This article investigates the concept of subsidised housing as an asset in South Africa, rejecting the government’s approach to housing as one-dimensional assets based on formal property rights. As an alternative, the concept of an asset trinity is promoted through which low-income homes are recognised as financial, economic and social assets. The article emphasises the influence of the informal backyard rental sector in this regard. Given recent insights into the social value of informal backyard rentals, the article primarily investigates the financial and economic values and secondarily the social values of informal backyard renting in a case study in Bridgton and Bongolethu, Oudtshoorn. The case study is investigated based on both qualitative and quantitative research constituted by semi-structured interviews, a quantitative survey (n=223) and an examination of municipal property values that are statistically analysed. Results indicate weak financial asset value and that poor homeowners realise the economic and social values of their properties by providing informal backyard rentals, in service of their own and their tenants’ survival. This article is thus presented in support of the informal backyard rental sector as an important component of South Africa’s low-income housing market that merits more targeted and contextualised policy intervention to support and encourage contributions to the realisation of homes as multidimensional assets.
Keywords: asset trinity; housing assets; informal backyard rentals; low-income housing; South Africa; subsidised housing; urban planning