Human Settlements Ministry plans to build over 200 000 houses in 2009

By Proffesor Ndawonde

Cape Town - Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale says with over 570 housing projects approved nationally, the department would build 226 000 new housing units across the country this year.

"Nationally, over 570 housing projects have been approved and a housing grant of R12.4-billion has been allocated for this financial year. This is allocated for expenditure on the construction of 226 000 new housing units across all nine provinces," said Minister Sexwale, tabling his department's Budget Vote in Parliament on Tuesday.

He added that in the first two months of this financial year, that is, from 1 April to 31 May 2009, provincial housing departments had already reported delivery of more than 22 000 housing units.

"This brings the number of subsidised homes delivered by government since 1994 to a total of 2.3 million, accommodating approximately 13-million people.

"We are obviously also looking beyond the numbers, and are pleased to report that the homes being built at present are of a larger size and better quality, with more houses of 40 to 45 square metres being constructed," he said.

Minister Sexwale told the National Assembly that gradually, new housing projects are also beginning to take the shape and form of quality human settlements which enable people to live a better quality life.

He said his budget vote is still defined as the housing budget vote in terms of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), which consists of three parts: the concept of human settlements, the current housing situation and the consequential challenges of the country's new mandate.

Minister Sexwale affirmed that the department's task, in terms of government's MTEF was clear, in that it would restore humanity and dignity, to address spatial inequalities and to provide comfort and security for all.

"This we shall achieve by planning and building human settlements in an integrated, coordinated and holistic way.

"These must be places where people can play, stay and pray. They should be green, landscaped communities, pleasant places, where people live, learn and have leisure," he said.

He pledged that in order to accomplish all these, the department requires a new approach, a paradigm shift beyond housing.

"It is about homes. It is not just about a change of name from housing to human settlements; it is about a change of mindset, taking us from a new concept to concrete reality," he explained.

Meanwhile, additional funds have been allocated to provide for large-scale upgrades of informal settlements and the alignment of the national housing grant with inflationary price increases.

Minister Sexwale said government has made tremendous gains in breaking the housing backlog, and the number of new homes built is second only to China.

"But this must not mean that houses should be of poor standard, or that quality is compromised in the interest of chasing numbers," he said.

He further called on other departments to work together with his department to build more houses.

"Together, we will obviously do more. This means maximum cooperation and coordination with other national departments, particularly those in the Social Protection and Community Development Cluster, as well as the Departments of Rural Development and Cooperative Governance," he said. - BuaNews