Housing Challenges Could Soon Be a Thing of the Past in Oudtshoorn

By Sibongile Maputi

A new manager has been appointed to deal with housing challenges in Oudtshoorn following the resignation of the manager for human settlements, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) delegation to the Oudtshoorn Municipality heard on Tuesday.

The Administrator of the Municipality, Mr Kim Chetty, told the delegation that Ms Shehaam Sims was from outside Oudtshoorn and possessed expertise in the housing issues.

Ms Sims's appointment follows the resignation of the former manager for human settlements whom residents had fingered in corrupt practices in the allocation of houses.

In its visit to the municipality last year, the NCOP heard of beneficiary list challenges, absence of title deeds, ownership by foreign nationals, younger people receiving houses first, house allocations to deceased recipients.

Ms Sims said the work of updating the list is at an advanced stage and that all new housing developments will be allocated according to the list.

"What we have done was to update the list based on the list that was provided by the province. The initial list had about 18 000 beneficiaries but that number has since gone down to about 13 000. In the process of cleaning the list it was discovered that a number of people were deceased, others were not supposed to be on the list, others had already been allocated subsidy," Ms Sims said.

The NCOP delegation, together with the provincial counterparts led by the Speaker of the Western Cape Legislature, Ms Sharna Fernandez, visited the Rose Valley housing project where about 410 houses have been constructed. It was revealed that Phase Two of the project - with a high school and a primary school - was advancing and would be completed possibly at the end of June.

The leader of the delegation and Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP, Mr Raseriti Tau, said housing is a highly emotive issue and must be handled with care.

"How is the municipality dealing with the issue of houses allocated to foreign nationals as people had alleged when the NCOP was here last year?" he asked.

He also wanted to know how prioritisation was being done in order to make sure that the younger generation did not get houses ahead of elderly people. "How are you dealing with this challenge?" he asked.

Members wanted to know if the final beneficiary list would be made public and how the municipality was handling the matter of backyard dwellers.

A Member of the Provincial Legislature wanted to know if putting emphasis on informal settlements to the exclusion of backyard dwellers, was not legitimising an illegitimate process of spiralling informal settlements.

It was replied that in the current process no foreign national had been allocated a house, but indeed the locals rented their properties to foreigners both for rental and business purposes. It was responded that the backyard dwellers were not excluded from the housing process.

"The list had been sent to the province for verification of certain documents and whatever outstanding information that might be required. People will now get houses according to where they appear on the list, and this will be a transparent process," Ms Sims said.

Delegation Member, Mr Jacques Julius, said it appeared that the new development was further away from economic opportunities. He asked what economic activity could be there to stimulate economic growth closer to the new housing project.

It was replied that the new site has a potential for agro processing, and retail type of facilities as well. It was revealed that the municipality was in negotiations with government departments, like Defence and Police, in an attempt to try and convince them to be headquartered in the area.

SOURCE: http://www.parliament.gov.za/