Based on extensive qualitative research in inner-city Johannesburg, this article documents the contradictory experiences of tenants living in state-subsidised social and affordable housing. It shows that this form of housing is assisting in improving integration and undoing some of the spatial legacies inherited from apartheid, and thus enhancing some elements of urban citizenship. However, it also demonstrates that tenants have to endure harsh conditions and financial pressures in order to remain in the inner-city, and live in the area not out of choice but because they feel they do not have any better alternatives. Combined with the strict regulations imposed on them by housing companies, these conditions mean that they generally come to feel detached from the area they are living in and resigned to making the best out of far from ideal circumstances. However, whilst hardships feature prominently in their narratives, they are also not passive or lacking agency. Through the new friendships and support networks they forge, they transform the ways in which inner-city buildings and spaces are experienced. The article thus concludes that experiences of urban citizenship and housing in the inner-city, like the post-apartheid period itself, do not cohere into a single narrative, but represent moments of change, optimism and possibility, as well as difficulty, inequality and hardship.


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pp. 142-169
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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