Housing shortage still desperate

Barry Streek

About 7,5-million people in South Africa still have to be provided with adequate housing despite more than five million people being given shelter in the past six years.

Since 1994 about 1,129-million houses have been built, and secured tenure, running water, sanitation and electricity provided.

Minister of Housing Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele says the provision of more than 1,1-million homes in six years was an achievement that very few, if any, countries had matched.

“Five million South Africans who did not have a roof over their heads, will return at the end of today to a place they call home, will have running water and sanitation, which they did not have before we embarked on this journey,” Mthembi-Mahanyele said during her policy speech in the National Assembly last week.

Mthembi-Mahanyele also said at an earlier press briefing that 7,5-million people are still without shelter, and “between two and three million” houses still had to be built to meet this need.

Many of these people are living in informal settlements in urban areas, where 53,6% of the population live, whereas others share accommodation.

The pace of housing delivery annually has declined from 300 000 in 1997 to about 200 000 the following year.

“We will be slowing down further we have to look at the quality issue and at tenure alternatives,” Mthembi-Mahanyele said.

Mthembi-Mahanyele said the housing situation had been exacerbated by inappropriate policies, a skewed distribution of resources and wealth and the general factors, such as growing economies, which draw people to the cities.

“As a result of the shortage of adequate and available shelter, people occupy any vacant land they find and put up shacks in areas without sanitation, infrastructure or social amenities.

“Others occupy old disused and/or abandoned structures, or prefabricated buildings of inferior material, some at an advanced stage of decay.”

Mthembi-Mahanyele said since 1994 the government has consolidated more than 10 different housing departments, fragmented policies and 34 pieces of legislation.

She said this was a journey that “took us through the potholes of reluctance by financial institutions to extend credit to previously marginalised communities and redlining, and defusing the landmines of fraud, corruption and criminal activity”.

One of the Department of Housing’s flagship programmes, the upgrading of informal settlements, involves 293 different projects that benefit 232 000 families who had their shacks converted into proper homes.

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