The housing challenge presents an opportunity for us to take a fresh look at housing policy. We need to take a conscious and well-considered decision on this matter and provide guidance on what is in the best long-term interests of the country.
The housing needs are alarming; there is no way we could match this demand with the available resources, both in terms of land and finance. The backlog is around 500 000 provincially, with migration to this province estimated at 1.7 percent annually. With the current allocation of just over R2 billion from the national Treasury, we can only build 16 000 units and 16 000 serviced sites.
We also need about 9 000 hectares of land, and at this rate it will take no less than 28 years to clear the backlog. Unfortunately the backlog is not static; it is a moving target due to migration. Factor in the current economic crisis which affects the revenue collection and means less budget allocation in the following financial years, then it becomes clear we have a crisis.
One cannot deal with this issue in isolation from the general socio-economic conditions of our people. We need to find a sustainable way of delivering houses by ensuring partnerships in which people share responsibility with the government to either contribute to or build their own houses.
A number of countries have adopted this approach and we should certainly learn from them. The most pressing need is to ensure that everyone has access to basic services like water, sanitation, electricity, roads and refuse removal. It will take us a long time to deal with the housing backlog so we must ensure that people are waiting under acceptable conditions. We need to spend more money to accelerate access to basic services.
We must also look seriously at some housing policies which have become an albatross around our necks because they are stalling the process of speedy housing delivery.
Planning processes need to be streamlined to ensure quick and effective service delivery. It makes absolutely no sense, for instance, to have 11 different grants to put together a single housing unit.
Again it doesn't make sense to have a Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) separate from a housing grant because you can't build any houses without infrastructure.
Another serious problem is land invasion. The requirement by the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act (PIE Act) that people must be provided with alternative accommodation before they can be moved off invaded land encourages this practice.
This makes the housing demand database or waiting list impossible to manage.
As a result of the PIE Act, people are holding government to ransom by invading any land that is earmarked for development because they know that they will be moved to alternative accommodation.
The sad part about this is that those people living in backyards that have been on the waiting list for years become compromised by this act. This cannot be right and surely needs to be revisited. In this case it's usually individuals that hold us at ransom and delay the development for thousands of people. People cannot demand their rights at the expense of others, which is why we must act immediately to remove people who are illegally occupying land before the stipulated time in the PIE Act has lapsed.
We will never succeed in dealing with the housing crisis if we continue like this. The current approach of housing delivery is further entrenching and deepening poverty among our people.
Free houses will never be a substitute for a job and a solution to poverty. We must change our policy so we can respond to most vulnerable groups of our society (like elderly and disabled people, child-headed households etc), inculcate and encourage people who work to play a more active role and to take more responsibility in the provision of their homes. While we understand that people have rights we must ensure that we balance those rights with responsibilities. …