About the Author(s)

Christian Kayembe Email symbol
School of Public Management, Governance and Policy, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

Danielle Nel-Sanders symbol
School of Public Management, Governance and Policy, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Kayembe, C. & Nel-Sanders, D., 2022, ‘The role of urban regeneration to improve community development in a metropolitan municipality’, Africa’s Public Service Delivery and Performance Review 10(1), a629. https://doi.org/10.4102/apsdpr.v10i1.629

Original Research

The role of urban regeneration to improve community development in a metropolitan municipality

Christian Kayembe, Danielle Nel-Sanders

Received: 13 Jan. 2022; Accepted: 30 Sept. 2022; Published: 07 Dec. 2022

Copyright: © 2022. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background: The purpose of this article was to explore the role of urban regeneration to improve community development in a metropolitan municipality. This is important in light of the current strenuous socioeconomic situation, due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Some of the pandemic’s consequences on communities include socioeconomic challenges, loss of income, business disruption and health concerns. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the different mechanisms government uses to promote community development, and one of these mechanisms is urban regeneration.

Aim: The study aims to establish whether urban regeneration can be used as a mechanism to promote community development.

Setting: The article is based on South African metropolitan municipalities, mainly the three biggest municipalities in the country. These municipalities include the City of Johannesburg, the City of Cape Town and the eThekwini municipality.

Methods: This research is based on unobtrusive qualitative research techniques or methods in order to collect and analyse information. The techniques used include conceptual, content, documentary and comparative analysis. Therefore, the contents and information used were collected from various secondary sources such as journal articles, books and government documents such as White Papers. In addition, political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal analytical framework is also used.

Results: Urban regeneration is not a new phenomenon in South Africa; however, the mechanism is not fully embraced by municipalities in the country. The practice of both urban regeneration and community development goes hand in hand. Different metropolitan municipalities in the country have developed plans to incorporate urban regeneration as part of their community development programmes. Community development and urban regeneration are implemented in South Africa under different developmental policies. However, it is the sole mandate of the local government (municipalities) to promote this programme in their communities. The study also found that urban regeneration was also impacted both positively and negatively by the COVID-19 pandemic. The negative impact of COVID-19 is that various projects were postponed in order to redirect resources towards the COVID-19 response. Some of the projects affected municipal infrastructure grants to provide water to households and sanitise public transport facilities in municipalities that do not receive the public transport network grant. South African metropolitan municipalities lack a common shared plan on urban regeneration and community development.

Conclusion: The main finding of this research study is that there is no concrete plan put in place to promote urban regeneration in municipalities. Hence, the study recommended that in conjunction with the national government, local levels should develop such a plan.

Contribution: This research study will contribute to the decision-making process in local government. The research will also contribute to policy development and design on the topic of urban regeneration and community development.

Keywords: community development; urban regeneration; metropolitan municipality; PESTEL analysis; good governance; Public Administration; alternative service delivery.


Various research papers address urban regeneration in South Africa; however, many do not show the link between this concept and community development. During the initial phase of this research, the researcher did not find any research papers linked to community development. Various research on urban regeneration discusses the practice in South Africa without mentioning community development. This research aims to fill the missing gap by connecting the two concepts. Various government institutions focus on traditional services such as water and electricity, safety, security, etc. However, community development as a mechanism comprises these services. There is a gap in the literature in practical accounts of how urban regeneration contributes to community development. This article aims to demonstrate the link between the two concepts.

Government is responsible for the delivery of various services provided to communities. These services are provided in order to better the lives of the residents. Services such as education, health, safety and security, water and electricity, to name a few, are essential to the public or communities in different parts of South Africa. Among the services provided by the relevant authority, urban regeneration is also included. The topic of urban regeneration has huge significance in South Africa for various reasons. South Africa has a huge housing backlog. According to BBC News (2019:Internet Source), there is a shortfall of 2.1 million houses in South Africa which can help house 12.5 m people in the country. In addition, most of the South African population is found in urban areas. Lehohla (2006:19) states that the urban population in South Africa was at 26% in 2001. However, the World Bank Group (2021:Internet Source) reports that this number increased to 66.8% by 2019. With the increase of urban migration, various social challenges also increase. The biggest negative cause of urbanisation is urban decay. Swanepoel and Smallwood (2019:1) pointed out that urban decay has caused the destruction of many neighbourhoods in many great cities, including metropolitan cities in South Africa. The issue of urban decay is common in many cities facing significant urbanisation. Urban decay is the phenomenon that occurs when urban infrastructure is not maintained (Kayembe 2021:83). South African metropolitans such as the City of Johannesburg (COJ), City of Cape Town and City of eThekwini have all experienced urban decay. Due to this phenomenon, it has prompted the various metropolitans to introduce urban regeneration programmes in their respective municipalities.

