Affordable housing that unlocks opportunities

Strengthening the City of Cape Town’s institutional capacity to manage and maintain its asset portfolio

South Africa faces significant housing shortages, with vast numbers of vulnerable citizens living in overcrowded and inadequate conditions of highly polarised urban areas. Public housing is an important part of the solution to urban restructuring.

By providing affordable, subsidised rental housing in higher-income areas, vulnerable families gain access to public infrastructure and services as well as improved economic opportunities.

A complex stakeholder environment

The City of Cape Town’s Public Housing Department manages a massive portfolio of public housing facilities, including 43,000 rental units, 11,000 hostel spaces, and 700 staff housing units. The effective management and maintenance of these facilities directly impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens, which is why the City of Cape Town appointed Zutari to assess both the condition, and the maturity of asset management, of these facilities. Lloyd Wallace, Asset Management Associate at Zutari, explains the problem as follows:

“The Public Housing Department had been losing ground in terms of service delivery and was unable to meet expectations in an incredibly complicated stakeholder environment. Ultimately, they were perceived as having failed their communities in delivering a dignified quality of life for some of the poorest communities in Cape Town.”

The team needed a simple, elegant solution to care for assets and people; one that maximised value while dealing head-on with the complexity of identifying, describing, reporting, logging, scoping, fixing, tracking, and reporting maintenance and upgrade issues across a multi-department team of 460 people managing almost 58,000 spaces and their tenants. 

Zutari, accustomed to dealing with messy problems, used a human-centred design approach to develop a deep understanding of the human, systemic and political complexities inherent to public housing.  The project team, which included representatives from the City of Cape Town, facilitated authentic engagements with end-users and staff along the entire asset management process, creating a shared understanding of the bigger picture while highlighting important business challenges and potential high-leverage solutions.   

“We leveraged integrated teaming across Zutari,” says Wallace. “We combined the communications, asset management, process mapping and optimisation, GIS spatial analysis and and management dashboarding as service lines within Zutari to create a seamless team of advisory specialists.”

He adds that sustainable asset management and human-centred design principles gave structure to the entire approach; everything was articulated through the lens of improved service and the envisioned positive impact on the communities the Public Housing Department serves.

“The Public Housing Department had been losing ground in terms of service delivery and were unable to meet expectations in an incredibly complicated stakeholder environment.”

Collaboration is key

“We combined the communications, asset management, process mapping and optimisation, GIS spatial analysis and management dashboarding to deliver a seamless team of advisory specialists.”

By combining the technical mastery, creative intelligence, and digital acumen of its multidisciplinary solutionist team, Zutari was able to co-create a pragmatic turn-around plan that would equip the Public Housing Department to more effectively create affordable homes for vulnerable families.  This solution included 1) an accurate register of assets and their conditions to inform effective planning of future works; 2) an in-depth turn-around on the people, process & system issues that are hindering its ability to identify and execute maintenance efficiently; and 3) a communication strategy and toolkit for improving the customer experience.

Lize Brand, Zutari’s communication and stakeholder engagement specialist, notes that “telling the story was as important as the technical advisory services.” Internally the communication strategy and tools were focused on developing clarity regarding the roles and responsibilities of, and interfaces between, the various divisions within the Public Housing Department. This shared understanding not only increased operational efficacy, but also instilled a renewed sense of pride by linking the day-to-day work of individuals to the larger, and infinitely worthy cause of public housing.

Externally the communication strategy and tools were focused on informing and empowering tenants to effectively maintain their properties, including earlier and more accurate fault logging and improved clarity about roles and responsibilities of the various parties involved.

Communicated through a series of well-designed infographics, these tools clearly communicate the Department’s focus on dignity and greater service delivery in this challenging and politically volatile arena.

Reframing the problem

Zutari Solutionists expand the boundaries of traditional engineering. What started as an infrastructure-related business problem, and might have ended with a mere asset register, is transformed into a comprehensive and sustainable turnaround plan that not only solves the business problem, but also adds real value to stakeholders along the asset management value chain.

Our solutionists will continue to work with the City of Cape Town to implement the public housing turnaround plan and realise the Public Housing Department’s aspiration of providing exceptional client service while managing a sustainable, inclusive and integrated low-income public housing portfolio. Creating affordable homes that unlock opportunities for all – now that’s engineered impact.

“As trusted advisors our solutionists will continue to work with the City of Cape Town to implement the public housing turnaround plan.”

Meet the Solutionist


Lloyd Wallace

Solutionist - Home - Contact (#16)

Zutari Solutionists are committed to delivering enduring infrastructure solutions.

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