Building 1000 Homes

Urban-Think Tank Empower

Delivering real solutions to South Africa’s housing crisis

Urban-Think Tank Empower NPC (UTTE) is dedicated to developing and implementing a ground-breaking public housing model with the potential to end South Africa’s chronic public housing crisis.

Ultimately, our Empower Model is set to define what public housing will look like in post-RDP South Africa, providing informal settlement residents in Cape Town and beyond with decent and dignified homes along with economic opportunities.

A brief history

UTTE is a non-profit organisation which emerged from Urban-Think Tank Design Group, an international collective that uses the power of architecture and design to uplift the lives of marginalised communities worldwide.

Urban-Think Tank’s association with South Africa dates back to 2012, when it brought together an alliance of local and international partners to address the unique historical and social factors underpinning South Africa’s housing crisis, beginning with the Empower Khayelitsha development project.

These partners included local community members, government officials, built environment practitioners, impact investors, NGOs and foreign donors. Our aim was pioneer innovative approaches to driving impactful change by combining collective expertise and resources.

Formally registered in September 2022, UTTE is the vehicle that will now manage Urban-Think Tank’s future projects in South Africa.

A better South Africa by design

Our collaborative, research-led Empower Model is designed to uplift the millions of lives in South Africa’s informal settlements by:

  • Building decent, affordable housing for all
  • Providing work and wealth
  • Supporting economic activities and urban life
  • Strengthening social cohesion and identity
  • Protecting the environment and ecosystems
  • Securing access to clean energy
  • Empowering citizens through democratic principles.

“UTTE’s ground-breaking Empower Upgrade Model has the potential to end South Africa’s chronic public housing crisis.”

UTTE-Phase-1

Empower Khayelitsha Pilot Project | Phase 1

We started implementing our embryonic Empower Model over 10 years ago with the community living at BT Section (Site C) in Khayelitsha.

From day one, we worked closely with community representatives to ensure that the model we were developing responded directly to what community members actually wanted. With their input and support, the pilot project is now bringing life-changing social and economic benefits to 72 households.

UTTE 3D model ground floor
UTTE 3D model first floor

The modular design of UTTE’s unit in Phase 1 allows the owner to adapt the layout to suit their specific needs. It can be set up to accommodate a larger family, several smaller families or even a ground floor shop, with the living quarters on the first floor.

Phase 1 by numbers

Total m² for Phase 1

Private, semi-private and public courtyards

Two-storey housing units

Distinct housing typologie

Million Rand development cost

Residents

UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1
UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1
UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1

Phase 1 of our Empower development in Khayelitsha has brought life-changing benefits – and a dash of colour – to the local community.

UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1
UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1
UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1

Inside and out, Empower homes offer residents welcome protection from the notorious hazards of township life such as fires and floods.

UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1
UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1
UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1

These safe, comfortable Empower homes were built on the site of existing shacks. No bulldozers needed. No forced removals involved.

UTTE-Phase-2

Empower Khayelitsha Phase 2 | Community 2

Launched in 2023, the next phase of the Empower Khayelitsha project will initially involve replicating and scaling up our Empowerment Model for the benefit of around 330 residents living at Site C in Ikwezi Park, just around the corner from our Phase 1 development.

Drawing on the lessons Phase 1 taught us, delivering the first part of Phase 2 with Community 2’s input will involve:

  • Building compliant structures incorporating residential and commercial opportunities.
  • Increasing density.
  • Optimising services.
  • Providing shared community facilities.
  • Landscaping to improve the quality of the environment.
  • Developing renewable energy solutions.
  • Offering skills development opportunities.
  • Creating food farms.

Phase 2 by numbers

Total m² for Phase 2

Two-storey housing units

Million Rand development cost

UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 2
UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 2
UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1

The first phase of our Empower development stands out like a beacon of hope that there is a way out of South Africa’s housing crisis.

UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1
UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1
UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 1

We are now preparing to replace another 70 of Khayelitsha’s traditional one-storey shacks with high quality, two-storey Empower homes.

UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 2
UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 2
UTTE Khayelitsha Phase 2

Project partners

Urban Think Tank Logo
Urban Think Tank Logo

Riverside Consulting
On the ground Project Management

Urban Think Tank Logo
Urban Think Tank Logo

Future Cities
Urban Strategist

Urban Think Tank Logo

STBB Legal Council and Conveyancing

Urban Think Tank Logo

deVilliers & Hulme
Structural & Civil Engineering

Urban Think Tank Logo

Urban Dynamics
Town Planning

Urban Think Tank Logo

Ikhayalami Community Partner

Urban Think Tank Logo
Urban Think Tank Logo
Urban Think Tank Logo
Urban Think Tank Logo
Urban Think Tank Logo
Urban Think Tank Logo

LUKHANO URBAN FARMING NETWORK

Looking ahead

This is only the start of the UTTE story. We have now identified 10 more communities in Khayelitsha where we plan to implement our Empower Model and make an even greater contribution towards resolving South Africa’s chronic public housing crisis.

You can also help by donating or volunteering for one of our projects.

Contact Us