No way to get a house

2010-08-10 00:00

IF you need an RDP house in Pietermaritzburg, there’s no way to get officials to notice.

For 10 years, Msunduzi Municipality has not registered residents in need of housing on a waiting list, because few low-cost houses are being built in the city.

Ward councillor Glenn McArthur — who has been battling for years to get this sorted out — says something needs to be done.

McArthur said it took him five years of back-and-forth correspondence before he was told that there is no housing list in the municipality.

In a letter dated April 15, he said: “Please could somebody explain how the [Human Settlements Department] is able to collect accurate data without a housing list being kept?

“Is the government really serious about eliminating slums by 2014 or is their solution simply to eliminate the housing lists?”

In a letter to McArthur dated March 26, Trevor Cowie, a senior managers in the housing department, stated that “new applicants whose income is below R3 500 per month are still not being registered on council’s waiting list”.

Cowie said the list was closed in 2000 “as per council’s resolution, to prevent the increase of the waiting list numbers and create expectations of applicants to be offered accommodation immediately after registrations, when no further mass housing opportunities for low-cost projects were taking place at that time”.

Asked to comment, Msunduzi’s marketing and communications manager, Brian Zuma, said beneficiary lists are being compiled by the municipality’s project steering committee in consultation with ward councillors.

He said that at present, potential applicants cannot be accommodated as there are no houses being built.

Said Zuma: “Based on census data, it is estimated that the housing backlog is approximately 16 000.

“The municipality also has a record of households residing informally … priority has been given to … people living in informal settlements,” said Zuma.

However, McArthur pointed out that Zuma failed to explain that the figure of 16 000 is the same as that quoted in 2000 when the municipality closed the housing list because it could not cope, and the numbers are now likely to be much higher.

He said there are many informal residents in his ward in need of housing, but he has yet to be contacted about working with the municipality’s project steering committee to address the issue.

The acting media liaison officer for the Human Settlements Department, Sureshinee Govender, said they have been using socio-economic studies and the municipality’s 2001 backlog census data to guide them.

“The department has identified challenges with regard to the implementation and maintenance of waiting lists. In many cases, the numbers have been difficult to reconcile as the provision of housing becomes a moving target,” she said.

Govender said that without updated lists it has been difficult to trace beneficiaries, and both the provincial and national departments are exploring a needs register that will have to be filled out by the beneficiaries themselves.

“In such a register the individuals would be able to express the specifics of their housing needs and preferred areas of location,” she said.

Govender said tht while waiting lists have been the practice for many years, this has not been the requirement for new housing developments.

Due to administrative challenges, beneficiary lists that are specific to each area have been used in consultation with ward committees in areas where people are living in informal settlements, she said.

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