Various studies and research have been conducted on the topic of urban regeneration by writers such as Turok (2004:1069), as well as on community development by writers such as Swanepoel and De Beer (2011:38). However, not a lot of studies and research have demonstrated the link or connection between the two distinctive concepts. These two concepts have very distinctive meanings.

Various existing literature such as that by Kayembe (2021:65) views urban regeneration as an attempt to reverse urban decline by improving an area’s physical structure and economy. The revitalisation occurs through the launch of various government programmes. Alpopi and Manole (2013:179) noted that urban regeneration is an opportunity to solve problems such as the lack of identity of a residential area, the total lack of public spaces and the high urban density, which makes it impossible to widen roads, create green areas and plant trees along the sidewalks.

Existing literature also states that the term ‘urban regeneration’ has the same meaning as ‘urban rehabilitation’ and ‘urban renovation’. However, whatever the mode of expression, this term is founded on a set series of action principles and values for community development within cities (Alpopi & Manole 2013:179). It is a concept aimed at bringing positive change to an impoverished area in a city. Urban regeneration involves multiple actors – the government, the private sector and the community are all involved in the process.

Turok (2004:1069) identified that the key actors involved in the urban regeneration process are the public sector, mainly the local government, the private sector, local residents, voluntary sectors and other relevant groups such as community-based organisations (CBOs) and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). Each actor brings different expertise, experiences and insight to the process. The government provides the policy that guides the work, the private sector provides the cash injection needed for the projects, and the voluntary group (which, in most cases, represents the community) provides the input of community members.

On the other hand, community development is not only concerned with the physical realm of society but also focuses on the social, cultural, economic, political and environmental aspects (Phillips & Pittman 2014:3). Community development has a holistic view representing an inclusive and changing pattern better equipped to deal with the different needs and challenges of communities. The implication of the previous statements is to view community development as a means to improve different communities’ lives, circumstances and situations. As Philips and Pittman (2014:4) argued, some people view community development as new infrastructure, roads, schools or improving quality of life in aspects such as poverty reduction and housing.

Scholars have given different definitions of what community development entails. Sureshkumar et al. (2015:2), for example, indicated a continuous process through which community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to their everyday problems. This definition focuses on the action being taken by various individuals.

Various studies conducted by different scholars and writers such as Hansen (2010), Stephanus (2013), Oranje and Voges (2014) and Massey and Gunter (2020) fail to identify the regulations and statutory frameworks that argue for the implementation of urban regeneration as a tool to promote community development. As this study will demonstrate, urban regeneration and community development have different pillars that connect the social, economic and environmental aspects. The studies mentioned earlier fail to take into account the social and environmental aspects by choosing to focus solely on the economic and physical benefits or aspects of urban regeneration in communities. However, the benefits of urban regeneration in communities include nontangible factors. Government decisions and programmes are influenced by different factors. The studies mentioned earlier failed to identify or mention the different factors and variables that influence the development and implementation of urban regeneration as a mechanism to improve community development in South African metropolitan cities.

In addition, Steenkamp (2004), Thwala (2009) and Mbanjwa (2018) report on the topic of urban regeneration from the viewpoint of town planning and built environment which is outside the field of Public Administration and policy making. This study aims to discuss and present urban regeneration from the viewpoint of the field of Public Administration. It does so by using the political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal (PESTEL) analytical framework. This study further answers the question on whether South Africa has a broad plan to develop and implement a urban regeneration programme as a mechanism to improve community development.

