The challenges posed by climate change highlight something South African workers have known for decades: that planning on the basis of geography is inherently limited. Multi-locality is an increasingly recognised strategy South African households use to strengthen resilience and mitigate risks. Spreading different components of households geographically can diversify income sources, build social networks and increase access to social services. While this strategy is being lauded for the opportunity it provides to lift rural households out of poverty, this policy briefing argues that it increasingly puts the burden of climate adaptation on already vulnerable peri-urban residents, which threatens to reverse the progress made by South Africa’s expansion of social services and safety nets in rural communities.