Housing research

Yvonne van Niel, Strandfontein

In response to the Plainsman’s front page story “Spotlight on housing” (February 12), public housing is a very sensitive issue and it is an issue that is very close to my heart and for the last number of years, I have been designing housing software and doing research around the allocation of public housing.

While doing research I had to compare the Allocation Policy 2015 with the new Draft Revised Policy: Housing Allocation 2019 and the Policies and Frameworks in the Regulatory Context which informs the implementation of the Policy, which has raised a few concerns and I came across a few errors.

These errors were mostly typographical errors, but I firmly believe that the “content” of a document, affects or even changes the “context” of a document.

A few errors were also found in the Western Cape Provincial Framework Policy for the Selection of Housing Beneficiaries in Ownership-based Subsidy Projects: August 2012, but the Director of Policy and Research Pamela Masiko-Kambala acknowledged those errors and promised to rectify them, however, she pointed out that even though she informed the City of Cape Town municipality concerning their errors, she said their allocation policy was being amended.

And when I read the article in the Plainsman I had the same concerns and asked the same or similar questions.

One of the concerns as it relates to the above mentioned article was the mention of 10% of the housing project that will be given to the top 100 most urgent cases.

The only reference that is made regarding 10% within the Allocation Policy: Housing Opportunities 2019 is in relation to the 10% not registered on the City of Cape Town’s database that will be registered upon application, one of which is referring to informal settlements.

There is no reference made to “urgent” cases, but definitely “emergency” housing, but according to the 2015 Policy, emergency housing is excluded from the Policy.

What I would like to bring to people’s attention, even if it is not part of this article, but is very important, is the following: The number of people registered on the City of Cape Town’s Housing database is 303 954 as of December 2015.

The City of Cape Town’s housing backlog is at approximately 345 000 according to Census 2011 and it will take about 20 years to eradicate, which equates to the production of 15 000 units annually, according to the Municipal Spatial Development Framework, 25 April 2018.

The government has a R99 billion budget spending R5 billion per annum for state housing.

The rate at which state-assisted top structures is delivered has stabilised at around 5 000 per year since 2005 despite the real contraction of housing subsidies.

Malusi Booi, mayoral committee member for human settlements, responds:

Subsidised housing or affordable development is a very intricate business.

There are more than 300 000 applicants with a waiting status registered on the City of Cape Town’s Housing Database.

Enhancing affordability and access to affordable housing is a challenge that most major cities in the world as well as in South Africa are looking at.

Essentially it is about how to increase the affordable housing stock that is available in the market and how to do it; and by whom.

Cape Town has some unique challenges, including land availability, demographic considerations, the Not-In-My-Backyard phenomenon across all communities in Cape Town and land invasions.

The public and private sector together are developing about half of the new formal dwellings that are required per year going forward.

To this end, the City is finalising a new strategy which it hopes will make public and private sector stakeholders in the housing sector look at innovative, inclusive and accessible products.

The strategy will support the building of integrated human settlements; provide scaled-up subsidised housing opportunities and enable the scaling up of affordable housing development within all sectors of the market.

It acknowledges that the health of a city and its people are built on healthy, spatially integrated and diverse communities in well located areas and that
a healthy city can only be built on partnerships.

Cape Town has had a high rate of urbanisation due to its stable, zero tolerance for corruption and market friendly government.

It is seen as a place of opportunity for all walks of life and we need to ensure that all people can be accommodated in one way or the other.

For many years, the City has been signalling that far greater partnerships in the private and public sector are required to tackle the challenge of providing more affordable housing stock for those with household earnings
up to approximately R22 000 per month.

It is impossible for a government alone, let alone a City government, to be solely responsible for tackling the challenges of urbanisation, informality and increased pressure to mainstream service delivery in an inclusive manner – while being sustainable.

The days of largely focusing on state-subsidised housing such as breaking new ground units are over.

There is simply too much demand and state-subsidised housing will never be able to cater to the demand.

In addition, the long legal and regulatory processes of formal state-subsidised housing delivery are too cumbersome to reasonably cater for those who need assistance with accommodation.

There will always be a place for it especially as a mechanism for redressing the injustices of the past, but it needs to be one of the focus areas and not one of the primary focus areas. A mindset shift must happen across our society.

While this work is under way, our delivery across accommodation types such as formal subsidy housing, affordable social housing, backyarder service delivery and the upgrading of informal settlements continue.

The Human Settlements Strategy that is currently being developed aims to outline the key strategic shifts that the City will be making in enabling integrated and affordable housing development by all partners.

We acknowledge that there is much work to do and where we need to make improvements, we are doing so.

The human settlements environment is dynamic and full of challenges and we are moving towards a revised strategy which will be robustly engaged on later this year.

At the end of the day, human settlements must become part of the mainstream conversation and partnerships remain key to tackling the challenges brought by urbanisation.