts of SPLUMA relating to informal settlement areas, is in its final draft form and addresses a wide range of issues including: categorisation; incremental land use arrangements (at three levels – Temporary Development Area (TDA) for B2 settlements and two levels of Incremental Development Area (IDA1 and IDA2); spatial planning solutions; dealing with private land; levels of service appropriate to different categories of settlement. The Policy has been developed with extensive inputs from eThekwini’s Planning Department (Spatial and Land Use Management sections).
The draft Policy is the first of its kind in South Africa and addresses, amongst other things:
- Categorisation of settlements and related implications for: planning arrangements, municipal services, land, tenure, building, essential social services. Cat. A = conventional formal upgrade; Cat. B1 = incremental in-situ upgrade; Cat. B2 = deferred relocation. Cat. C = imminent relocation.
- Spatial planning: including the inclusion/designation of all settlements in the Municipality’s Spatial Development Framework (SDF) based on categorisation as a minimum first step as well as reflection of new land use planning categories once instituted – see below.
- Land use planning: Incremental Development Areas (IDAs) at two levels for settlements to be upgraded in-situ over time and a Temporary Development Areas at three levels (TDA1) for settlements to be eventually be relocated. Land use ‘rules’ to be established and upheld mainly via social compact arrangements instead of regulation.
- Private land: clear protocols in terms of which the municipality can provide services in advance of land acquisition subject to the provision of suitable notices to landowners, planning designation and the use of appropriate bylaws and the establishment of a land acquisition programme to be implemented over time and subject to available resources.
- Notices to landowners: appropriate advance notice to landowners regarding intention to provide specified essential basic services interventions within established settlements on private land with opportunity for objection/comment.
- Statutory servitudes: in order to protect municipal services prior to land acquisition.
- Land acquisition: as a programme implemented over time in a structured fashion and subject to resource availability.
- Tenure security: initially administrative recognition for all residents of settlements (functional non-individual tenure) with the intention to explore the potential for incremental forms of individual tenure over time (e.g. municipal certificate of occupation), once land has been acquired.
- Social compacts: reflecting commitment of community and municipality to work collaboratively over time to achieve services and other improvements within a structured and transparent process, including clearly defined roles, responsibilities and objectives.
- Bylaws: Via iQhaza Lethu, PPT’s CEO served on an eThekwini working group for the development of a statutory servitude bylaw in order to afford additional legal protection for municipal services provided on private land in advance of land acquisition. This is as per the the recommendations of a legal opinion by a Senior Counsel. The Bylaw is now in its final draft format and is ready for adoption where-after it will be implemented.
The Incremental Planning Policy (or Standard Operating Procedure) will be considered for adoption by the Municipality early in 2021.
Click here for the newsletter on incremental planning solutions.
Click here for a Presentation summary of the incremental planning solutions contained in the draft policy.
A new approach for more effectively servicing dense, well-located informal settlements was collaboratively developed by iQhaza Lethu in 2019/20. The new ‘services frame’ approach establishes service access ways inside the settlement which not only improves the proximity of essential services to residents but importantly also establishes a more functional urban form for the future. The approach has been the subject of extensive engagement and negotiation with Municipal Line-Departments and communities and is now gaining substantial acceptance as a necessary and optimised way of servicing these settlements. It is currently being piloted on four IL pilot projects
(Parkington, Havelock, Ezimbeleni and Bhambayi Phase 3).
There are large numbers of these well-located settlements in the eThekwini Metro which are designated as permanent and suitable for in-situ upgrading over time (i.e. category B1 settlements). They typically have good access to social facilities and employment opportunities and are well-established, often dating back more than 20 years. Such settlements are numerous and constitute almost half of all the informal settlements in the City (135,275 households in 218 settlements out of a total of 580 settlements and 285,000 households). However, the high densities and steep land characteristic of these settlements makes them difficult to service and upgrade. There is little or no space to establish services inside the settlements which typically face high levels of vulnerabilities relating to fire, disease, overcrowding, uncontrolled solid waste and squalid living conditions. Most of these settlements are old, well established and many are in prime locations.