Conceptual framework

According to Alanzi (2018:1), the PESTEL acronym is formed by the initials of the model’s six categories of macroeconomic variables. Sheffield Hallam University (2019:1) also stated that PESTEL analysis is a framework or tool used to analyse and monitor the external environmental factors that affect organisations – it serves to investigate how external factors or forces influence governments’ decision-making processes and the implementation of government policy and programmes. Political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal is an acceptable framework used in the field and discipline of Public Administration. The PESTEL method is used in this study as an analytical framework to identify the variables influencing the implementation of urban regeneration programmes as tools to promote community development in metropolitan municipalities within South Africa. When public institutions or organisations use this method of analysis in the public sector, an opportunity to know the factors that might lead to their programmes being successful or not is provided.

Government programmes are implemented by various public institutions, meaning that the external forces have to be considered in their design and implementation – it could be argued that external factors do, at times, force government institutions to consider certain programmes and policies. The implementation of any government programme has no guarantee of success, meaning that both the government and the public take risks in some way. Rastogi and Trivedi (2016:384) stated that the PESTEL technique is a strategic management technique that can be used effectively in external risk identification. There are internal and external risks, with the latter being beyond the company’s control and about which less data are available, making construction projects vulnerable to failure or incurring heavy monetary losses (Rastogi & Trivedi 2016:384). As a result, the PESTEL analysis identifies the broad political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental risks. When public institutions or organisations use this analysis model in the public sector, it provides an opportunity to know the factors that might lead to their programmes being successful or not.

Research methods and design

This study was undertaken to help the author understand the role of urban regeneration as a mechanism in promoting community development within a metropolitan municipality. It will require an explanation of what, how and why in terms of urban regeneration’s role in community development. Therefore, a qualitative research design is appropriate in this study. The research study used the explorative, descriptive and explanative approach in this qualitative design. Blaikie (2007:7–8) and Maree (2007:11) present that it is likely that one study contains all three approaches. Blaikie (2007:8) further added that all three can be used in one study depending on the research problem and the body of knowledge in the field. This study covers all the purposes mentioned earlier and is conducted to explore, explain and describe the topic of community development.

As such, the author used the qualitative research design. Yin (2011:8) explained that qualitative research is important as it focuses on the significance of peoples’ lives in real-world conditions. Qualitative research has an empirical way of discovering and understanding how social realities arise and operate, as well as the impact of these realities on individuals, communities, organisations and others. Qualitative research helps the researcher to focus and concentrate on the naturally emerging expressions of the meanings and values people allocate to their experiences of these realities (Berg 2004:11). Qualitative research is an exploration of the probe of what is assumed to be a dynamic active reality and does not claim that discoveries are universal and therefore replicable.

Walsh, Rutherford and Kuzmak (2014:192) explain that qualitative research uses multiple data collection methods, many of which have not been adequately documented or evaluated. Data collection is the gathering of information in a systematic manner. Parveen and Showkat (2017:3) specified the collection of information in a targeted fashion, with the data then being thoroughly analysed to answer research questions and evaluate results. Rose, Mckinley and Baffoe-Djan (2019:2) stated that data collection refers to the methods used to gather data for analysis. Sapsford and Jupp (2006:57) argued that data collection is the process of gathering relevant information carefully, with the least possible distortion, so that the analysis may provide answers that are credible and stand to logic.

Data collection

There are various data collection methods to choose from, including primary and secondary sources. Primary data are collected first-hand by researchers from sources including interviews, participatory action research, field research and focus groups (Parveen & Showkat 2017:3). Primary data are raw as they have not been analysed and interpreted by the researcher, whereas data collected and compiled by others and available to the public are known as secondary data.

Secondary data from various sources were used for this study. The secondary data were used to present the key findings. Therefore, this study will use the following secondary data sources:

  • relevant books
  • journal articles
  • unpublished research papers and theses
  • published dissertation and theses
  • official and unofficial documents and reports
  • political speeches
  • statistics from official documents
  • relevant legislation
  • electronic information available on the Internet.
Data analysis

This study mainly used unobtrusive qualitative research techniques or methods to collect and analyse information. These techniques are explained in the following sections.

Conceptual analysis

Furner (2006:233) argues that conceptual analysis is a technique that treats concepts as class groups of objects, events, properties or relationships. This technique is used to understand the meaning of a concept, which is done by first identifying concepts. Furner (2006:233–234) further stated that the goal of conceptual analysis as a method of research in a certain field of interest is to improve better understanding of the ways in which certain concepts are (or could be) utilised for communicating ideas about that field. Each field of study has certain concepts that can be vague or well-constructed; hence, a conceptual analysis distinguishes terms and analyses them for better understanding. The concepts analysed in this study include community development and urban regeneration.

