The efforts of the first democratically elected government in South Africa to promote spatial integration of ethnic groups needs to confront the roots of apartheid housing. In this paper the racist character of “Bantu” housing policy is analysed as a background to today’s lack of innovative urban typologies, with resulting unsustainable urban sprawl. It is argued that a modernist planning doctrine, with its demands for standardised solutions, overtook the officially proclaimed apartheid ideology of ‘separate development’. Under the leadership of the Minister of “Native Affairs”, Hendrik Verwoerd, building researchers and architects in the 1950s worked out low-cost housing typologies which were rolled out all over South Africa regardless of local climate, topography or cultural background of the inhabitants. It is maintained that it was the industrial demands for cheap labour, and the aim of maximum control of blacks at minimum cost, that determined the house types that still dominate South African low-cost housing.