Site-and-services not of housing delivery

2009-10-21 12:12

Perhaps it is time to look back since the inception of the

government’s subsidy of low-cost housing. It is time to take stock of what has

been achieved and what has not.

This is in the context of the prevailing phenomena of

service-delivery protests by disgruntled communities.

The mere fact that there are allegations that a “third force”

exists in these protests means there is a gap in the delivery approach that

allows the so-called “third force” to take advantage.

The only way to address this challenge is to also look into

alternative service delivery approaches to the poor without totally abandoning

the current low-cost housing delivery approach.

The ANC-led government cannot afford to find itself in a

predicament where the issues of both HIV/Aids and low-cost housing service

delivery are highly politicised because it can loose power before it can achieve

what was envisaged by the Freedom Charter.

John FC Turner is the architect of the concept of self-help,

low-cost housing delivery approach, which was later termed as “site and

services” by the World Bank. In site-and-services, households improve their

housing incrementally by utilising better building materials and building

consolidation over a certain period of time. In short, this approach requires

that the state assist by regularising land tenure, provision of planned stands,

and basic, affordable utility and infrastructure services. The site-and-services

approach is budget-driven; the emphasis is on affordability according to

standards of utility and infrastructure that relate to low-income household


The current provision of services through low-cost housing delivery

is a bit far from the realities of the poor. For instance, in 2000, the

Mpumalanga Department of Housing and Land Administration adopted an approach

which says “building where people are”. Households were identified, through

Wards Councillors, within an informal settlement that is without the necessary

infrastructure and low-cost houses were built sparsely across the settlement.

The result is that houses were built without services and land tenure. In

essence, the projects were just “freezing” the informality (individually)

without any improvement in terms of tenure, infrastructure and

socio-economically. The site-and-services approach provides poor communities

with relatively high standards of utilities as compared with sites without

services and projects which provide sites and community facilities such as

clinics, but no services.

The advantage of site-and-services approach is that services

provision is the basis and no occupation and construction will take place

without these.

I agree that the needs and challenges faced by the urban poor

within core cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban will need total

assistance from government. The reason is that they have to compete with the

rich in terms of land, locality and services.

It is important to also draw in the culture of the poor (blacks) in

the process of service delivery through low-cost housing. The ability to build

your own home is the main determining factor of a man’s capability and

independency within a society and the community at large. The site-and-services

maintains that mentality and culture and it also encourages households to plan

and save, and appreciate that the government is meeting them half-way by

providing them with a site and services.

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