Conventional upgrading in these settlements (through housing provision and formalisation) is not possible due to such factors as their high densities, the presence of non-qualifiers, a lack of alternative land, steep slopes, challenging geotechnical conditions, and insufficient budget. These settlements have therefore been developmentally ‘locked’ with no further improvements possible.
In order to establish a services frame, a certain number of households typically need to be relocated or moved (known as partial re-blocking) in order to establish main services access ways (or a services ‘frame’) along key alignments within the settlement. Some households can typically be accommodated by re-aligning the structure or moving it to another piece of vacant land in the settlement but typically some also need to be moved to alternative land in which case adjacent land is the first priority (as is the case in the three IL relocation pilot projects).
The establishment of the services frame breaks the settlement up into more manageable ‘blocks’ and brings essential services into the settlement so they are more accessible, instead of being located largely at the edges. Typical services provided on the frame include: footpaths, storm-water controls, mini-communal ablutions, fire hose points, standpipe wash facilities, electricity, and solid waste containment bins. All services except electricity are communal, but the potential for individual connections is created for the future as owner-driven consolidation (improvement) of housing occurs, incremental planning arrangements are implemented and incremental forms of individual tenure are established. Informal structures are electrified once the frame is established.
Historically, basic services were provided by the Municipality in a rapid, and generally in a reactive and non-integrated, fashion to these settlements. Most of the shared services (such as water, sanitation, solid waste and fire hose points) were thus provided at the periphery of the settlements which meant limited access to residents. Although the Municipality was highly progressive and developmental in introducing its ‘interim servicing’ of informal settlements, there was no reworking of space. The initial thinking was that the services would be interim or temporary in nature and that the provision of formal housing and formalisation would be the eventual solution. However, this is now recognised at both Metro and national levels, as being impossible due to acute funding, land, bulk services and other constraints. A different approach and theory of change is thus required for these strategically-important settlements.
The Municipality has also historically been hesitant to introduce services (especially water and sewer pipes) inside settlements due to a fear of uncontrolled illegal connections. However, there is also a growing acceptance that these strategically important settlements will remain effectively ‘developmentally locked’ unless the land is utilised more efficiently and a better platform established for residents to improve their own housing over time. There are also significant environmental costs associated with not introducing services within settlements which may outweigh the concerns over illegal connections which can potentially be better managed by means of stronger social processes and more effective locally-managed and locally-accountable operating and maintenance solutions. In addition, the costs of interim services, both from a capital and maintenance point of view, have increased significantly over time to the point where they are no longer regarded as fiscally sustainable in their current form. It is recognised that more permanent, alternative solutions need to be found.
Against the above backdrop, the necessity for an optimised services approach such as the services frame approach has increasingly gained acceptance and testing it by means of pilot projects is an important next step.
The services frame approach can potentially resolve many of the problems associated with well-located category B1 settlements, unlock a strategic opportunity for more inclusive city-building and lay the platform for a different and improved urban form. Limited re-blocking, relocations and reworking of space is sufficient to establish the frame (compared to conventional, formal upgrading). Consolidation of intra -blocks can occur as a later phase including owner-driven housing improvements and possible individual connections to water and sewers. The use of the alternative, lightweight, double story housing typologies, such as those being piloted by IL, can assist in more functional consolidation over time.
Click here for the newsletter on optimised servicing and new LIFT housing typology.
Click here for the newsletter on managing fire risk mitigations.
Click here for solid waste solutions.
Click here for a PowerPoint presentation regarding the services frame approach.
Click here to view a short Briefing Document relating to the optimised servicing approach.
Effective social processes, community participation and mobilising social capital are key to effective incremental upgrading.
Click here for newsletter on social processes and participation.
Click here for newsletter on socio economic surveys.
Click here for newsletter on community mapping and drone imagery.’
