SA govt passes 3-million housing mark

23 May 2013

The government has passed the 3-million mark in providing free housing and housing opportunities in South Africa since 1994, the majority of beneficiaries being from the poorest parts of society, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said on Wednesday.

Delivering his department’s budget vote in Parliament in Cape Town, Sexwale said the focus of the government’s housing delivery programme remained the poorest of the poor, many of whom were in and around informal settlements.

“At this stage the following message must be clear: our government does not build slums, imikhukhu, amatyotyombe!’ Sexwale said.

However, he warned that the policy of providing grants that enabled the poor to get free housing was unsustainable in the long term.

“Strictly speaking, this is more of a welfare programme approach than a lasting housing policy, as this programme is driven by the triple evils of unemployment, poverty and inequity.

“For as long as this is the case, so long shall this programme remain, because we as the government are committed to the poor and shall not abandon them.”

‘Gap’ housing

Sexwale said his department was, at the same time, working to develop “gap” housing, to address the aspirations of people such as nurses, fire fighters, teachers and members of the armed forces, who earned between R3 000 and R15 000 a month and therefore did not qualify for RDP (free) houses – but did not earn enough for bank bond approval, hence the “gap”.

Nationally, such people are being financially assisted by the National Housing Finance Corporation through an intervention called the Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP), which gives all qualifying beneficiaries the certainty of being granted loans, bonds or mortgages by banks and other financial institutions.

‘Deracializing’ space

On the challenges lying ahead, Sexwale said the most pressing was the need to “deracialize” space in the country, which continued to reflect the evil of apartheid social engineering. Undoing this legacy would require time and major resources, he said.

As part of its strategy in this regard, the department was obliging banks to give loans to black people who wanted to buy properties in previously exclusively white areas.

It had also been up buying high-rise buildings in inner cities, refurbishing and transforming them from office space to rented family units. This form of social housing had become popular with young couples, students and single mothers.

Areas close to townships, known as “No-Man’s Land”, which had been used as buffer zones between black townships and white areas during apartheid, were also being eradicated, with the land going to housing needs, so moving people closer to cities.

New non-racial towns and cities were also being developed to fulfill the principle of a united people in non-racial residential areas. Lephalale, which will be known as Joe Slovo City, in Limpopo province was an example of this policy, Sexwale said.

Illegal sale of houses

On corruption, Sexwale said the commitment root it out remained undiminished, adding that the department was not in favour of “double-dipping”, or the practice of moving into informal settlements from areas where services were being laid.

In other cases, there were some housing recipients who sold their houses illegally.

“This is fraudulent. We implore members of civil society to expose such chance-takers who, like many we have caused to be prosecuted, should face the full might of the law.”