Affordable housing is a national priority according to PIC

Posted On Saturday, 01 June 2013 09:25 Published by Commercial Property News
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There's a desperate need for sound, basic housing with the 2011 census showing that 13,6m people lived in informal settlements.

Elias Masilela

Affordable or RDP housing for people living in squatter settlements is a national priority, says Public Investment Corp CEO Elias Masilela.

Therefore, affordable or RDP housing for people living in squatter settlements is a national priority, says Public Investment Corp (PIC) CEO Elias Masilela. But this doesn't always translate into reality. Problems in the affordable housing sector are highlighted in the eThekwini (Durban) area, which has about 635 informal settlements and 114000 people officially classified as "homeless". The number could be much higher as collecting census information in these settlements is difficult.

But there is little help coming from official sources, not least the eThekwini municipality. There is a huge housing backlog, in some cases RDP houses have been shoddily built and collapse, and the process of allocating houses to people has been dogged by corruption, incompetence and politics.

The latest scandal involves about 400000 people who had believed they were in line for an RDP house after putting their names on a list. Their hopes have been dashed by the municipality, after years of argument in the chambers over an RDP list, finally admitting that such a list does not exist.

This has been met with disbelief by opposition councillors, who claim that RDP housing is being allocated to ANC supporters or by corrupt officials. eThekwini mayor James Nxumalo says there never has been an RDP housing list. The DA says this is a lie. "There was a separate RDP housing list, and we have asked for years what has happened to it. This is a web of lies and misinformation designed to conceal who the real recipients of RDP houses have been since 1998," says Jethro Lefevre, Democratic Alliance whip for housing and councillor for Overport and Sydenham, two suburbs in eThekwini bordered by a large informal settlement.

Nxumalo has handed the explanation over to his chairman of the human settlements & infrastructure committee, Nigel Gumede. His views were published two weeks ago in eZasegagasini Metro, the municipality's official mouthpiece. Gumede admits that signatures were collected but says these were for a database which should not be confused with a waiting list. "The database tells us how many families live in informal settlements for records purposes." He adds that the allocation policy is for those who meet the qualifying requirements for an RDP house, as well as special allocations for vulnerable people.

But apart from the contentious list and the inability to build houses fast enough, the process has been plagued by corruption and "missing money". Lefevre says last year the provincial housing department gave R3bn to eThekwini, which should have been enough to build 15000 houses. "So far 60% of that amount has been spent, with only 3000 houses to show for it. We have asked constantly where the balance of the money went."

Allegations of corruption go all the way to the top. Sibusiso Mzobe, President Jacob Zuma's cousin, had his building company, Deebo Holdings, placed into liquidation earlier this month apparently because he had not paid one of his subcontractors. The matter is linked to Zuma's son, Edward, who is being sued for allegedly not paying his wedding planner. According to court papers in his defence, Edward Zuma claims Deebo Holdings owes him R28,8m.

In another high-profile court case, Shauwn Mpisane, socialite and wife of former policeman turned multimillionaire, S'bu Mpisane, faces a number of charges, largely around tax. But one relates to an RDP housing contract awarded to her after initially being withdrawn by the municipality on the grounds that the tender process was tainted.

Even when corruption is not involved many RDP houses turn out to be problematic because they were badly built. This is because the profit margin for the contractors building RDP houses is so thin that they take short cuts, and use poor quality cement or bricks. The inevitable result is that the houses disintegrate. An RDP house costs about R50000. Support from the PIC, an influential investor, could be the best way to start cleaning up the RDP housing crisis.

Source: FM 

Last modified on Thursday, 13 March 2014 09:09

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