Transformation of Our Cities is a Priority - Sexwale

Pretoria - The vision of an integrated South Africa has been taken a step further by the Human Settlements minister, who on Monday committed to ensuring that "skin colour" will never be a deciding factor in where people get to stay.

"We have to bridge the divide between the Sowetos and Johannesburgs, the Cape Towns and Khayelitshas. Our task, ultimately, is to build a non-racial South Africa," said Minister Tokyo Sexwale.

Sexwale said his ministry was monitoring banks' lending patterns to ensure that there was no discrimination in the awarding of home loans.

In particular, they were guarding against the discrimination of those buying or building homes through the Home Loans and Mortgage Disclosure Act (HLAMDA), allowing the department to foster the creation of more integrated suburbs.

"The transformation of our cities and towns … is a priority for this ministry," said Sexwale.

Government is also assisting those caught in the gap market - earning too much to qualify for a government subsidy but too little to qualify for bank credit.

To this end, the R1 billion Gap Fund was announced earlier this year to ensure that the target of 600 000 new loans in the housing sector is met by 2014.

The fund is aimed at nurses, teachers, police, prison warders, government officials, certain categories of management and blue collar factory and office workers.

The ministry is also behind the upscaling of affordable rental housing through investments in inner city renewal projects, like in the Johannesburg inner-city.

"These projects provide suitable accommodation to people who need somewhere to live and who qualify for a government subsidy, but do not necessarily want to own a home at this stage," said Sexwale.

The aim is to ensure people can live close to where they work, which translates into lower transport costs, and greater disposable income. - BuaNews