South Africa : New agency to fast track housing delivery

By Siboniso Ntuli

Pretoria - The Housing Development Agency was launched by the Minister of Housing Lindiwe Sisulu on Monday evening to fast track the delivery of houses to the poor.

The agency will work with municipalities, private sector developers and provinces to ensure government reaches its target to double the current delivery rate of over 250 000 houses to over 500 000 units per year.

This is in line with government's objective to eradicate informal settlements by 2014.

Speaking at the launch of the agency on Monday night, Ms Sisulu said the agency would address the shortage of well-located land where housing projects can be developed.

"The agency is a special purpose vehicle which will acquire, hold, develop and release land for residential and community purposes to enable the creation of sustainable human settlements," said Ms Sisulu.

The agency is a result of a comprehensive review of the housing delivery value chain. Government initiated the review because the lack of access to well-located land was having a negative impact on the implementation of the breaking new ground policy.

"The escalation in the price of building materials is one of the challenges the department is facing in delivering houses, but the issue of access to suitable land was a greater concern," said Ms Sisulu.

In 2004 the department visited Malaysia to learn about the countries experiences in delivering houses and how to implement efficient well-thought out and resourced mechanisms for meeting delivery targets.

"State driven agencies are indeed no guarantee either of efficiency or fairer and speedier delivery. However, they have a huge impact in arresting and the escalation of prices through not merely regulation but by also making available an alternative means for access to housing and land."

Director General in the Department of Housing, Itumeleng Kotsoane said the agency would ensure that the department is able to build integrated communities, co-ordinate the building of different types of housing tenure, from rental, bonded housing and government subsidised housing in integrated developments close to areas of economic activities.

He said the agency would work with all agencies of government, the private sector and other stakeholders to facilitate not only the availability of land, but also major developments such as Curnobia, Lephalale and massive urban renewal programme in urban areas like Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.

The department's fast tracked delivery since 2004 had shown that working with different partners, government could deliver more houses quicker. "The launch of the Housing Development Agency will take us to greater heights never seen before in South Africa."

By the end of the current financial year, on 31 March, government would have built 2.8 million houses since 1994, providing shelter to more than 13.5 million people.

"Over the past 14 years, government has spent over R100 billion in providing serviced land and a top structure, this is the biggest economic investment in the residential construction sector and more than 2.7 million families have houses and land they call their own," Mr Kotsoane added.

Of the 2.7 million houses, over 1.2 million were built from 2004 after the launch of the Breaking New Ground policy. - BuaNews