04 Kikuyu Road, Sunninghill, Johannesburg, 2157

National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP)


How do we define Informal Settlements:


Informal settlements are residential areas where:

  • Inhabitants have no security as tenure vis-à-vis the land or dwellings they inhabit with modalities ranging from squatting to informal rental housing;
  • The neighbourhoods usually lack, or are cut-off from, basic services and city infrastructure; and,
  • The housing may not comply with the current planning and building regulations and is often situated in geographical and environmentally hazardous areas.


Characteristics of Informal Settlements:

  • Illegality and Informality
    • Permanent state of legal-social insecurity.
    • Absence of formal planning and incremental, unplanned growth.
  • Location and Environment Factors
    • Mostly on land not suitable for development
    • Urban periphery
  • Restricted Public Sector Investment
    • Due to the 'illegal' status informal settlements lack access to basic infrastructure services as well as social and economic amenities.
  • Poverty and Vulnerability
    • Predominantly informal settlement dwellers have basic educational qualifications.
    • Susceptible to disease and continued social fragmentation
  • Social Stress
    • Poverty and poor living conditions are fertile ground for exploitation and increasing social stress that includes domestic violence, child abuse, etc.


Informal settlement upgrading is a key agenda item for creating sustainable human settlements and restoring the dignity of millions of South Africans who dwell in informal settlements. The implementation and realisation of this agenda item is materialised through the Upgrading Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) as espoused in the National Housing Code (Part 3, Volume 4). In an endeavour to ensure that informal settlement upgrading is prioritised, the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP) was established with the primary objective of offering support to key stakeholders.


The National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP) is an initiative of the National Department of Human Settlements (NDoHS), which is aimed at improving the practice of informal settlement upgrading in South Africa. The NUSP has four objectives:

  • Promote incremental upgrading (in situ where possible) as a major complementary housing programme, in line with Part 3, Volume 4 of the National Housing Code;
  • Support targets to improve access to basic infrastructure, services and land tenure for informal settlement households; 
  • Improve government's programmatic approach to upgrading and strengthening coordination with other sectors and partners;
  • Strengthen the capacity of government and professional practitioners to implement informal settlement upgrading.

Key Impact/Focus Areas:

  • Mindset Shift
  • Institutional Arrangements
  • Funding and Financing
  • Participatory Planning
  • Consolidation and alignment of innovative informal settlement upgrading processes
  • Capacity Development

What support does NUSP provide:
NUSP has three broad activity streams:

  • Providing technical assistance to provinces and municipalities for the development and implementation of upgrading programmes and projects
  • 'Phase One' are foundation activities (assessment, categorisation, programme and upgrading strategy).
  • 'Phase Two' focuses on detailed settlement plans
  • Capacity building and training to practitioners and community members in the field of informal settlement upgrading;
  • Sharing knowledge and information to the upgrading community of practice.

NUSP supports:

  • National Department,
  • Provinces,
  • Metros,
  • District Municipalities,
  • Local Municipalities and,
  • Non-state stakeholders (engaged in Informal Settlements e.g., academia, NGOs, CBOs, etc.).

NUSP partners and how they work together?

In pursuit of the informal settlement upgrading agenda, strategic institutional relationships are pursued.

An important partner in providing technical support for upgrading under the coordination of the NUSP;

  • ISU project readiness pipeline system for mining towns set-up and tracked
  • Projects identification / verification leading to pipeline (enumeration, rapid assessments)
  • Projects preparation /packaging leading to implementation (feasibility studies, upgrading plans)
  • Coordination of upgrading initiatives (provincial forums, community participation, livelihoods, multi-sector alignment activities, settlements management plans, and sustainability programmes)
  • Implementation support (Project management role for implementation of ready projects based on request from municipalities and provinces, and capacity building support.
  • Strategic planning (development of municipal/provincial ISU strategies/programme)
  • Implementation Resources - Informal Settlement Practice Notes

EPHP: Provides for a process in which beneficiaries actively participate in decision-making over the housing process and housing product and make a contribution; NUSP team working on a process with PHP to align their role to Phase 1 of UISP processes.


