South Africa Passes 3-Million Housing Mark

Cape Town - Government has for the first time since 1994 passed the 3-million mark in providing houses and housing opportunities in South Africa.

The majority of these beneficiaries were from the poorest parts of society, said Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale in Parliament on Wednesday.

"The main focus of our housing delivery 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, imikhukhu, amatyotyombe!" he said during his Budget Vote.

However, he warned that the policy of providing grants that enabled the poor to get free housing was unsustainable. "Strictly speaking, this is more of a welfare programme approach than a lasting housing policy as this programme is driven by the triple evils of unemployment, poverty and inequity. For as long as this is the case, so long shall this programme remain because we as the government are committed to the poor and shall not abandon them."

GAP housing

Housing the poor was an ingredient of the department's three-part response to the State's Vision 2030 Strategy. GAP housing was another element of this strategy.

In responding to the needs of the poor, the department had during the past four years delivered over 750 000 houses through grants. Since 1994, the government has for the first time been able to pass the 3-million mark.

"To be precise 3.3 million houses and opportunities now at the cost of R85 000 each towards breaking the backlog of 2.1 million houses for 8 to 10 million people," Sexwale said.

GAP housing is a policy that addresses the housing aspirations of people such as nurses, fire fighters, teachers and members of the armed forces, who earned between R3000 and R15 000 per month and, therefore, did not qualify for RDP houses.

Nationally they were being financially assisted by the National Housing Finance Corporation through an intervention called Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP) which gives all qualifying beneficiaries the certainty of being granted loans, bonds or mortgages by banks and other financial institutions.

Those in the middle to high income groups can apply for housing bonds.

Of the challenges ahead Sexwale said that the most pressing one was the need to "deracialize" racial space, which more than anything else, reflected the real evil of apartheid social engineering. Undoing this policy will require time and major resources.

As part of its strategy in this regard, the department is obliging banks to give loans to blacks who want to buy properties in previously exclusively white areas. It has also been up buying high rise buildings in inner cities, refurbishing and transforming them from office space to rented family units. This form of social housing has become popular with young couples, students and single mothers.

Areas, close to townships, known as "No-Man's Land" and which had been used as buffer zones to separate black townships from white areas were also being eradicated. The land is going to housing needs with occupants being moved closer to cities.

New non-racial towns and cities were also being developed to fulfill the principle of a united people in non-racial residential areas. Lephalale, which will be known as Joe Slovo City, in Limpopo is an example of this policy.

Sexwale criticized provinces, such as the Western Cape and Free State that were unable to build simple toilets in their housing projects. He was also not impressed with provinces that failed to use their whole housing budget.

Illegal sale of houses

On corruption, he said the commitment root it out remain undiminished, adding that the department was not in favour of double-dipping, a practice whereby people flocked into informal settlements from areas where services were being laid. Others also sold their houses illegally.

"This is fraudulent. We implore members of civil society to expose such chance-takers, who, like many we have caused to be prosecuted, should face the full might of the law."

The department's budget has been hiked by R2.9 billion to R28.1 billion. The allocation is expected to be increased to R32.7 billion in 2015/16. The conditional grant to provinces total R53.7 billion over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework period.

The Urban Settlements Development Grants to municipalities will get about R30 billion in three years of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework.