There were currently 2.8-million households in South Africa that did not have universal access to services and three-million households requiring access to formal housing, Neville Chainee, COO of the national Department of Human Settlements, told the eighteenth Infrastructure Dialogue meeting, held in Cape Town recently.
Speaking on the topic of finan- cing affordable housing and infrastructure, Chainee said that many countries had already faced this problem and South Africa should not think it was alone in addressing such a housing and infrastructure backlog.
“We’re very angry with ourselves and critical of ourselves, but what we need to be clear about is that other countries have gone through the same kind of spatial, integration, financing and infrastructure development challenges. And the big country that has been through that is the US.”
Cape Town director on housing finance and leasing Wayne Muller said the housing backlog in the city alone was projected to be 400 000 houses with the ongoing challenge of about 50 000 people moving into the city each year.
In Muller’s view, there were a number of requirements for successful human settlement developments, which include well-located land, enhanced densities, community facilities, good governance, private-sector involvement, work opportunities and access to bulk and transport infrastructure.
The dialogue participants agreed that, on the whole, the outcome required to achieve sustainable affordable housing and infrastructure was fairly well understood but the manner in which this could be achieved and financed were the major challenges.
Ulrike Rwida, director for human settlements in the public finance division of the National Treasury, pointed out that not only did the extent of the State’s role in providing housing need to be clarified, but also a better understanding needed to be gained of why the market was unable to meet the housing demand and why housing was so expensive in South Africa.
The concern that many South Africans were able to obtain microfinance with ease but were still unable to buy houses needed to be investigated. “The housing budget is R24-billion this year; how do we use a R24-billion budget to fix some of these constraints, and what can we do and what can’t we do?” asked Rwida.
In the view of panel member Pierre Venter, GM of human settlements at the National Banking Association, the current standards trying to be attained were too high, which was hindering successful delivery. “If we can’t afford the houses that we are delivering at the moment, it’s not a sustainable policy that we have as a country,” he said.
The message which was repeated by many participants was that better partnerships needed to be developed between government at all levels, the commercial banking sector, the communities affected and private companies in order to effectively tackle the challenge of financing and providing affordable and sustainable housing and infrastructure.
However, the dialogue generated many more questions than participants were able to answer, this being indicative of the great challenge being faced by South Africa in successfully housing the nation.