Provide metros with technical and capacity support to scale up efforts to upgrade informal settlements as part of the Built Environment Performance Plan and NUSP Programme. The support to the metros will cover the following aspects of upgrading:

  • planning, tenure and infrastructure services;
  • community engagement;
  • programme management toolkits;
  • determining community of practice/ exemplary projects (5) looking at functional and good upgrading practices to scale up participatory and incremental upgrading (local and international).


The DMO is the command centre of the Agency that provides overall operational co-ordination to the various core programmes of the Agency namely; Built Environment, National Programme Design and Management, Strategic Initiatives and Regions. It is also responsible for the management of the Technical Resource Centre of the Agency.

The Strategic Initiatives unit seeks to;

  • Oversee the sourcing and appointment of deal making resources
  • Oversee the identification and structuring of deals
  • Track and monitor the deal negotiations and approaches
  • Review and provide recommendations on deal structures and contracts
  • Track, monitor and report on deal making progress in line with the overall development management and national priority and catalytic project processes.

National Programme Design and Management (NPD&M)

The NPD&M provides implementation support and improved capacity on the delivery of the national priority projects as identified by the National Department of Human Settlements (NDHS). The NPD&M develops plans and manages the implementation of those plans in line with the overall HDA strategy and national human settlements priorities. To this end the following national priority programmes are managed by NPD&M:

  • Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (ISUP) including National Urban Settlements Programme (NUSP)
  • The Catalytic Projects Programme
  • Revitalisation of the Distressed Mining Towns
  • Government Employee Housing Scheme.

The Informal Settlements Upgrading Programme (ISUP) is a NDHS programme that seeks to upgrade the living conditions of people where they are settled. This Programme is aimed at the in situ upgrading of informal settlements utilising existing land and infrastructure to provide secure tenure and access to basic services as well as formal housing and related amenities where possible. In circumstances where the land is not suitable for human habitation, residents may be relocated and settled elsewhere. Beneficiary communities are involved throughout the project cycle to bring about social cohesion and stability.

The National Urban Settlements Programme (NUSP) is designed to provide technical and capacity support to provinces and municipalities across the country for the implementation of the informal settlement upgrading in an incremental manner incorporating other housing programmes.

In line with the National Development Plan the Catalytic Projects Programme aims to develop high impact integrated and sustainable human settlements in well located land that promotes spatial targeting, social and economic integration and delivery at scale using different tenure options.

Revitalisation of the Distressed Mining Towns intervention was initiated to transform mining towns through the creation of sustainable human settlements. This will improve the socio-economic conditions of mine communities and labour sending areas and provide decent living conditions for mine workers. HDA would develop human settlements spatial transformation plans in order to align government planning and delivery processes and inform future developments in the mining towns and labour sending areas.

Government Employee Housing Scheme (GEHS) offers sustainable housing solutions to government employees and increase home-ownership among them.

The Built Environment business unit is primarily responsible for supporting the various programmes within the HDA, provinces and municipalities by identifying, acquiring, holding, packaging and developing land for human settlement development. Thus the business unit is responsible for a number of major activities within the human settlement development value chain.

The division comprises the following units:-

1. Development Management

This unit is responsible for amongst others:-

  • Developing the project packaging frameworks and guidelines.
  • Reviewing and assessing the overall project packaging necessary to ensure viability.
  • Reviewing and managing the urban planning components required to facilitate project viability.
  • Compilation of development management frameworks and policies.
  • Contract negotiation, structuring and management of the developments.
  • Procurement and appointment of technical teams and required resources.
  • Development of project and programmes plans, deliverables, timeframes and budget.
  • Contract implementation and address non-performance where required.

2. Land Management

This unit comprises the Land Acquisition and Holding sub-units

2.1 Land Acquisition sub unit

The land acquisition unit is responsible for the facilitation of all acquisition and release of both Private and Public land required by the HDA, Provinces and/or Municipalities for human settlements development. To ensure that the land is suitable for development, the function includes identification and prioritisation of land for acquisition to the actual land acquisition and release and/or transfer of the land to stakeholders or qualifying beneficiaries. Some of its responsibilities include:-

  • Development of the land management frameworks, guidelines and policies.
  • Development of land acquisition plans across all spheres of government.
  • Managing and undertaking the acquisition of property.
  • Managing and undertaking the transfer of property.
  • Reviewing, negotiating and managing development, drafting and conclusion of land acquisition and disposal arrangements.

