Rapid urbanisation 'a serious problem'

Rapid urbanisation is causing the demand for housing to grow faster than the government can deliver it, Minister of Housing Lindiwe Sisulu said on Friday.

“At this rate, we are not going to get very far. We have a serious problem,” she told the annual conference of the Black Management Forum in Johannesburg.

Of South Africa’s 2,4-million informal households, only 800 000 are on the government’s waiting list, she said.

Africa’s urban growth rate is currently 4%, twice as high as that of Latin America and Asia, and its speed has caught governments unaware.

“We have created 1,8-million houses in the last 10 years, but it hasn’t taken us very far.”

Referring to the recent eviction of slum dwellers in Zimbabwe, Sisulu said other African countries risk finding themselves in similar situations unless governments take action.

The top three areas in South Africa that are urbanising most rapidly and are severely affected by the housing shortage are Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.

“All these areas of rapid urbanisation are [at present] a crisis for us,” she said.

Sisulu appealed to the private sector and construction companies to help the government solve the housing crisis.

A culture of responsibility also has to be created so that people improve the houses they receive, instead of selling them and returning to live in townships, she added.

Sisulu could not say how much of the government’s housing money is lost to corruption, but said the housing ministry will embark on a study with the auditor general to determine the extent of corruption in provinces like Limpopo.

Another problem is shoddy workmanship by construction companies. She acknowledged that in areas of the Free State this is a “serious problem”.

“We are putting together a housing code so that we can apply a uniform standard and are going to have a ‘living-worthy certificate’.”

She rejected the idea of turning dagga plants into bricks as a cheaper alternative to building materials.

“It’s a very cooling method of building a house, but not what we advocate.”—Sapa

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