Given that the scale of informal settlements and services deficits in eThekwini (and other Cities) far exceeds the available resources to meet them and given the range of significant barriers to rapid delivery, hard choices need to be made regarding the optimal allocation of limited funding so as to achieve optimal outcomes. IQhaza Lethu (IL) has accordingly supported the development of a more structured, rational, transparent and evidence-based approach to the prioritisation of services provision for informal settlements in the City.
In 2019, six prioritisation criteria were accordingly developed and approved by the Municipality to support more effective and prioritised pipeline planning and as part of a mandate to develop a programme description for the municipality to enable more effective and scaled-up incremental upgrading. The following crosscutting criteria were identified:
- Vulnerability: extent of health and safety threats, using net density as one of the means to apply this criterion.
- Services Deficit: the various components of Incremental Services that are absent or lacking due to inefficient ratios/thresholds of household numbers relative to service points.
- Population Coverage: the larger the settlement in terms of the number of households, the greater the efficiency of delivery and return on investment.
- Age of Settlement: how long have people been waiting for services.
- Community Readiness: how stable the community and leadership are and their appetite to embrace the new, incremental approach.
- Location: how well located the settlement is, noting the importance of addressing spatial inequality and inefficiencies and the constraints relating to over-extending the reach of the municipality’s bulk infrastructure networks.
In 2020 the City’s informal settlement database was significantly strengthened through the acquisition of additional data on settlements. This included verifying and correcting settlement boundaries, confirming certain settlement names, adding certain new settlements, updating household counts, calculating net densities, obtaining updated service delivery information from various municipal line departments, and quantifying services deficits.
The database now contains 587 settlements with more than 100 data fields for each settlement relating to: settlement description (name, ward, categorisation, household count, density etc.); land, zoning and planning; physical conditions; site constraints and threats; services delivered; service delivery deficits; various analytical fields which enable prioritisation and pipeline planning.
A prioritisation method or framework was also developed. In addition to utilising the above crosscutting prioritisation criteria, it also needed to factor in the national upgrading categorisation framework, which has also been adopted by eThekwini. This framework distinguishes four categories of settlement (A, B1, B2, C) and with the two most prevalent categories being B1 (permanent settlement, in-situ upgrade over time with essential basic services provision) and B2 (deferred relocation with emergency basic services in the meantime). The framework also takes account of the significant number of dense, well-located B1 settlements which typically warrant a different, better integrated and more qualitative servicing approach (such as the ‘services frame’) given their strategic importance. It is emphasised that these settlements typically have excellent access to social facilities and employment opportunities and are well-established, often dating back more than 20 years. They also constitute almost half of all the informal settlements in the City – 135,275 households in 218 settlements out of a total of 580 settlements and 285,000 households). Optimised servicing can unlock a strategic opportunity for more inclusive city-building and lay the foundation for a different and improved and more inclusive future urban form.
The prioritisation framework outlined below recognises that the manner in which prioritisation occurs will relate largely to the developmental trajectory of settlements and that a differentiated prioritisation approach is therefore necessary (i.e. an approach which utilises different prioritisation criteria for different types of upgrading response and service).
- Prioritisation for urgent mitigations of severe (life-threatening) risk/vulnerability: These responses should receive top priority on the basis of vulnerability, regardless of other criteria or settlement categorization. This category of response will mainly apply to category B1, B2 and C settlements. All households at severe and imminent risk of loss of life should be identified without delay and emergency mitigation strategies determined which may include immediate relocation or other mitigations e.g. flood attenuation measures or early flood warning / response. High risks can arise from factors such as: close proximity to watercourse within regular floodline; close proximity to a railway line; steep and geotechnically unstable slopes etc.
- Prioritisation for provision of basic emergency services for B2 settlements: These are provided mainly to mitigate general health and safety threats and meet minimum basic service standards. Given that these settlements are not going to be upgraded in situ (i.e. they will eventually be relocated), the criterion of location would receive less weighting than for B1 settlements. The other criteria would however apply (i.e. the extent/ severity of vulnerability and services deficit, population coverage/return on investment, and how long people have been waiting.
