/ 14 June 2013

Meeting SA’s housing needs

Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale said the department had come up with various innovations that have improved living conditions for South Africans.
Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale said the department had come up with various innovations that have improved living conditions for South Africans.

In his budget speech to the national assembly in May, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said that over the past four years the department has established the foundation of its Vision 2030 strategy that focuses on a sustainable and integrated human settlements objective.

The strategy focuses on providing housing for the poor, the gap market (people who earn too much to qualify for low-cost subsidised housing and too little to afford the cheapest standard private sector houses or to qualify for bonds) and the middle to high income market.

Managing the objectives
"The main focus of our housing delivery strategy remains the poorest of the poor, many of whom are in and around informal settlements. At this stage, the following message must be clear: Our government does not build slums," said the minister.

Over the last four years, the department has delivered through grants more than 750 000 houses and housing opportunities.

This has made it possible for the total housing provided since 1994 to break the three-million unit threshold for people without work or earning up to R3 500 a month.

The second element of the strategy of the department focuses on providing financial guarantees for affordable housing in the gap market. This is for citizens who earn between R3 501 and R15 000 a month.

The department's task is to implement this "finance linked individual subsidy", which covers housing for teachers and principals, police and members of the armed forces, nurses, firefighters, prison warders and blue collar workers, among others.

Currently, the project is being rolled out in all provinces through the department's institution, the National Housing Finance Corporation.

Beneficiaries in this income segment have the option of buying an existing house, building a new home or purchasing land.

For the final segment (middle to high income earners), the department is relying on three pieces of legislation: the Home Loans and Mortgage Disclosure Act, the Community Schemes Ombuds Services Act and the Estate Agency Affairs Act.

De-racialising residential areas
During his budget speech, the minister also raised the issue of addressing the unique question of de-racialising residential areas.

The residential de-racialisation strategy of the department is underpinned by seven elements: white suburbs; inner city housing; inner city land; outer city districts; towns and townships; upgrading townships; and new non-racial towns and cities.

The de-racialising of white suburbs involves continuing to oblige banks through the Home Loan Mortgage Disclosure Act and to provide loans to black people who want to purchase property in previously exclusive white suburbs.

Inner city housing is spearheaded by the Social Housing Regulatory Authority, an agency of the department. It has purchased many high-rise buildings in the centres of major towns and cities.

The buildings are refurbished and transformed from office space to rented family units. This form of social housing has proven popular among young couples, students and single mothers.

In terms of inner city land, the department, through its Housing Development Agency, has acquired land parcels inside cities from other government departments and state-owned enterprises. These strategic pieces of land have been used for settling families.

Outer city districts within the immediate proximity of city boundaries constitute land which is acquired from other departments, or in partnership with the private sector, for housing construction. The project integrates people into the expanding outer city parameters, within walking distance of vital amenities and facilities.

"The 'no-man's land' area of towns and townships was often used as a buffer by the architects of apartheid, resulting in black areas having little or no amenities and facilities. The department is focusing on building integrated human settlements in this space to locate people closer to the towns and cities," said the minister.

Upgrading townships also forms an important component of the departmental strategy. The department provides accredited municipalities with direct funds and authority to construct human settlements within their jurisdiction.

In partnership with the department of higher education and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the department has also launched a four-year bachelor's degree in human settlements development.

This qualification will be extended to master's and doctoral levels at a later stage. The same degree will be offered by the University of Fort Hare and University of South Africa in the future.

Finally, the department wants to establish new non-racial towns and cities to cement the principle of a united people in non-racial residential areas.

The new town in Lephalale, Joe Slovo City, is currently under construction in Limpopo. It is driven by the economies of the Medupi power station and is an example of how the department plans to develop these non-racial residential areas.

Budgetary focus
The department has been allocated a budget of R28.1-billion for the 2013/14 financial year, an increase of R2.9-billion.

The allocation is expected to grow to R32.7-billion in 2015/16. The conditional grants to provinces constitute a R53.7-billion increase over the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) period and the urban settlements development grants to municipalities will receive an allocation of approximately R30-billion over the three years of the MTEF.

The conditional grants and transfers to institutions that fall under the department of human settlements constitute 97% of the budget. The total capital grant allocation is R26.1-billion.

It consists of the human settlements development grant of R16.9-billion, the urban settlements development grant of R9-billion and the rural households infrastructure grant of R107-million in 2013/14.

"The 2013/2014 human settlements budget is important [because] it is a continuation of the critical stimulus we provide to the total economic development of the country.

"Our budget should be seen as a catalyst in this process, including job creation through our twin empowerment and construction programmes of Women and Youth builds," said the minister.