Housing sector to build more houses, create jobs

HOUSING Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has rallied the housing development sector behind a concerted drive to address the housing backlog.

Sisulu said recently at a housing indaba held in Cape Town, where 46 stakeholders signed a social contract, that she hoped accelerated housing delivery would wipe out the backlog, which she said stood at 2,4million, by 2014.

This would require a 12% annual increase in housing delivery, which could be an important instrument in job creation.

A key outstanding issue was the percentage of the total value of total upmarket commercial projects — beyond an agreed threshold — which housing developers would allocate to low-income housing.

Further discussions would be held because no agreement could be reached on the 20% figure that was proposed by the housing department.

Each of the stakeholders — including developers, building materials suppliers, government, small contractors and banks — made specific commitments relevant to their sectors.

Suppliers, for example, committed themselves to supplying quality products, while government undertook to reduce time taken to approve applications and to pay its bills.

Government plans to set up a dedicated unit within the department to handle complaints and give advice.

Banks meanwhile committed themselves, in terms of the financial charter, to invest R42bn in low-income housing finance over the next five years.

To ensure that the contract does not turn out to be an empty promise, a plenary session of stakeholders would be held in January, while a mechanism would be established for monitoring and implementation.

Sisulu, in her opening address, painted a daunting picture of the challenge of housing provision in a situation where urbanisation was proceeding rapidly and where sizes of households were smaller, resulting in higher demand for houses.

“Despite the huge public investment in housing of R29,5bn over the past 10 years, apartheid’s legacy remains,” she said.

Between 1996 and 2001, the number of households living in shacks in informal settlements and backyards increased 26%, from 1,45-million to 1,84-million.

This was far higher than the 11% population increase in the same period.

Article by: Linda Ensor - http://www.businessday.co.za