- Prioritisation for B1 incremental upgrades: Where interventions are made on the basis of mitigating health and safety threats on an emergency basis, the same or similar criteria for B2 would apply. However, where there is no situation of emergency and/or the services form part of longer term upgrading and the extent of investment is higher, then the additional criterion of the locality of the settlement will come into play, especially where significant resources are being expended to rework space to install a services frame (i.e. partial re-blocking).
The above refined prioritisation framework is being applied and refined in the Municipality starting in January 2021 and will be adapted and refined thereafter. The framework also forms an important component of the City’s Incremental Upgrading Policy and Programme Description which are currently under development.
Click here for the newsletter on incremental planning solutions.
Due to the Covid-19 lockdowns acute food shortages developed in many informal settlements and other low income communities due to unemployment and loss of livelihoods. PPT initiated and coordinated two food-drops during the lockdown period which benefited more than 12,000 most-vulnerable households in 13 informal settlements in eThekwini Municipality in the form of a one-month supply of basic food for each household assisted (via the iQhaza Lethu upgrading partnership initiative).
PPT/iQhaza Lethu facilitated the logistics within the settlements to enable safe delivery and distribution of the food parcels with the project’s Community Development Coordinators within each settlement playing a key coordinating role. The Project also identified the most vulnerable households and ensured record keeping of who received parcels.
The food-drops were undertaken in partnership with the Lunchbox Fund Foundation, who were responsible for providing the food and all off-site logistics together with their other partners and with funding provided partially by HCI Foundation.
PPT ensured all on-site logistical arrangements via the iQhaza Lethu team which included the local Community Development Coordinators from each settlement including ensuring appropriate beneficiary identification and that food was correctly distributed and that all required records kept.
The food-drop was the result of numerous approaches by PPT to many different funders to assist with the food crisis in informal settlements. Fortunately, Lunchbox Fund responded and was able to secure some assistance for which PPT and the communities benefiting were very grateful.
The first phase of food was delivered during the week of 18-22 May 2020. An additional food-drop for 500 households was arranged between 16th and 17th July.
Food drop 1 May
Food drop 2 July
Progress Place -Demat
Bhambayi Phase 3 (Inanda)
Hololo City (Ntuzuma C)
Bhambayi (ward 52)
Click here for the newsletter on Covid-19 food supply to informal settlements.
In 2020, a ground-breaking Partnership Agreement (or Social Compact) was concluded between the National Department of Human Settlements (signed by the National Minister) and various Civil Society Originations (CSOs) involved in upgrading, including PPT. A related CSO Engagement Plan was also developed which establishes a strengthened platform for municipalities and provinces to secure the involvement of CSOs in upgrading initiatives in various ways. PPT played a significant and at times leading role in developing the Agreement and Engagement Plan and its CEO was one of three mandated CSO representatives serving on the Task Team for the latter along with various representatives of the NDHS and National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP). Amongst other things PPT was instrumental in the establishment of a national CSO Engagement Platform which eventually involved large numbers of CSOs, NPOs, academics as well as the NDHS and municipal representatives. PPT was also involved in several small engagement meetings with the Minister of Human Settlements and her core team early in the Covid-19 lockdown period, the purposes of which were to scope issues and strategic priorities for collaborative engagement. This also enabled various inputs to be made by CSOs which positively impacted the Minister’s Covid-19 Directives.
Partnership Framework Agreement
The ‘Partnership Framework Agreement’ was entered into between 14 leading CSOs (including PPT) and the National Minister of Human Settlements in June 2020. Although the impetus for the Agreement was COVID-19, the scope and implications of the Agreement extend well beyond the Covid-19 timeframe (including long term upgrading objectives). Amongst other things the Agreement establishes a more definite role for CSOs in upgrading and a clear commitment to partnership between CSOs and government including in respect of more effective activation of people’s housing process (PHP) in upgrading, which is the principal chapter of the Housing Code which enshrines and establishes a role for CSOs/NGOs in planning and implementing more ‘community-driven’ human settlements projects. Other key issues such as the need for statutory and regulatory flexibility also come through in the agreement which is the first time they are receiving prominence on the national platform. Click here to view the signed Partnership Agreement.
