Habitus, spatial capital and making place: Housing developers and the spatial praxis of Johannesburg’s inner-city regeneration

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This paper presents a sociology of housing developers, stressing the contingent, socially and spatially embedded nature of their practices. It complicates prevailing views of developers and demonstrates how urban development is, in fact, a spatial praxis requiring adaptability and capacities to adjust dispositions and practices to suit the particular environments in which it takes place. A growing body of work tries to understand the motivations and practices of property developers. While this has contributed to understandings of developers’ networks, the ways they understand their roles and the ways different national or regional contexts shape approaches, it largely lacks a spatial perspective, and does not account for the contingency, fluidity and adaptability of developers’ actions. Most importantly, it does not theorize how experiences in space shape practices. Developers are still largely presented as powerful actors who are able to exercise domination over space in relatively straight-forward, linear ways. In contrast, in this paper I demonstrate that developers are influenced by competing dynamics and agendas, and actively adapt their strategies and activities in accordance with the demands and realities of particular places. Building on the work of Centner (2008)and Marom (2014), the paper further develops the concepts ‘spatial capital’ and ‘spatial habitus’ and attempts to use them to make sense of the practices of property developers and affordable housing providers working in inner-city Johannesburg
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-296
JournalEnvironment and Planning A (EPA)
Issue number2
Early online date18 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • developers
  • urban regeneration
  • habitus
  • social capital


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