School of Architecture and Planning

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Master of Urban Studies in the field of Housing and Human Settlements

Not offered in 2023 due to curriculum restructuring.

The MUS (HHS) aims to develop practical, managerial, analytical, and spatial skills, as well as social and cultural sensitivities, to meet housing challenges in the unevenly developing world. 

Students are offered the unique opportunity to engage with housing issues from a multi-disciplinary, internationalist perspective. The coursework covers theoretical, conceptual, social, technical, managerial, legal, financial and planning aspects of housing and includes electives that deepen the engagement with housing in specialised areas.

Through the substantial research component, students are given the opportunity to critically explore a particular aspect of their interest in housing. Students are taught and supervised by a multi-disciplinary team of scholars.

The MUS (HHS) is offered on a block release requiring presence at Wits University for two full days (8.30am-3.30pm) once a month. However, in the second year of the part time route, part time candidates have to attend the Research Methods for one full day every two weeks for the first quarter of the year. There are several research progress presentations scheduled across the remainder of the year.


Please note the curriculum is undergoing some changes. The curriculum in 2023 will not be exactly as described below but will be similar.

The MUS (HHS) consists of coursework and research. The coursework, which has the same credit weighting as the research component, is designed to complement the research enquiry. The elective course allows for individual specialisation beyond the essential housing competencies taught in the compulsory courses. The degree is structured as follows:

  • 4 compulsory Category A courses (70 points)
  • 1 elective from Category B (20 points)
  • Research Report (90 points)
ARPL7004A Housing Theories, Concepts and Policy (20)

Theories relevant to an understanding of housing (its production and its inadequacies, including informal/illegal housing), ranging from neo-Marxist/Structuralist, Liberalist to Structure and Agency. Discusses concepts that are currently applied in housing and urban poverty, including Sustainability, Livelihoods, Assets and Vulnerability, Autonomy, Exclusion, Governance, Participation, Enablement. Examines international shifts in housing policy since the 1960s, the role of organisations such as the World Bank and UN-Habitat, including shifts in the roles assigned to Local Government. Then compares shifts in South African housing policy and that of other developing countries, in relation to the countries’ socio-political and economic characteristics.

ARPL7005A Social and Technical Sustainability in Housing (20)

Critical analysis of the interaction between housing and the social/cultural, economic and biophysical environment; approaches to enhance sustainability of housing and mitigate negative impacts, and to sensitively and constructively engage with local communities and service providers to identify and tackle housing challenges. The socio-cultural component of this course addresses issues of exclusion, displacement, illegality, gender and generational biases, as well as health issues such as HIV/Aids. It covers conceptual and theoretical debates as well as practical approaches that have been developed in response to these problems. The importance of inter-sectoral interventions are emphasised.

ARPL7066A Housing Finance and the Law (20)

International and local perspectives on key aspects of housing finance. Examines the positions of international agencies, governments, banks, developers, civic organisations/civil society and end-users. Covers sources of housing finance, various models for the structuring and release of government subsidies, private sector finance, end-user finance, credit and savings mechanisms. Explores local and international case studies that might overcome key inadequacies in South African low cost housing environments. Also introduces some of the legal issues that impact on housing. Engages with the Bill of Rights and the principles behind the relevant legislation, the application of the legislation in a broad context and its application within the local housing market. Areas covered include the gazetted legislation, local authorities controls, applicable building standards and regulations, health controls, consumer protection, tenure, environmental and planning laws and facilitation of developments.

ARPL7040A Research Methods (10)

The course has three distinct aims: Firstly, the course hopes to create enthusiasm for research. Secondly, the course familiarises students with research in the urban/built environment field, various approaches and techniques, pitfalls etc. The course equips students with the workplace skills of preparing appropriate research briefs for others, of engaging in a wide range of research types, and of judging appropriateness and soundness of research carried out by themselves and others. Thirdly, the course prepares students for the process of research proposal writing and carrying out of a substantial research piece that meets the standards required of the degree.


ARPL7067A Management of Existing Housing Stock (20)

Introduction to the basic tools and techniques for running and managing existing housing stock. Basic principles of property management, renting and leasing, facilities management, life cycle costing, obsolescence management, corporate and labour policies, project feasibility and management, implementation procedures, marketing and sales administration, cultural and human relations matters, and the planning, organization and execution of regular maintenance works.

ARPL7007A Housing Seminar (20) - focus on informal settlement upgrading

Seminar-based course involving analysis, synthesis and application in an area of housing specialisation, be it socio-cultural, managerial, financial, planning or design. Engagement with complex housing challenges and the identification and solving of complex problems by developing theoretically grounded reflected approaches. Engages with emerging thinking locally and internationally and exposes the learner to contemporary cutting edge issues in housing, that fall outside of the compulsory coursework. 

ARPL7053A Research Report (90)

Each student is individually guided in their search of a relevant housing research topic, and supervised throughout the proposal writing, research and report-writing process. The 25-30 000 word research report is externally examined.