15 February 2012
Social housing projects are an integral part of the government’s quest to enhance racial integration in South Africa, Eastern Cape Economic Development MEC Mcebisi Jonas said at the official launch of the multi-million rand Southernwood social housing project in East London on Tuesday.
The project includes a nine-storey building in the heart of the city’s central business district and close to all socio-economic amenities. It consists of 249 units in total, made up of 57 bachelor flats, 78 one-bedroom and 114 two-bedroom flats.
People who fall in the GAP market
The project caters for households earning between R2 500 to R7 500 per month.
“Social housing projects are one of the very few vehicles we have of ensuring social stability through racial and social integration,” Jonas said. “These projects are fundamental because they are situated in the city centres and cater for people from all walks of life.”
He added that such projects were important in dealing with the ever-growing number of people flocking to South Africa’s urban areas to look for work and to study.
Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said the provision of medium- to high-density housing projects was one of the main solutions in dealing with the management of spatial integration in South Africa’s urban areas.
“For us to make a difference in the lives of people who fall within the GAP market [those who earn too much to qualify for state subsidies but too little to apply for banks home loans], we need to have more of these projects,” Sexwale said.
The project is spearheaded by the Department of Human Settlements, is managed by one of its housing entities, the Social Housing Regulatory Authority, and partly funded by the National Housing Finance Corporation.
‘We want to deracialise our cities’
Sexwale said one of the ultimate goal of social housing projects was to create non-racial cities and towns across the country.
“We want to ‘deracialise’ our cities and towns so we can see all races in this country co-existing harmoniously,” Sexwale said. “Integration mustn’t be limited only to rugby games and other big sporting events, but it must be a way of life.”
Residential executive committee member Lungisa Nazo, who has been a tenant at the project for two years, said: “We co-exist well with all other races, which is why I love living here. Even when we were drawing up our grievances to hand over to the minister’s team, people from all races participated for the ultimate benefit of the tenants.”
Social Housing Regulatory Authority chairperson Zora Ebrahim said she hoped the project would be the start of the “cleansing of Southernwood and the inner city”, which has suffered from overpopulation and infrastructural dilapidation in recent years.
“We hope this project will create a trend that will see urban decay being dealt with both by residents and the municipality,” Ebrahim said. “We hope it will ultimately lead to social cohesion amongst the community within which people can learn, play and pray.”
Sexwale used the occasion to take a swipe at people involved in the hiring out of state-subsidised houses.
“People must stop doing this because it is taking away opportunities for those who genuinely deserve houses. Moving forward, we must reclaim the land which is currently being occupied illegally through shack renting.”
Sexwale assured those present that the department would not “just provide the money any more”, but would “follow the money” and see how it was spent, as it was the government’s duty to account for taxpayers’ money.
Source: BuaNews. Additional reporting by SAinfo