Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: REUTERS
Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: REUTERS

The government has delivered more than 5-million subsidised housing and housing opportunities since 1994, an achievement human settlements minister Lindiwe Sisulu says is unmatched by any other country.

About 35% of the population had benefited from the government’s housing interventions, the minister said in her budget vote speech in the National Assembly on Tuesday. However, about 2.2-million households — or 12.5-million people — still live in informal settlements in urban areas as more people migrate to cities from rural areas and people migrate to SA from neighbouring countries.

Informal settlements have mushroomed around big cities, particularly during the Covid-19 lockdown as people took advantage of the state of disaster regulations that prevent evictions. In the first 12 months of the lockdown, for example, 50 new informal settlements sprang up in Cape Town.

Sisulu said that over the next three years, about R10bn has been ring-fenced to accelerate upgrading informal settlements countrywide and that this year provinces will upgrade informal settlements and metropolitan municipalities.

But DA human settlements spokesperson Emma Louise Powell said Sisulu’s promises of delivery targets are “hollow” and yet to be fulfilled. An example is the 36,000 sustainable human settlements promised in the 2019/2020 financial year that were not delivered.

Sisulu noted there are people in informal settlements who take advantage of the disadvantaged, who try to cheat the system, try to cheat the state, and who try to cheat the community.

“They benefit from shack-farming and have perfected the art, making it very difficult to break the back of informality. We have people who have benefited from being given a house. Then we also have the other side — dishonesty, when people who have benefited from a house immediately sell it and return to the informal settlement, creating a vicious cycle of poverty and informality.” 

It is illegal for beneficiaries of state houses to sell them before eight years but Sisulu said this legal requirement is rarely adhered to.

She noted that the Human Settlements Development Bank has been established. Its role is to assist first-time buyers and working-class people earning between R3,501 and R22,000 to purchase their own houses. 

“We look towards the housing bank to play a central role in accelerating delivery of catalytic or mixed-income housing projects, affordable rental stock [social housing] and possibly student accommodation,” Sisulu said.

The minister also dealt with the rental relief programme to assist tenants in government-subsidised formal rental housing to meet their monthly rent obligations. The programme is meant to assist those who came under financial pressure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A total of R600m has been allocated for this.  

The Social Housing Regulatory Authority will disburse R300m and the National Housing Finance Corporation will disburse R300m.

The payments under the one-off relief programme will be made retrospectively to cover the period April 1 to September 30 2020 and will stop once the allocated funds are depleted.

The payments will be paid to affected landlords as per the stipulated criteria and Sisulu said a means test will be applied.

Social housing landlords will have to commit to not instituting eviction proceedings against tenants who did not fully pay their rents between April and September 2020 and tenants will need to prove their household income was substantially reduced due to the pandemic.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za  

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