The Empower Shack project aims to introduce an integrated approach to the upgrading of South Africa’s growing informal settlements, merging design innovation with community-driven spatial planning and livelihoods programming.

South Africa continues to experience a housing crisis. With a shortage of over 2.5 million housing units nationwide, approximately 7.5 million people are locked out of the formal property market. The Empower Shack project is not simply about improving the lives of individuals through higher-quality dwellings. We are convinced that an innovative pilot scheme can influence a new direction in housing policy.

The project has three intersecting components:
1- The development and roll-out of a cost-effective, resilient, two-story housing prototype, featuring shared sanitation facilities.
2- The development of custom digital and microfinancing tools to support a participatory settlement upgrading process.
3- A series of parallel pilot programs – including an income-generating solar model, urban agriculture, and a waste management social enterprise – to expand local economic opportunities and ensure the long-term sustainability of the project.

Initiated in 2013, the project has already resulted in the construction of a first housing prototype onsite in BT-Section, where field-testing continues. The remaining 67 units on the project site will be upgraded with an improved housing prototype within the life of the proposed funding program.

For more information and to find out how you can support the project, contact:

Video produced by U-TT Media at
Directed and Shot by Daniel Schwartz
Additional Footage from Markus Kneer, Adam Walker Animation, Martin Andersson
Edited by Daniel Schwartz, Michael Waldrep, and Alexis Kalagas
Music by John Wizards:

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