On 5 September, Dr Margot Strauss, a senior research associate at the Socio-Economic Rights & Administrative Justice (SERAJ) Research Project, presented a Faces of the City seminar at the University of the Witwatersrand. The Faces of the City seminar series is a partnership between the SARChI in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, the Gauteng City Region Observatory, the Centre for Urbanism and the Built Environment Studies, and the Wits City Institute.
Inspired by her doctoral research, Dr Strauss’ seminar advanced A right to the city perspective on spatial justice and housing South Africa’s urban poor. In particular, the seminar dealt with the profound implications of spatial injustice for the democratic transformation of South African society, the planning and development of inclusive towns and cities, and the realisation of the constitutionally enshrined housing rights of vulnerable and marginalised urban inhabitants. Patterns of spatial segregation in urban areas remain a persistent legacy of our apartheid past and current approaches to interpreting and realising housing rights largely fail to adequately address complex housing needs. In response to these challenges, the seminar highlighted the value of Henri Lefebvre’s right to the city, as a normative paradigm, for developing the substantive content of the housing rights of South Africa’s urban poor and advancing spatial and social transformation in South Africa.
The diverse and multi-disciplinary audience included Wits faculty members, postgraduate students in architecture and planning, representatives from local government and independent think-tanks, housing practitioners, civil society, and community organisations.