20 February 2007
South Africa is to set a Housing Development Agency in an effort to double the number of houses being built and to meet its target of eradicating informal settlements by 2014.
Speaking to journalists in Cape Town on Wednesday, Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said the agency would develop, manage and coordinate housing development across the country.
This would include identifying and buying well-located and affordable land for low-income housing.
Sisulu said that while more than 200 000 affordable houses were being built each year in South Africa, the number needed to be doubled in order to eradicate informal settlements by 2014, one year ahead of the deadline of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
According to the Department of Housing, while some two million low-cost houses have been built since 1994, it still faces a huge and increasing demand from about 2.4-million households in informal settlements.
The department has projected that delivery will increase to 265 000 houses in 2006/07, based on a conservative estimate of 30% growth in the final quarter. However, the department adds that South Africa “urgently” needs to achieve a target of half a million houses a year.
In order to eradicate the housing backlog, annual delivery rates of more than 400 000 units are required, at a cost of between R345- and R548-billion, with costs decreasing as the delivery rate increases.
According to the department, a delivery rate of about 500 000 housing units per year would mean the backlog could be eradicated by 2014, at a cost of about R345-billion.
Sisulu said the urgency of the housing programme was also part of an overall anti-crime strategy. Apart from raising the standards of living of South Africans, it would enable more efficient policing in orderly settlements compared to the haphazard nature of informal settlements.
While it continues to deliver formal low-cost housing, the government is also busy finalising legislation to prevent further squatting and invasions. It is also assisting metropolitan areas and other cities in the areas of funding and capacity to upgrade existing informal settlements.
The minister also called for more private sector involvement in the sector. “Through the social contract, we will continue to engage more employers in order to work with them to provide decent affordable homes for their employees,” Sisulu said.