CSO Engagement Plan
The draft CSO Engagement Plan was finalised in October 2020 after an intensive process of engagement. The Engagement Plan is designed to give effect to the aforementioned Partnership Agreement. Amongst other things it establishes the specific roles and functions which different types of CSOs can play, including in respect of planning and implementing upgrading projects, training and capacity building and research and policy development. It also assists in giving direction in respect of how municipalities and provinces can partner with CSOs and make funding available for these purposes. The Engagement Plan is currently being workshopped with the provincial and municipal spheres of government with the intention of finalising it via signing ceremony which was initially intended to occur in November 2020 but will now most likely only be finalised early in 2021.
CSO Engagement Platform
A significant factor in achieving the aforementioned Framework Agreement and Engagement Plan, was the establishment of a national Covid-19 Human Settlements multi-stakeholder platform including numerous CSOs, representatives of NHDS, NUSP, and Metros which has been operating since the third week of lockdown. For a sustained period early in the Covid-19 lockdown there were regular weekly meetings of this grouping (the 18th such meeting was held on Monday 18th May 2020). It has continued to meet thereafter but on a less frequent and ad hoc basis. PPT’s email to a group of selected government, academic and CSO stakeholders on the ‘looming food crisis’ in informal settlements in early April was the impetus for the creation of this forum which was subsequently rapidly expanded in terms of participation and the range of issues it deals with. As at mid-2020 there were approximately 170 people on the platform (email and WhatsApp) and between 30 and 60 people attended the weekly meetings. The CSO platform continues to function with communications mainly occurring by means of a WhatsApp group where regular postings, notifications and other communications are channelled, both by government and CSOs.
National CSO Submission
Another contributing factor was a joint CSO submission to the National Minister regarding appropriate Covid-19 informal settlement response measures. The National Human Settlements Minister (Lindiwe Sisulu) announced a controversial Covid-19 ‘de-densification initiative’ for informal settlements, making use of temporary relocation areas (TRAs). The initiative was announced by the Ministry early in the lockdown period (and was in fact conceptualised before the lockdown). PPT was the first to voice its concerns and offer feedback and critique. Many other CSOs voiced similar concerns over the efficacy and timing of this initiative. A group of 14 leading CSOs in the human settlements space developed and made a detailed submission to the National Minister on 11th April 2020. PPT drafted large parts of the submission. For more information, please click here to view the full CSO submission. Following the CSO submission and initial meetings with the Minister, an NDHS press release incorrectly indicated that CSOs were supportive and co-initiators of the de-densification initiative. As a result, the group of CSOs issued a press release constructively critiquing the de-densification approach and distancing themselves from the approach.
Click here to view the CSO press release relating to de-densification and Covid-19.
PPT developed the Categorisation Framework for informal settlements which is now utilised nationally in South Africa. The Framework is a ground-breaking innovation which enables a more effective and programmatic response to the upgrading of informal settlements and is now the principal and foundational method used in the city-wide planning of informal settlements. It is a requirement of the National Department of Human Settlements that all Municipalities categorise their informal settlements using the framework and that they structure their upgrading programmes (plans) accordingly in a systematic and differentiated fashion.
The Categorisation Framework also has important land use and spatial planning implications. eThekwini Metro is now in the process of reflecting settlements as per their categorisation in the Municipal Spatial Development Strategies (SDFs). This is an important first step in implementing the prescripts of the Spatial Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA) relating to incremental planning solutions. The Municipality is also in the process of developing incremental and transitional land use categories which means that all informal settlements will be included within municipal planning frameworks, with an acceptance of the need for flexibility and incrementalism.
The informal settlement Categorisation Framework distinguishes four categories of settlement with distinct developmental trajectories for each one as follows (click here for a more detailed version of the framework):
- Category A: Full conventional upgrade in the form of rapid formalisation by means of formal housing, full services and formal tenure.
