The People's Land Map

An investigation into the state of Cape Town public land

All three spheres of government claim that there is a shortage of public land to build well-located affordable housing, but is this true? This map, which was manually developed over a number of years, clearly demonstrates that there is more than enough publicly owned land available to help address our housing backlog and desegregate our city.

Some areas have not yet been investigated and the map will be updated once more data has been sourced.

About this project

Why the map was made

We say public land means public transparency. However, despite our best efforts to access information on public land through multiple strategies, our requests for information have been consistently denied. We also learnt through ongoing engagements with officials and politicians that even within the state (such as the City of Cape Town) there is no clear picture of the extent, use and potential of public land in our city. We were concerned that neither the public nor the state actually know the full extent of publicly owned land that could be used for affordable housing. There is also a lack of clarity about what commitments have been secured and what progress has been made. This undermines the ability of public land to be used in a coordinated and just way.

It became necessary for us to conduct our own audit of vacant and underutilised public land in order to do evidence based advocacy work. Taking inspiration from the global counter-mapping movement, we developed our own method for manually mapping vacant and underutilised land owned by the government in Cape Town.

See a collection of counter-mapping projects from around the world at This Is Not An Atlas.

This Is Not An Atlas Meets The Peoples Land Map YouTube Thumbnail

This map is not a tool to encourage speculation by the private sector or land occupations, but is rather a tool to promote accountability and stimulate the public imagination. Many other governments around the world provide the public with transparent access to this information.

We hope this map helps you to see vacant and underutilised public land as spaces for opportunity, as focus points of community organising and civic engagement to make our city better for all.

How the map was made

While not entirely accurate, this map is based on the most accurate publically available data. The map aims to provide an overall picture of the vast amount of vacant and underutilised public land at a moment in time as this picture is constantly changing. The data collection for this map was done between 2018 and 2022.

For a full description of how we created the map, see our detailed methodology.