1989 volume 7(3) pages 261 – 272
doi:10.1068/c070261

Cite as:
Parnell S, 1989, "Shaping a racially divided society: state housing policy in South Africa, 1920 - 50" Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 7(3) 261 – 272

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Shaping a racially divided society: state housing policy in South Africa, 1920 - 50

S Parnell

Received 3 March 1988; in revised form 2 September 1988

Abstract. Public housing assistance for poor whites in South Africa was introduced to ensure social and geographical isolation for the voting minority. The policy of relative advantage of housing needs of whites over those of the rest of the working class remained unchallenged until the consummation of residential segregation was achieved under the Group Areas Act of 1950. Although endorsed as an instrument for social and residential cleavage, efforts by the state to give residential assistance to working-class whites prior to the imposition of separate group areas are shown to have been restricted by wider political and economic considerations. Efforts to upgrade and separate the housing of working-class whites from the black urban community met with limited success in the interwar years. After World War 2, fiscal restrictions and the politics that surrounded the rapid urbanisation of Africans challenged the practice, if not the policy, of housing advantage for whites.

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