- Category B1: Incremental in-situ upgrade with the provision of essential basic services and leading over time to either formalisation or an alternative ‘less formal solution (i.e. permanent settlement not to be relocated).
- Category B2: Deferred relocation with emergency basic services leading to eventual relocation.
- Category C: Imminent relocation.
Significantly, most settlements are typically in the B1 and B2 categories with relatively small numbers in category A and C. In eThekwini Municipality, 77% of the settlements (220,000 households) are in the B1 category, making incremental, in-situ upgrades of various types the principal upgrading priority in the City. The second biggest category is B2 at 11% with 30,500 households identified for deferred relocation with emergency services provision in the meantime.
PPT developed the first version of the framework in 2010 for the KZN Department of Human Settlements as part of the KZN Informal Settlement Upgrading Strategy but subsequently it has been refined and adopted nationally, first via the Rapid Assessment and Categorisation Guidelines which PPT produced for the Housing Development Agency in 2015 and then via the National Upgrading Programme Management Toolkit which PPT produced for the Cities Support Programme and National Upgrading Support Programme in 2017.
- Full conventional upgrade (category ‘A’):
- Developmental pathway: Rapid formalisation consisting of full services, formal housing and formal tenure (e.g. title deeds), requiring prior land acquisition and formal town planning and environmental approvals.
- Rationale: 1) Site is viable (developable) and appropriate for purposes of formalisation AND 2) full upgrade project is implementation-ready (full upgrading can commence rapidly – land secured, feasibilities complete, plans approved etc.) AND 3) formalisation is appropriate and will not result in significant adverse consequences (e.g. significant partial relocations or other livelihood impacts).
- incremental upgrade with essential services (category ‘B1’):
- Developmental pathway: Provision of essential services and other incremental upgrading arrangements leading over time either to eventual formalisation or other permanent ‘less formal’ settlement solutions.
- Rationale: 1) Site is viable and appropriate for purposes of permanent settlement AND 2) project is NOT implementation-ready for formalisation (there will be delays due to such factors as land acquisition, de-densification or bulk services provision).
- deferred relocation with Emergency services (category ‘B2’):
- Developmental pathway: Provision of emergency basic services but NOT leading to eventual formalisation – more likely leading to eventual relocation (when and if a suitable relocation site is obtained and developed).
- Rationale: 1) Site is NOT viable or appropriate for purposes of formalisation or permanent settlement BUT 2) there is NO urgent need for relocation (absence of serious health and safety threats which cannot be mitigated in the short-term through basic services provision).
- immediate Relocation (category ‘C’):
- Developmental pathway: Rapid relocation is imminent to a site which is already available or is almost ready (site & service or greenfields housing or temporary relocation area).
- Rationale: 1) Site is NOT viable or appropriate for purposes of permanent settlement or formalisation AND 2) there is an urgent need for relocation due to serious health and safety threats which cannot be adequately mitigated in the short-term through basic services provision AND 3) an appropriate relocations destination is ready and available or this is imminent.
In 2017, PPT developed a ground-breaking upgrading Toolkit to enable municipalities and practitioners in South Africa (and elsewhere) to undertake incremental upgrading in a more programmatic, effective and scaled up (city-wide) fashion. The Toolkit is the first of its kind globally in terms of its programmatic orientation, its focus on the full spectrum of core upgrading issues and its comprehensive smart-referenced resource library.
The Toolkit, titled “Preparing to Scale Up Informal Settlement Upgrading in South African Cities – A City-Wide Approach”, was developed for and in close consultation with the Cities Support Programme, National Human Settlements, and National Upgrading Support Programme and was funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), administered through the World Bank. There was also close engagement with Metros, researchers, international upgrading organisations and other stakeholders during its compilation.
