/ 8 June 2015

Govt seeks to discipline those selling RDP houses

Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

The Department of Human Settlement is hoping to make it harder for people to illegally sell their RDP houses. 

While the state housing subsidy programme specifies that a beneficiary “shall not sell or otherwise alienate his or her dwelling or site within a period of eight years”, no punitive measures are stipulated in the Housing Act, making it hard for the department to discipline those who put their homes up for sale. The department hopes to close this gap.

In response to a question from Inkatha Freedom Party human settlements spokesperson and MP Petros Sithole, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in a written reply said that since 1994, there have been almost three million RDP houses built as of March 2015, and 3 411 of those have been sold by beneficiaries to private owners.

The minister said it was impossible to take disciplinary actions against people who sold their RDP houses because they were not government employees. “While the Housing Act 107 of 1997, as amended by the Housing Amendment Act 4 of 2001, sets out that a subsidy beneficiary “shall not sell or otherwise alienate his or her dwelling or site within a period of eight years” as a condition of the state housing subsidy programme, no punitive measures are stipulated in this regard. We are looking at closing this lacuna in our law.

“Our people must be cognisant of the fact that they only qualify once for housing assistance from government and therefore a decision to sell the houses we provide them should not be taken lightly, it should be driven by the fact that their economic conditions have changed for the better,” she said. 

Catering for an impoverished generation
In her budget speech in Parliament last month, she said it was very disheartening to learn from research done by the department that the fastest growing property market in South Africa has been from the RDP sector.

“Houses are an asset, which can be leveraged to take even the poorest out of their poverty debt trap. This of course depends on people who are given free housing, the indigent, understanding that they may not sell a house before they have lived in it for at least eight years, and thereafter the first buyer should be government,” said Sisulu.

“This is possibly the only asset they can bequeath their children. The generation we are catering for is a generation that has been deliberately impoverished by apartheid and we would like them to use this as an asset base.”

So far, however, none of the 3 411 houses have been sold to government, according to the written reply.  In a Cape Argus report earlier this year, Bonginkosi Madikizela, Western Cape MEC for Human Settlements, said the eight-year restriction, or pre-emptive clause, was forcing people to sell their houses illegally or informally.

“We can have as many laws as we want but this is difficult to prevent. We are giving houses to people who have nothing to put on the table. A house is not a substitute for a job. That is why people end up selling or renting their house,” he was quoted as saying. 

Most of the illegal sales are done via classified sites such as Gumtree or OLX.