Guest Column

Housing: Help is at hand

2017-06-11 06:10
President Jacob Zuma officially opened the N2 Gateway Integrated Human Settlements Development in Cape Town in 2015. PHOTO: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS

President Jacob Zuma officially opened the N2 Gateway Integrated Human Settlements Development in Cape Town in 2015. PHOTO: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS

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Lindiwe Sisulu

Nothing is more difficult than having to deal with the moving target of housing our people against a background of heightened expectation and anger. The agitated expectative state of mind, although legitimate, makes it difficult to have meaningful dialogue with our people because no further explanations are acceptable now, and yet the hard truth is that, no matter the circumstances, the reality of our situation needs to be understood by all of us because all of us to work together to find a meaningful solution.

Here is our reality: we have provided 4.5 million houses and subsidies, but our society is urbanising at 2.4% a year. Our backlog grows as society grows. In addition, we need to take into account migration from neighbouring countries. This reality has to be at the back of everybody’s minds when we deal with where we come from and what we are confronted with so that our solutions are understood in the context of what is possible, and what we have achieved. Measure us by what we have been able to do, which no other country in the world has been able to do. Measure us by our commitment.

Having assessed our situation, gone through the evolution of policies and engaged with our communities, we have decided that we are going to embark on a vigorous, multipronged approach to our challenge. We think that this will suit our current situation better, and it is underpinned by the following: our people have to understand that the responsibility to shelter is the most fundamental responsibility that each has. So we start with the responsibility, thereafter we work out how each executes this intrinsic, natural responsibility. The state, on the other hand, is required to perform its duty by providing the right to access to housing. It becomes the enabler by using the resources it has and the policies that guide that right to access.

We both have a responsibility – the people and government. Our people have to understand that their rights, of which government is the custodian, come with responsibilities. If they understand this, our message will be aligned and we’ll go so much further.

Creating their own future

We will now concentrate on being an enabler to those who can and a provider to those who can’t. We are calling on our people to play their part in executing their responsibility together with us in delivering a right. We are accordingly shifting our focus to strengthen our strategies by providing land for people to build on with our assistance, coupled with our temporary shelter programme, approved by Cabinet in 2007. Working together with the departments of public works, and rural development and land affairs, we will establish a collaboration that will release land, and municipalities will be required to prioritise the provision of infrastructure. Our centralised database will determine allocation so that those who can do so and who are on our database will be required to build their own houses, with our help. Further, it will be compulsory for these stands be converted into housing units within a prescribed period of time so that we don’t end up creating more informal settlements.

The second leg of our strategy is the new 46 government-led catalytic projects. To grow at the scale required to deal with the increasing need for houses, we need our yield to be far greater than we have been producing. We expect that no one of the projects will yield fewer than 10 000 units, consisting of mixed typologies. In a situation where people live in dire circumstances, we will have a phased approach, similar to the N2 Gateway housing project in Cape Town.

Through the catalytic projects, we have set ourselves on a path to transform our urban spaces as well as the industries that are key in the development of settlements.

It is worth emphasising that government is an enabler. We call on society to work with us to create their own future and help build their own houses. A house is the most fundamental need for humanity and it requires each one to play their part.

Sisulu is the minister of human settlements

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