Content analysis

Content analysis is a method used to study and analyse documents. Various authors, including Hseih and Shannon (2005:1277) and Elo et al. (2014:1), have claimed that it is a widely used technique in qualitative research. According to Erlingsson and Brysiewicz (2017:94), the aim of content analysis in research is to systematically change a large amount of text into a highly organised and concise summary of key results. In order to do this, a researcher has to read a large number of documents. It is through reading different documents that a researcher will begin to understand the main ideas contained in each document. These points make it easier to divide the ideas or contents into different parts for future use. Erlingsson and Brysiewicz (2017:95) explained that there is no ‘step 1, 2, 3, done!’ linear progression in the analysis; it is a long and continuous process.

Documentary analysis

Documentary analysis is similar to content analysis as both the study and analysis recorded information in the text. However, Bowen (2009:27) indicates that there is some indication that document analysis has not always been used effectively in the research process, even by experienced researchers. Therefore, this study will use this technique effectively to achieve the best outcome. Bowen (2009:27) referred to document analysis as a logical process for studying or evaluating printed and electronic documents. Frey (2018:75) also explained that document analysis is a technique used in qualitative research as a systematic procedure to analyse documentary evidence and answer specific research questions. However, documentary analysis requires documents to be interpreted to obtain meaning.

Frey (2018:75) further states that when document analysis is used in triangulation, information obtained can validate, disprove, clarify or develop findings across other data sources, which helps to guard against bias. Bowen (2009:29) shares the same view that the researcher is required to draw upon multiple (at least two) sources of evidence, that is, seek to pursue convergence and corroboration validation through the use of different diverse data information sources and methods. In order to reach a reasonable and acceptable outcome, different types of sources have to be used. These authors also agree that document analysis is often regularly used and utilised with other qualitative research methods. In terms of this study, document analysis has been used together with other qualitative research methods.

Ethical considerations

When conducting research, every researcher needs to recognise ethical considerations. The concept of ‘ethics’ is based on the ancient Greek philosophical inquiry of moral life (Fouka & Mantzorou 2011:3) and considers what is deemed acceptable in society. Certain ethical procedures need to be followed by the researcher. According to Arifin (2018:30), ethical considerations have a particular significance in qualitative studies due to the in-depth nature of the study process. The ethical considerations to be considered in this research study include obtaining permission for confidential and official documents.

Moreover, the research and the researcher should comply with the ethical requirements of the University of Johannesburg. The researcher will not report any untrue findings or use false data in the research and, in order to avoid plagiarism, shall acknowledge the authors of scholarly articles found in journals, books, websites and other sources used to gain more understanding of the major concepts investigated in the research study.

Ethical clearance to conduct this study was obtained from the School of Public Management, Governance and Public Policy – Research Ethics Committee at the University of Johannesburg (reference number: 20PMGPP14).

Key findings

The PESTEL analytical framework is used to evaluate the influences that variables have on the decision-making and implementation process. The PESTEL analysis focuses both on the external and internal influences. The findings address the aim stated earlier, which is to establish whether urban regeneration can be used as a mechanism to promote community development. Using the PESTEL analytical framework, the study has found the following factors to be influencing urban regeneration programmes within municipalities. These factors are as follows: political infighting within the ruling party, the lack of economic growth, the high levels of poverty and crime, the need to move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), environmental protection and land conservation as well the Constitution of the country. These factors are explained in more detail in the following sections. In addition, these factors were found using the document and content analysis. The researchers analysed various documents such as government reports, research articles and books in order to identify the factors mentioned earlier.

A government’s success depends on a country’s political stability and landscape. Radu (2015:751) stated that political stability is a variable of great importance in the evolution of a country, causing low growth levels and presenting as a consequence of poor development. Government programmes are implemented to promote development in a country, and urban regeneration programmes are implemented to increase and promote community development. Daylop (2018:217) pointed out that political instability, especially when it is violent, diminishes the productive and transactional capacities of the country. The political infighting within the ruling party is the most prominent political factor affecting service delivery at the local levels of government including programmes such as urban regeneration as a mechanism to promote community development.

