Curb rocketing house prices, say ANC members

ANC members, through responses to the policy conference documents, want the state to intervene to bring down spiralling property prices. This was revealed on Monday by Public Works Minister Thoko Didiza, speaking to reporters in her capacity as chairperson of the ANC's social transformation committee.

The issue is going to be one of the contentious debates at next week's ANC's policy conference - a preparatory forum to discuss policies for adoption or rejection by the national conference in December.

She said that feedback from provinces and other ANC structures pointed to a concern over rocketing house prices, but that no specific details had been proposed on how the state should intervene.

The provincial structures felt that most young people were unable to access property as a result of rising costs.

This despite the phenomenon, said to be propelled by the rising black middle class, being described by economists as a housing boom as demands push up prices.

Asked how the proposed state intervention would be implemented without frightening the markets, Didiza said that members wanted discussions about what had pushed up the price of houses.

"What emerged . . . also looked at the construction industry as a whole. Where are the pressures that increase costs? What are the issues with regard to certain supplies, such as the manufacture of cement? Is this where you may need intervention? Where do these costs emanate from and is it a question of land, in terms of real estate?" These were some of the issues mooted.

Didiza said that the state's programme on acquiring land for housing, which might affect prices, could also be looked into.

"You will recall that Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu even made a passionate appeal to municipalities not to dispose of land without looking at the housing delivery needs . . . People are saying we would like to see costs coming down, but let us examine cost drivers," she said.

Didiza said that if the policy conference recommended these proposals to the national conference in December for acceptance, "it would then be up to those who have the responsibility to implement it to look at cost reduction".

ANC members said that land ownership by foreigners had to be regulated, "taking into consideration the need for investments".

The government is still to announce its position on proposals from an independent commission on land ownership by foreigners, which strongly recommended tough regulations. The commission partly blamed foreigners for having pushed up property prices, even though the real estate industry said that foreigners owned an insignificant portion of the multitrillion-rand housing market.

Provincial ANC branches also said that the government had to move fast on land reform, and on reviewing the willing buyer willing seller principle as agreed at the land summit in 2005.

President Thabo Mbeki, in his state-of-the-nation address in February, also commented on the issue, saying that legislation to make expropriation easier had to be attended to with urgency.

  • This article was originally published on page 2 of The Mercury on June 19, 2007

Article by: Moshoeshoe Monare from www.iol.co.za