2.2 Land Holding Sub-Unit

In terms of Section 5(1) of the HDA’s Act, the Agency is able to hold acquired land prior to release for human settlements development. As and when the properties held by the Agency are not yet programmed for human settlements development or properties that are under development, such properties may be subjected to short-, medium- and long-term holding agreements.

The purpose of the land holding unit is to position the holding and management properties in a way that the service meets the mandate of the holding function as prescribed in the HDA Act, but more importantly, to ensure that the Agency does it in a manner that espouses best practice, and in doing so, adds value to the customer in meeting its human settlement development outcomes. Some of the sub-unit’s responsibilities include:-

  • Managing leasing and management of acquired properties.
  • Maintenance of acquired properties including provision of security services.
  • Facilitating the release of land to the various transferees.

3. Project Finance

This subunit is responsible for:-

  • Development of  the project financial parameters and policies
  • Development of the  financial models and structures to support project feasibility
  • Management of the preparation, analysis and interpretation of project financial models and feasibility assessments
  • Preparing  financial modelling reports and recommendations: and
  • Presenting project financial models and reports to support decision making


In our endeavour to implement the key mandates, a number of critical knowledge products are developed and made available. The motivation for the knowledge products is to ensure that the key mandates are interpreted correctly and implementation unfolds accordingly. The challenge though is the vast amount of knowledge products that exist that speak to informal settlements upgrading approaches and methodologies. These products have been developed by stakeholders from the public sector, civil society, international agencies, academia, and private sector (not-for-profit) organisations and suit their specific needs and purposes.

It becomes imperative that the National Department of Human Settlements as the custodian for the UISP provides, amongst other leadership endeavours, strategic support and guidance on the interpretation of the UISP. Knowledge products matrix includes the following:


The context for the background is premised on the outcomes of the Rapid Appraisal of NUSP that was concluded in 2020 by the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit. The Rapid Appraisal focussed on the 2014-2019 MTSF period. The key findings included the following:

  • 89 municipalities were provided with technical assistance in the 9 provinces. Limited assistance was provided to the Western Cape because the Western Cape manages its own informal settlements
  • NUSP has produced 1370 upgrading plans over the past 6 years and a high number of plans have been implemented to Phase 2.
  • Capacity building and training to practitioners, public representatives and community members in the field of informal settlement upgrading in the 9 Provincial departments, 8 Metros, 124 municipalities and 6 community groupings.
  • Over 274 officials attended training workshops and roadshows
  • Provinces implemented quarterly forums where best practices and progress on projects were discussed as part of knowledge services and information dissemination to the informal settlement community of practice and these included:
  • Alignment of the NUSP Community Development Programme with Technical Capacity Development Unit
  • HS Sector Capacity Development Strategy–2020.
  • Roll-out of the Introduction to Informal Settlement Upgrading Workshops – 2019; 2020.
  • Facilitated the Community of practice Workshops – 2018, 2019;
  • Due to COVID, the Capacity Development Programme was changed to Webinars from 2020/2021with the following themes:
    • Webinar 1 – How to Provide Incremental Tenure
    • Webinar 2 – Incremental Upgrading of Engineering Services
    • Webinar 3 – Social Compacts in Informal Settlement Upgrading
  • Upgrading and relaunch of the NUSP Website – 2019
  • Human Settlements Summit 2017 Resolutions – Narrowing the Gap from Experimentation to Implementation in Informal Settlements;
  • Facilitated National UISP forums – 2017; 2018, 2019, 2021
  • Quarterly Core Team Meetings comprising of PPMU, NUSP, HDA, CSP, and EPHP.
  • Concept Papers on targeted funding for implementation of UISP in 2018,
  • New Trajectory for ISU in 2017, National Scoping Exercise of UISP Implementation in 2017.
  • Developed the NUSP Operational Management Plan and Programme of Activities Programme of Action in 2017.