The South African economy has been in and out of recession since the 2008 global economic meltdown. According to data from the World Bank (2020), the South African gross domestic product (GDP) decreased from 2% in 2012 to 1.5% in 2019. Business Tech (2020) reported that ‘the South African economy is now expected to contract by 7.2% in 2020, this is the largest contraction in nearly 90 years’. In addition, South Africa is faced with a lack of investment from both local and foreign investors, with Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) reporting that this was an even bigger dilemma in 2020’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak (Liedtke 2020). Economic factors such as the GDP, tax returns, inflation, municipal rates, recession, labour laws and regulations impact government programmes.

South African metropolitan municipalities are faced with various issues such as poverty, crime, infrastructure decay, unemployment, poor living conditions and gender-based violence. Govender et al. (2007:5) explained that growing poverty and increasing inequality are threatening social stability in South Africa. Kayembe and Nel (2019:89) further argued that unequal societies are more likely to experience these social issues. Urban regeneration programmes in South African metropolitan municipalities bridge inequality gaps and consider all of the earlier issues when designing and implementing these programmes. Other social factors that influence urban regeneration are people’s attitudes, cultural beliefs and changes in lifestyle. For a programme to be effective, citizens must be included in its design and implementation processes, as they provide public institutions with a wealth of information and feedback that will improve the performance of public utilities (Deichmann & Lall 2007:649).

If the power of technology is correctly harnessed, it could provide many benefits for communities in South Africa, a fact recognised by South Africa’s government and which has led to the president establishing a presidential commission within the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services to look at the potential impact of the 4IR in the country. According to Kayembe and Nel (2019:91), the 4IR provides an opportunity for South African public institutions to create an environment of creativity and innovation, and Chetty and Pather (2015:5) opine that the use of technology can resolve issues of social exclusion. In other words, new technological advancements can be used to close the gaps between the rich and the poor and between different races (Kayembe & Nel 2019:91).

Environmental variables are important aspects to consider in the implementation of any programme. It has been demonstrated that many urban regeneration programmes focus on improving a city’s physical infrastructure. During this process, the metropolitan municipality considers environmental protection in terms of recycling procedures, carbon footprints, waste disposal and sustainability, to name a few. Balaban and De Oliveira (2013) noted that cities have a central role to play in tackling climate change and their contribution to it, as well as adapting to its effects. Urban regeneration activities have long-term effects (both positive and negative) on the environment.

Another factor to consider is the use of land and energy. Concentrating the urban population in one space will prevent urban sprawl, reduce commuting times and distances, and ensure energy and resource efficiency (Balaban & De Oliveira 2013). Urban regeneration should also focus on turning existing buildings into less vulnerable and green buildings and structures. Balaban and De Oliveira (2013) pointed out that the energy consumption resulting from the heating and cooling of buildings is among the major sources of carbon emissions (a major contributor to climate change), making it an important factor to consider.

The first legal factor to consider is the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, which is the country’s supreme law. Although urban regeneration as a mechanism to promote community development is not specifically stated in the Constitution, local government has the mandate to provide services to residents and to improve their lives. Programme activities must be aligned with the Constitution and other policies.

Throughout the study, it has been found that the new Constitution came into effect in 1996, after the dawn of democracy in South Africa. This new legislation incorporated rights that the majority had not benefited from previously. The new Constitution is the highest law in the land and serves as the foundation for a democratic South Africa, a country free of oppression and discrimination (Constitution Hill 2019:Internet Source). Chapter 2 of the Constitution contains the Bill of Rights, which gives every person living in South Africa the right to life. The Bill of Rights supports the values of human dignity, equality and freedom. The following rights refer to aspects related to community development:

  • Section 26: The right to housing.
  • Section 27: The right to health care, food, water and social security.
  • Section 29: The right to education.

Specific emphasis is placed on the rights of children (Section 28).

According to Mubangizi (2009:438), the commitment to community development is emphasised in Chapter 7 of the Constitution, where Section 152 points out the objectives of local government, including:

  • The delivery of services to communities in a sustainable manner.
  • The promotion of social and economic development and a safe and healthy environment.
  • The involvement participation of communities in matters of local government.

