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Silence about drastic changes during Sona

On February 10, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation and delivered a nearly two-hour State of the Nation (Sona) address. However, no mention was made of the housing backlog and the drastic policy changes that are in the pipeline.

In November 2020, former Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu made important announcements regarding the direction of the national housing program.

Housing promises

Going forward, she noted, housing delivery would focus on providing land and services through the state’s rapid land release program.

The rapid land release program follows a “site-and-service” model where beneficiaries are given a plot of land with basic facilities to build houses.

Speaking to the National Council of Provinces, the minister said: “It works out cheaper for us, it gives the people who own the land more responsibility to build houses and we hope they will be of better quality because they are going to build it themselves. the process will give them skills to build and we are pretty sure it will work.”

A guideline for prioritizing maintained lands to eligible beneficiaries, issued by the National Department of Human Settlements, states that in the future, only certain priority groups (the elderly, the disabled, and proven military veterans) will benefit from top structure projects.

Nevertheless, the policy shift will still affect the vast majority of people on housing waiting lists.

National Housing Debt

The effort to prioritize the program is primarily a response to the shrinking housing budget and the pressure that municipalities are exerting on municipalities to make land available for self-construction.

Last week’s Sona, which most of us have been eagerly awaiting, was a clear outline of the government’s plan to tackle the many challenges facing the country.

as the Development Action Group (DAY), we were particularly interested in the state’s plans to respond to what appears to be a nearly insurmountable housing crisis facing dozens of people across the country.

The national housing gap is estimated to be 2.6 million homes, i.e. 12 million people in dire need of decent housing.

In the Western Cape, more than 600,000 people are on the housing waiting list, while the corresponding figure for Cape Town is over 365,000 people.

If we had a housing crisis before Covid-19 hit, it got much worse because of the impact of the pandemic. But information about the government’s plan to tackle the housing crisis was scarce at best.

In the pipeline

The only mention of housing or human settlements was in connection with the Infrastructure Fund, where a “pipeline of projects” worth R96 billion worth of student and social housing is being prepared, among other things.

We have also heard of “several R21 billion catalyst projects” for which construction is imminent. We assume that part of these funds is intended for housing.

We heard that constitutional amendments are being made to facilitate land reform, with the passage of the Expropriation Act and the establishment of the Agricultural and Land Reform Bureau which is apparently imminent.

Perhaps the most exciting housing news is that the Ministry of Public Works and Infrastructure will transfer 14,000 hectares of state land to the Housing Department.

Whether this country will actually deliver significant results in terms of affordable housing options, and how far it will go in fundamentally transforming spatially unequal and inequitable cities, remains to be seen.

Policy change

More worryingly, however, the state is planning a major policy shift away from the provision of top structures to a site-and-service approach, with potentially far-reaching implications for those 12 million people in need of housing.

But after Sona 2022, we are still as ill-informed about this policy shift as we were before the address.

Wasn’t the Sona Speech an appropriate opportunity for the government to confide in the nation and share this highly critical information with us?

And if not, when? In keeping with the country’s commitment to the principles of participatory democracy, when will those most affected by the policy change have an opportunity to have their say in its development?

As it stands, these questions remain unanswered. But we will continue to monitor this space.

As DAG, we call on all spheres of government to open up the conversation and give the public, especially those who will be most affected by such a major policy shift, the opportunity to have their say and help set the new direction who will follow the state housing program. take.

For more information about quick country release, see our blog about The State of Land Release in South Africa.

Querida Saal is a researcher at DAG. The views expressed in this article are representative of DAG’s vision as an organization and are not necessarily those of the author himself.

This article was originally published on GroundUp, and can be read here.

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