The Toolkit is structured around a consultative diagnosis of the main barriers which are preventing the scaling up of incremental, city-wide upgrading. This diagnosis was informed by direct engagement/workshops with all eight Metros in South Africa as part of the Toolkit development process. This is regarded as an important innovation because it gives the toolkit a strong functional (as opposed to descriptive) orientation. The toolkit is also distinct from prior toolkits in being focussed principally at the programme level and addressing the question of ‘how to scale up’ instead of being focussed at the project level and ‘how to undertake an upgrading project’.
The Toolkit is a major work consisting of a 190-page main document and a smart-referenced resource library containing 368 local and international upgrading resources. The document consists of ten sections, each addressing one of the primary ten main upgrading barriers identified, as well as an up-front quick user guide which enables users to rapidly identify the particular sections and resources which might assist them in addressing particular problems they face. There is an analysis of the nature of each barrier, identification and referencing of the existing precedents and possible solutions to each one, and in many instances the development of new material/solutions where there were gaps. The resource library is smart-referenced by means of an Excel spreadsheet which contains 22 key subject filters directly related to the prevailing barriers and other key themes as well as a key word search function to enable users to rapidly identify particular resources most relevant to their needs. The library is designed so as to be expanded and updated over time.
The Toolkit is also significant because of its contribution to changing mind-sets relating to upgrading and building greater consensus on the optimal approach. Amongst other things it has assisted in mainstreaming awareness and understanding in the following key areas: a) the existence and importance of well-defined barriers and how they can be overcome; b) the strategic importance of incremental upgrading and impossibility of addressing the informal settlement ‘backlog’ by means of formal housing provision; c) a city-wide, programmatic approach and tools and approaches required to unlock such an approach.
The full Toolkit is available online on the CSP website along with the smart-referenced resource library of 368 local and international upgrading resources: https://csp.treasury.gov.za/Resource%20_Centre/Conferences/Pages/CSP-Tools.aspx (see item 2 Human Settlements).
You can also click here to view the main Toolkit document on the PPT website.
 Such essential services (also known as ‘interim services’) will usually consist of improved road and footpath access, standpipes, and some form of improved sanitation (e.g. VIPs or communal sanitation blocks), electricity, fire protection and solid waste removal. In addition, key social services (schools, ECD and primary health care) should also receive attention. Sufficient preliminary planning is desirable to maximise the extent to which interim services can be incorporated into the final settlement solution.
 Such ‘emergency services’ may be at a similar or at a lesser level to category B2 interim services. Because the settlement will eventually be relocated, it is not essential to undertake preliminary planning work (although it may in some cases be beneficial). The purpose is not only to alleviate an ‘emergency’ situation, but also to provide quality of live improvements where settlements are unlikely to be relocated for some time to come.
 E.g. serious flooding, slope instability, and toxic waste exposure.
The Project arose from concerns within Government as to the current trajectory and effectiveness of the national housing programme which are shared by many within civil society and the private sector and relate principally to what is typically referred to as the ‘un-sustainability’ of the current programme, not only in respect of its affordability to the fiscus but also in respect of the nature of the socio-economic benefits and leverages which are being achieved. Despite increasing housing expenditure and extensive delivery of state-subsidised houses, significant backlogs persist, access to economic opportunities and social facilities is often not improving, subsidised housing quality is variable and there is a prevailing sense of beneficiary passivity. There is also broad-based recognition that certain fundamental human settlement challenges are not being adequately addressed or accommodated such as informality, spatial restructuring, land-access for the poor, and affordable rental housing. These persistent challenges are recognised as posing not only developmental but strategic threats to South Africa if they are not more effectively and rapidly responded to.
Against this backdrop, the Project was set the ambitious goal of rethinking the national housing programme yet it was also limited in its scope and budget and based only on a desktop review of existing materials and bodies of work. It was therefore seen as a ‘think-piece’ and one of many inputs into the afore-mentioned Green Paper process.
The research report was arranged in four main parts: an ‘Introduction’; a ‘Situational Analysis’; a ‘Problem Statement’ and a ‘New Housing Framework’. It also contained, as Annexures, three source reports produced by the project team. These assessed the current housing programme; profiled selected local and international experience; and considered various dimensions of the future which needed to be taken into consideration.