Another finding of this study is that community development is deeply embedded in the local levels of government and is promoted in the White Paper on local government. As Geoghegan and Powell (2006:845) argued, community development involves democratic governments being able to maximise socioeconomic development through partnerships and sociodevelopment policies. The White Paper encourages local governments to work with citizens to achieve the best results. According to Mubangizi (2009:439), these points align with the principles of community development and require community projects and the mobilisation of community members to solve local issues. This article encourages participation, which is one of the characteristics of good governance and is important in service delivery to communities.

The study has found that these policies guide the implementation of different intervention programmes in communities and metropolitan municipalities. One of these policies is the Local Government Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000. The Act is relevant to community development practice, particularly in sections such as municipal powers, functions and duties, community participation and integrated development planning (IDP).

The Community Development Act 3 of 1966 was established to consolidate the law relating to the development of certain areas, the promotion of community development in such areas, the control of the disposal of affected properties, the granting of assistance to persons to acquire or hire immovable property, the establishment for such purposes of a board and the definition of its functions, and matters incidental to that (Republic of South Africa 1966:3). This Act was passed to promote community development in South Africa and is the only one that deals directly with these matters. It also assisted the less fortunate in different communities throughout South Africa.

In terms of Section 8(1)(a) read with Section 7(1) of the Infrastructure Development Act, as amended, 2014 (Act no. 23 of 2014) (the Act), the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission designates different Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs). Therefore, this Act provides the creation of a body that deals with the implementation of important infrastructure projects in the country, including urban regeneration programmes.

Development is at the core of the South African government. South Africa has high rates of poverty, unemployment, inequality and many other social issues. The government has adopted policies to tackle these socioeconomic problems in the country, including the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) of 1994, the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy of 1996, the Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA) of 2005, the New Growth Path (NGP) of 2010, the National Development Plan: Vision for 2030 (NDP), the National Spatial Development Perspective (NSDP), and the IDP.

The National Urban Renewal Programme was launched simultaneously with the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme in February 2001 by then President Thabo Mbeki. The Department of Provincial and Local Government (2006:22) states that the main purpose of this programme was to manage a sustainable campaign against urban poverty and underdevelopment, by bringing together the resources of all three spheres of government in a coordinated manner. This document does not deal with all the challenges of urban renewal. However, the document focuses on three main categories, which are urban centre upgrades; informal settlement upgrading and exclusion areas: by design or by a decline (Department of Provincial and Local Government 2006:22). In other words, upgrading urban centres refers to inner city areas that have experienced a decline.

Table 1 provides a summary of the variables identified earlier using the PESTEL analytical framework.

TABLE 1: The influence of PESTEL factors on urban regeneration in South African Metropolitan Municipalities.


This article set out to discuss and discover the role of urban regeneration to improve community development in a metropolitan municipality. The literature confirms that both community development and urban regeneration are driven by different legislative and regulatory frameworks such as the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. The South African Constitution is the supreme law of the land. In other words, all other legal frameworks have their foundation in the Constitution. The study has established that the current developmental policy supporting community development and urban regeneration in the country is the National Development Plan: Vision 2030. This policy is the main driver of all current government programmes and projects in the country at all levels.

As a programme, urban regeneration links to community development. Northern Ireland’s Department for Social Development (2013:5) identified three types of decline that urban regeneration confronts in community development:

  • Urban regeneration addresses economic decline to strengthen the local economy and create wealth by tackling unemployment and promoting job creation. It also aims to change behaviour, encouraging and supporting people to become more entrepreneurial.
  • Regeneration addresses social decline to improve conditions for communities and neighbourhoods through creating safer environments and coordinating public services better.
  • Regeneration addresses physical decline to improve the physical fabric of buildings and the public realm to create attractive, safe and sustainable places to live, work and visit.

Therefore, community development focuses on ways to better involve local people and communities of interest in improving the neighbourhoods and communities they live and work in – it provides an opportunity to revitalise communities. This process of community development enables people to organise and work together to:

  • influence or make decisions about issues that matter to them and which affect their lives
  • define needs, issues and solutions for their communities
  • take action to help themselves and make a difference.

Urban regeneration has four main objectives:

  • tackling area-based deprivation
  • making cities more competitive
  • linking up areas of need and areas of opportunity
  • developing more connected and engaged communities.

Human beings are social creatures, and urban regeneration programmes connect communities through their economic and social lives. Policy makers, town planners and architects have all attempted to incorporate community connections in their plans and design of urban regeneration programmes.

