History of PEP


PEP is a not-for-profit organisation (054-862-NPO) that has supported organised communities in informal settlements (slums) around South Africa since 1998. Shawn Cuff (a qualified architect) established PEP to provide technical housing assistance to the South African Homeless People’s Federation and subsequently the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP). Over the next decade PEP assisted poor communities affiliated to FEDUP design, plan and build thousands of houses across South Africa.  The pictures below illustrate this time in PEP’s history.

Over time PEP’s work  expanded into researching alternative technologies & cost saving approaches to affordable housing delivery. In 2004 PEP embarked on a search for workable solutions to providing emergency, but temporary, shelter to the victims of the fires and floods that plague informal settlements in South Africa. The project rapidly expanded and has since grown into an independent organisation known as Ikhayalami who have subsequently advocated the idea of re-blocking which has been taken up as a policy by the City of Cape Town.

By 2012 the PHP housing programme was being phased out and PEP applied its technical skill set to unblocking stalled projects in the Western Cape – namely Ruo Emoh, Vukuzenzele and Hazeldean. These were all uTshani Fund projects with which PEP had a historical relationship but, for many reasons, had become stalled in their development.  Over the next two 8 years PEP applied itself to unblocking these projects through the provision of formal title deeds, housing and negotiating complicated land use management processes and regulations. This work involved a mix of technical and social processes amidst projects and communities that were often deeply conflicted and divided. Progress was slow but key outcomes were achieved including the provision of 49 houses in Ruo Emoh (against all odds) and over 100 formal titles in Vukuzenzele.


Over the course of the above period, in line with national policy, PEP became more involved in informal settlement upgrading working with communities in Phola Park, WA section and child headed households in Khayelitsha as to facilitate a variety of upgrading projects and initiatives. Concurrently PEP deepened its participation in various platforms and forums around Informal Settlement upgrading and through these made contributions to local and national policy and documentation. PEP was also able to foster relationships with various city officials over this period.

In 2019 these factors contributed to PEP being awarded a contract by Provincial government as part of the Informal Settlement Support Programme (ISSP) to support communities and municipalities in Agulhas and Bitou. To date PEP has supported informal communities in these areas to undertake enumerations, develop leadership structures, negotiate with municipal officials, and begin charting upgrading plans for their own settlements. Elements of disaster risk management and mitigation have also been introduced to communities with great success.

In early 2020 a comprehensive formal evaluation of PEP was undertaken by local and international experts. The evaluation provided PEP with guidance as to how the organisation can grow and deepen its impact. At this time PEP is implementing the recommendations of the evaluation as to shift the organisation towards a more clearly defined strategic position within the sector- this process involves a number of exciting new initiatives and changes that will be shared. The full evaluation can be read here.