Covid-19, cash shortages, lack of suitable land stall state housing projects, govt says

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Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.
Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.
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  • Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi says the Covid-19 pandemic halted most of her department's projects.
  • The search for well-located land and financial constraints made matters worse.
  • According to Kubayi-Ngubane, their main task is to get the 2.2 million informal settlement households into formal dwellings.

Dwindling financial resources, a lack of well-located land for housing development projects, and the Covid-19 pandemic - these are the most precarious issues for the national Department of Human Settlements during the 2020-2021 financial year that ended in March.

On Friday, officials briefed Parliament on the progress and financial audits of departments and its entities for the year under review.

In her department's annual report, Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi said the supply side of the housing market had experienced multiple challenges.

"... challenges include weaknesses of housing project implementation, and objective challenges include the availability of, dwindling fiscal resources, and now the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ | Housing agency in turmoil

"The 2020-21 financial year presented significant service delivery challenges for the Department of Human Settlements and its entities due to the catastrophic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has devastated almost all the sectors of the economy, and it continues to ravage South Africa and the rest of the global community," she said.

Halt

Covid-19 interventions like the lockdown, in particular, forced many projects to come to a halt countrywide.

But Kubayi said most of the challenges in the human settlement portfolio predate the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Government and the department and its entities, in particular, has the singular responsibility of making sure that the estimated 2.2 million households still residing in informal settlements have decent shelter.

"Inevitably, this puts a spotlight on the state's capacity without which we will never be able to respond to the growing housing needs. It behoves us to put more effort in streamlining the housing delivery systems through better implementation strategies and closer coordination of the three spheres of government," she said.

READ | Sahpra says no to Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine - for now

In the three years preceding the Covid-19 pandemic, there had been a cumulative reduction of about R15 billion from the human settlements capital budget, whilst the number of people living in informal settlements continued to grow.

She said despite the dwindling resources, over five million housing opportunities had been delivered since 1994.

"As a result of this work, over 21 million South Africans are currently accommodated in government subsidised housing. Whilst the budget reductions were driven by the constrained fiscus, the human settlements portfolio can do more to reduce under expenditure," she said.

Deputy minister Pam Tshwete, in her report, said: "The cases of the destitute families continue to be our priority. We will endeavour to assist until the last destitute family has been housed. In the 2021 financial year, we intervened in and assisted destitute families. In the year under review, we also had the pressure of being invited to many provinces to hand over houses to destitute families, and this will become one of our focus areas going forward."

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