Whilst its content cannot be released, the proposed new Framework proposed by the Project Team in many respects represents a significant if not radical departure from the status quo in several key respects.
The members of the core professional team were: Mark Misselhorn (PPT – Project Leader); Mark Napier (Urban LandMark – Research Leader); Susan Carey (independent consultant – researcher); Susanna Godehart (independent consultant – researcher); Sarah Charlton (independent consultant – researcher); and Ishmael Mkhabela (independent consultant – workshop facilitator). In addition, the following experts served on the project’s Reference Group: Philip Harrison, Edgar Pieterse, Dan Smit, Stephen Berrisford, Kecia Rust, and S’bu Zikode (with additional stakeholder representation determined by the NDHS during a variety of meetings).
A comprehensive Informal Settlement Development Strategy was developed by PPT for the KZN Department of Human Settlements (DHS) in 2011 and was adopted by them in 2012. The Strategy is apparently the first comprehensive provincial strategy of its kind in South Africa. There are currently estimated to be at least 306,076 households residing within informal settlements in the Province, with 95% located within 10 Municipalities with 78% in eThekwini.
Key features of the Strategy:
- It promotes in-situ informal settlement upgrading (as opposed to relocations).
- It promotes a range of informal settlements responses.
- It promotes a rapid, broad based delivery of basic infrastructure to augment conventional housing delivery.
- It promotes systematic project preparation and community participation.
- It provides practical toolkits to assist municipalities and their service providers.
- It promotes rapid assessment and categorisation in order to obtain adequate desktop profiles of all settlements and to determine the appropriate developmental responses which are required (given the lack of adequate information on informal settlements in most municipalities).
- It includes a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework to be utilised by the Province in measuring the effectiveness of the new Strategy.
Key learning arising from the Strategy:
- Tenure and land: The appropriate minimum form of basic tenure to accompany interim services is settlement level administrative recognition (as opposed to individual tenure). Land acquisition should not be an essential pre-requisite for basic services delivery.
- Grant instruments: The UISP grant instrument in its current form is incompatible with the rapid delivery of interim basic services and requires review.
- Land acquisition funding: Funding for land identification and acquisition and associated professional services is lacking (inaccessible) and this must be addressed. Such funding needs to be made available in well in advance of housing subsidies.
- Capacity: It recognises that the capacity of the State is limited and that the leverage through procurement of private sector and NGO capacity is critical.
- Preparation funding: The release of preparation funding to Municipalities to procure the necessary private sector / NGO capacity to prepare projects of various types is a critical success factor to order to ensure bankable, viable project pipelines.
Click here to access the KZN Informal Settlement Upgrading Strategy and the accompanying Municipal Resources Pack.
- Basic road and footpath access based on a prioritised road hierarchy and informed by basic master-plans for the 15 precincts in which the bulk of informal settlements are concentrated.
- Sanitation via communal sanitation blocks which are connected to water and sewer mains .
- Electrical supply to individual homes.
- Standpipes for water supply (the norm is one standpipe within 200m of every dwelling).
These will be augmented with additional interventions such as:
- Key social facilities based on plans currently under formulation (e.g. police and fire stations, clinics, schools, sports fields, community halls).
- Participative local economic action plans.
- Livelihoods interventions to empower residents to better optimise their existing assets and resources and become more resilient in the face of external shocks and stresses (and focussed on such issues as HIV/AIDS, food security, and fire protection).
- Fruit tree planting and vegetable gardens.
Preparation of the Kenville Project was undertaken at precinct level in order to enable more integrated development and to optimize the resultant urban form. This was especially important given the prime location of the site within the City and its close access to job opportunities and other amenities. This integrated precinct level approach is in contrast to the usual trend in South Africa in terms of which informal settlements tend to be dealt with from a narrow housing perspective and in isolation from the greater urban environment in which they are located.
Significant progress has been made in terms of promoting more effective and appropriate responses to the challenges posed by informal settlements.
For more information please refer to the Knowledge Resources section of this website.