31 August 2010
With a backlog of over two-million houses, the government is embarking on radical changes that could turn the tide of housing delivery in South Africa through partnerships with NGOs and local community groups.
According to data from the Department of Human Settlements, some 2.7-million houses have been built in South Africa over the last 14 years.
Housing Development Agency
Government officials acknowledge that post-1994, South Africa marked the beginning of an unprecedented demand for houses as more people moved to urban areas in search of economic opportunities created by the new democratic order.
The demand became so high that the then Department of Housing was forced to look outside itself for solutions to meet its deadline for delivery when it announced the establishment of a Housing Development Agency in 2009.
Since its inception, the agency has facilitated the acquisition of land for housing developments across the country, allowing for more than 240 000 new houses to be handed over to new owners between 2008 and 2009.
Spending on housing delivery had also increased from R4.8-billion in 2004/05 to R10.9-billion in the last financial year, increasing at an average rate of 23%.
Authorities, however, admit that there have been challenges: “It’s a challenge and it’s going to take us time, but we will get there, it’s going to take one step at a time,” says Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale.
He is adamant the new national housing policy could turn the tide in the delivery of houses, an issue that has become central to service delivery protests throughout the country.
People’s Housing Process
One of the strategies listed in the policy, the People’s Housing Process (PHP), will see the establishment of a new funding mechanism that will allow for more community-driven projects in the delivery of what is now being termed “human settlements”.
The government has realised that just building houses, without proper monitoring and maintenance, has resulted in unscrupulous contractors costing the state more than R1-billion to rebuild badly constructed houses.
Sexwale says the growing demand for shelter and the mushrooming of informal settlements in most urban areas has necessitated a new approach to the housing challenge, one which will minimise corruption in the delivery of adequate houses.
“We don’t just build houses anymore, that thing is not working, we are building human settlements … People must have clinics, police stations and places where children can play, and we are involving communities in that,” he said during the launch of the first PHP-model housing development in Plettenberg Bay recently.
The model has also been introduced in Gauteng province, where 907 units were handed over to residents of DoornKop, Soweto two weeks ago. Once completed, it is expected to create more than 24 000 housing opportunities for people who qualify for subsidised housing and those who earn between R3 500 and R7 500 monthly.
The development also forms part of the southern extension of the township.
Focus on partnerships
The PHP policy further proposes an alignment of the existing housing delivery programmes, but with a focus on partnerships among non-governmental organisations and community groups. The process involves beneficiaries actively participating in decision-making over the housing process and housing product.
“Beneficiaries are empowered individually and collectively so that the community ultimately takes control of the housing process themselves,” the policy document reads. “This includes identifying the land, planning the settlement, getting approvals and resources to begin the development.”
The basic entry requirement for the programme is that individuals need to be part of an already organised community group, or must have indicated they want to participate in a community-driven housing project.
Building voucher system
Richard Dyantyi, special adviser to Sexwale, says plans are under way to introduce a voucher system, in which organised communities will be given vouchers to access building material and short courses to enable them to start their own housing projects.
“These are the proposals that we need to debate and take to the people, because a lot is involved with human settlement – you need parks, you need clinics … So it’s very important that we empower these communities so they can deliver human settlements that will be sustainable,” Dyantyi said.
But the PHP has not been without challenges. One of the concerns, raised during a conference to debate the policy, is the amount of time it takes for municipalities to release land for PHP projects, something believed to be causing delays for some community projects.
The PHP’s policy framework and guidelines were at one stage also met with much resistance from some quarters, as they were said to be too narrow in their focus and apparently did not redefine the policy in a way that community-driven initiatives could be included.
The department has, however since agreed to review the guidelines. Provinces are required to manage their demand databases more effectively to prevent confusion on waiting lists that has led to conflicts in many parts of the country.
“PHP encourages government supporting those communities who want to work with government to build human settlements in terms of a demand-led approach … This must be viewed and managed constructively so that is not seen as a means of queue-jumping,” reads the policy document.
Dyantyi says that, if implemented correctly, the policy could benefit millions of people in need of houses, and could be the answer to the country’s housing delivery challenges.