Technology 'saviour' for low cost housing

2012-08-06 14:11
A low cost house in Mfuleni is augmented by renewable energy. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

A low cost house in Mfuleni is augmented by renewable energy. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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VIDEO: Low cost housing

2012-08-06 11:06

Sean Van Horsten talks about using renewable energy solutions to augment low cost housing projects in this YouTube video.WATCH

Cape Town - Low cost housing augmented by renewable energy technology may be part of the solution to the ongoing crises in the sector, a developer has said.

"Bringing in renewables makes a lot more sense that conventional power because the cost of that conventional power far outweighs the cost of the renewables which is a once off," Sean Van Horsten, CEO of VHP told News24.

He was showing the home that the company had built in the Mfuleni township outside Cape Town as a demonstration project for including renewable energy in low cost housing.

The poverty-stricken area is home to about 7 000 people with relatively few social services.

"So you're spending millions on bringing power to the people who can't really afford to pay for that power," said Van Horsten.


The demonstration home stands out in the landscape, surrounded by informal housing and Van Horsten said that the government should seriously investigate the viability of using technology to deliver services to the poor.

"We could see that these kinds of systems are only going to lead to improving the lives of our poor. It just makes a lot more sense for government to look at this approach to PHP [people's housing process] and make it part of their basic services to our poor people," he said.

The project has been awaiting approval for more than two years and both Minister of human settlements Tokyo Sexwale and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela have slammed the state of RDP housing in SA.

"I made a statement in parliament stating that when we have the huge projects [like major roads and cities], we give them [the contracts] to credible companies who bring in their expertise.

"But when we build houses for our people, instead of bringing those major credible companies, we give things to people who believe it's their right to get the contracts," Sexwale said.

In her investigation into the housing crisis in the North West province, Madonsela found that there was corruption in the procurement and delivery process in housing.

"It seems some of the houses that were supposed to have been completed and signed off did not even exist," she said.

'Kick start'

Consolidated Carbon Solutions said that an upcoming subsidy could benefit poor people by allowing them to access funds to finance for renewable energy solutions.

"This is in essence a kick start and would be a kick start from government's side. I know that DOE [department of energy] has a programme they will be launching soon that speaks to a subsidy or rebate, specifically for renewables, other than a solar geyser," said Van Horsten.

The demonstration house also makes use of a tank to capture rain water for outdoor use and the solar panels are riveted to prevent theft.

Van Horsten rejected suggestions that the project could not be scaled for mass rollout.

"We invite those critics to this house and we're not newcomers to PHP housing. We've been in the game for a while, we know what our limitations are and we know what our challenges are.

"We've got an awesome relationship with our suppliers where we pay cash for our material, which allows us to negotiate better prices. We're wanting to pass those discounts on to our beneficiaries."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

Read more on:    cape town  |  housing  |  renewable energy

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