De Vries and Kotze (2016:126) argued that urban regeneration poses a solution to the problem of urban decay and can be realised through the implementation of effective planning methods. It is a process that generally follows periods of urban decay and decline in cities, and can be defined as ‘the redevelopment or rehabilitation of older parts of towns and cities, including their business areas’ (Gibson & Langstaff 1982:12). In addition to physical regeneration, it is important that the attitude of the community also changes in a positive way (Thwaites et al. 2005:2134).

Urban regeneration is part of community development. When local governments are involved in different activities such as the renovation of street pavements, street lights, sewage systems and the renovation of apartments, this is mainly part of a broader action to improve the living conditions of the residents of an impoverished area. When infrastructure is well-maintained, citizens are able to enjoy opportunities for improved livelihoods. For example, when a park is well taken care of, residents can use the facility for various reasons such as relaxation, et cetera. Urban regeneration benefits community development in many ways. Urban regeneration projects provide jobs and improve infrastructure. Through urban regeneration, a person living in Johannesburg’s inner city is able to enjoy the same lifestyle and as person living in Durban’s inner city.

In South Africa, metropolitan municipalities are the drivers of economic growth and are at the forefront of major changes that occur in the country. South Africa has eight major metropolitan municipalities. However, for the sake of this study, only three municipalities were selected. The COJ, the City of Cape Town and the City of Durban have been selected as the main focus of the study. These three cities are Big Three of South Africa’s rich urban culture. These cities have the largest population in the country. Lastly, these cities have a higher economic output than other five metropolitan municipalities in the country. This study demonstrated that these three metropolitan municipalities have identified hotspots within their cities for further development. The study also established the issue of community development and urban regeneration as the sole mandate of the local government.

Strengths and limitations

The main limitation encountered in this study is the availability of data on urban regeneration in certain metropolitan municipalities such as the City of Cape Town. This applies to important documents needed to compile the literature review and key findings.


The following recommendations are proposed to improve urban regeneration programmes and community development implementation processes:

  • All metropolitan municipalities are to develop comprehensive plans for urban regeneration programmes.
  • More policies governing urban regeneration programmes in South Africa are to be developed.
  • Community development policies are to be updated and developed.
  • Focus on more areas in different parts of the metropolitan municipality to avoid a large concentration of people in one area of the city.
  • Increase economic growth of the country especially in the inner cities.
  • Reduce municipal rates paid by landlords in order to attract more property investments and make the city more competitive.
  • Expand and continue with tax break incentives for urban development zones in other metropolitan municipalities.
  • Provide tax breaks to companies that invest in the city, especially in the most vulnerable parts of the city.
  • Create a property ombudsman to mediate or oversee property valuation processes in the city.
  • Promote a professional public service free of political intervention and interference.
  • Promote continuity of government programmes regardless of political leadership or the party in place.
  • Develop new urban areas or new cities across South Africa.


The study identified a gap in the literature in practical accounts of how urban regeneration contributes to community development. The aim of this study was to demonstrate the link between the two concepts. Urban regeneration is an important tool for increasing and promoting community development. South African metropolitan municipalities have many abandoned buildings that could be turned into affordable housing for the poor (solving the problem of its serious housing backlogs), which would provide relief for those living and working within the inner city. South African metropolitan municipalities should seriously consider the concepts of urban regeneration and community development and increase efforts to address related issues. Urban regeneration programmes and projects stemming from them will uplift many poor communities by providing jobs, providing affordable living houses and improving the standards of living, which is the ultimate goal of community development. Throughout this study, it has been mentioned that community development deals with improving the living conditions of people in different communities. Therefore, by implementing urban regeneration projects, citizens’ lives can change for better.


The author would like to thank associate Prof. Danielle Nel-Sanders who contributed to this article through her advice, guidance and support provided as well as Mr Nkosigpile Mkhize for the support and lengthy debates.

This article is based on a master’s dissertation in 2021 by Christian Kayembe, entitled: The Role of Urban Regeneration to Improve Community Development in a Metropolitan Municipality, supervised by Prof. D. Nel-Sanders, at the University of Johannesburg.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

C.K. was responsible for writing the original draft and D.N.-S. contributed towards funding acquisition and reviewing and editing the article.

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.


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